25 Years Ago, Digital Underground & Tupac Asked A Question That Still Needs Answers (Video)
In October 1993, Digital Underground released The Body-Hat Syndrome, the third of six studio albums released by the Oakland, California collective whose central figure is Greg “Shock G” Jacobs. With their 1990 debut Sex Packets, the crew showcased a signature brand of irreverent humor, textured sampling and devotion to Hip-Hop’s core elements. “Humpty Dance” will never lose its place in the annals of Rap history and it could be argued that its place in the zeitgeist has cast a shadow across the group’s other works, an unfortunate reality.
Shock G and his revolving cast of cohorts (which has included Money B, Chopmaster J, Numskull, Kel Mitchell and a host of others) built a bridge between the flair of Funk and the reality of Rap. The Tommy Boy Records act and its affinity for Parliament-Funkadelic is no secret, and the group has openly channeled P-Funk’s style since its inception. Much like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins et al, Digital Underground inspired listeners to hit the dance-floor and the books, penning tales of lighthearted romps but also channeling the social thinking popular in their respective generations. In 1994, The Chicago Tribune championed the The Body-Hat Syndrome for “implicitly questioning societal objectification of women as well as the artificiality of people‘s relationships.” It’s a fitting description. The album is home to both the XXX-rated “The Return of the Crazy” and the anti-racism track “Wussup Wit the Luv,” which tackles the inherent superficiality of racism’s tenet: that skin color alone is enough to mistreat others.
The video for “Wussup Wit the Luv” stars a very familiar face. Of course, Digital Underground is venerated for its direct role in propelling the career of Tupac Shakur, who died 22 years ago today (September 13). At first, a young Pac was included in the group’s stage shows as a dancer and personality. Eventually, he became a featured guest on verses before spring-boarding into a historic solo career. On 1991’s “Same Song”—included on the soundtrack to the Dan Akroyd/Chevy Chase film Nothing But Trouble—’Pac makes a fresh-faced introduction as an official rapping member of the Digital Underground family. By the time “Wussup Wit the Luv” arrived two years later, he was a fully formed solo artist with his debut 2Pacalypse Now and its follow-up Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z… to his name.
On “Wussup Wit the Luv,” Shock G, Money B and Clee are joined by P-Funk guitarist Michael Hampton. On the song, they lament racism’s manifestations in everyday life and the dangers it presents to people of color. “I got my son a gun for his birthday,” says Money B in the track’s opener. Criminal justice, colorism, domestic assault, drug abuse, gun violence and colonialism are all touched on in the song, which ultimately begs the question “where is the love?” 20 years before the Black Eyed Peas asked it. As Tupac says:
As I sit and wonder, my other brother’s steadily goin’ under
It’s like a curse, and it hurts cause it’s worse
Momma’s crazy cause her baby’s in a hearse
Wussup wit’ the love?”