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Digital Underground – The Body-Hat Syndrome

Digital Underground
The Body-Hat Syndrome
October 5, 1993
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
080/100
Digital Underground - The Body Hat Syndrome
1. Return of the Crazy One // 2. Doo Woo You // 3. Holly Wanstaho // 4. Bran Nu Swetta // 5. The Humpty Dance Awards (feat. 2pac) // 6. Body-Hats [Part I] // 7. Dope-a-Delic (Do-U-B-leeve-in-d-Flo?) // 8. Intermission // 9. Wussup wit the Luv (feat. 2pac) // 10. Digital Lover // 11. Carry the Way (Along Time) // 12. Body-Hats, [Part II] // 13. Circus Entrance // 14. Jerkit Circus // 15. Circus Exit (The After Nut) // 16. Shake and Break // 17. Body Hats [Part III] // 18. Do Ya Like It Dirty? // 19. Bran Nu Sweat This Beat // 20. Wheee!

Outside of their small but dedicated fanbase Digital Underground is mostly known for being 2pac’s first vehicle on the road to stardom, for those too young to remember Humpty Dance being a mild hit anyway. That’s a shame because their post-Sex Packets discography is some terrific stuff. And despite sporting two Shakur guest appearances (one of which is on a skit) Digital Underground’s brand of party rap has little to do with 2pac’s blend of consious gangsta rap, Keep Your Head Up, and not-so-consious gangsta rap, I Get Around.
Even if the latter is produced by the Underground Railroad and features Money B and Shock G. The song has both rappers adjusting to 2pac’s stylo, and Pac even wrote both their verses. 2pac’s lone musical guest appearance on Wassup With the Luv? finds the DU in a similar situation recording what is essentially a 2pac song, a sort of less hopeful, more pissed off variation of what Marvin talked about on What’s Going On. But other than that the Underground remains less seriously, determinedly political on their third full length studio album than Shakur. This essentially a return to the good natured party music that was their debut, after dissing an unnamed celebrity for trying and succeeding at looking whiter to sell records on No Nose Job off their sophomore album Sons of the P.

Dr. Dre maybe known as George Clinton’s hip-hop heir, but Shock G and Money B would be much more fitting pretenders to the throne (No-one can truly succeed the George, especially considering the man is still alive and still active in music.)
Where Dre took George’s sound (as well as lots of blaxploitation, which no other critic ever seems to aknowledge) and mixed it with hip-hop, but completely ignored the P funk state of mind, in stead maintaining the gangsta rap lyrical themes, and the posturing that comes with it, that were the rivers and the lakes he was used to from his time in N.W.A.
Shock G however embraced the P with all of its silliness. Dre describes himself “looking like [he] robbed Liberace.” while Shock G once described himself as “[looking] like MC Hammer on crack”, which is pretty representative for the difference in mood between Death Row Records and the DU. It is probably for this reason that the DU was nowhere to be found on any Pac’s Death Row output, while they were all over his Insterscope albums.

On with the review: The Body Hat Syndrome, the concept the three title tracks revolves around, is every bit as silly as the Sex Packets of their debut. If the cover hasn’t given it away; It’s about a body-sized condom that protects the body and mind from brainwashing, mind impregnation, maleducation, the media and other, less abstract things such as the KKK, HIV, the LAPD, crack cocaine and television. Off course there is a serious, political message in there but that message is hidden behind/ diluted with the DU’s trippy fun. That’s the biggest difference between Shock G and Pac: Shock has his tongue planted firmly up his cheek most of the time while Pac is usually either discussing some depressing, dead earnest shit or having some juvenile gangsta fun (often both over the course of the same song. Pac wasn’t one for sticking to a subject most of the time. Especially on his later output)

The Body Hat Syndrome is a mellow, groovy, funky, flirty, sleazy, bacchian booze orgy that doesn’t take itself too serious but is bursting with confidence and is the perfect soundtrack of a house party with a bunch of kinda high, kinda drunk folks. It doesn’t demand much of the listener. In fact the less attention you pay to it the better it sounds. That’s not to say it’s bad, in fact it’s some great stuff. But it does mean that rappers Shock G a.k.a. Humpty Hump, Money B and new member Saafir aren’t lyrical rappers. They’re not about telling stories or dropping knowledge and in stead more about putting stuff that sounds cool or ridiculous in a loose, funky flow. Putting it under a magnifying glass is therefor somewhat of an exercise in futility as this album , except Wussup Wit the Luv isn’t about individual lines, verses or songs even. It’s about setting the mood. And that it does with verve.

It is too bad that the Underground never became as succesful as their most famous protégé 2pac. Arguably their music, while a little too off, psychedelic and funky to be called poppy, is a lot more accessible than 2pac’s activism and tough guy posturing. I guess that the fact that the DU and Pac are entirely different musical creatures helps explain why 2pac’s sizeable fanbase never ran out to pick up Sex Packets, Sons of the P or The Body-Hat Syndrome.
Oh well, I guess one can find consololation that their talent and hard work didn’t leave them entirely penniless, though nothing can be found on the interwebs about any gold or platinum certification they pretty much have to have some copies of their previous albums to be granted a third album by Tommy Boy records (although by that logic they must’ve sold null copies of The Body-Hat Syndrome because they parted ways with the label after this one droppd) and I’m sure their work on 2pacalypse NowStrictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. and Me Against the World really brought in the revenue. But today they are all but forgotten and it’s time to give their own albums some time and attention. Shock G, Money B and now Saafir, as well as their myriad of backing musicians should be better known and more acclaimed than they are today. Especially since this would be the kind of hip-hop that people who generally claim not to like hip-hop usually find quite enjoyable.
If you find a copy of The Body-Hat Syndrome or of any of their previous releases (even This Is an EP Release, though that one should be lowest on your list of DU priorities) you should take it home. It is well worth the cash. Also I’m sure Humpty Hump will apreciate it.

Best tracks
Wussup With the Luv
The Return of the Crazy One

Recommendations
Pick this one up.

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Digital Underground – Sons of the P

Digital Underground
Sons of the P
October 15, 1991
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
080/100
Digital Underground - Sons of the P
1. The DFLO Shuttle (feat. 2pac) // 2. Hearbeat Props // 3. No Nose Job // 4. Sons of the P (feat. George Clinton) // 5. Flowin’ on the D-Line // 6. Kiss You Back // 7. Tales of the Funky // 8. The Higher Heights of Spirituality // 9. Family of the Underground (feat. Stretch & 2pac) // 10. The D-Flow Instrumental // 11. Good Thing We Rappin’

Following the appetizer/leftover that was an EP release alternative hip-hop group Digital Underground’s sophomore LP Sons of the P, their second release of 1991 expands on the sound of their classic debut Sex Packets.

Although its very title is a rather literal admission that their sound stems from the movement started by George Clinton, who makes an appearance on this album’s title track, Shock G, money B and their extensive posse move away from the P-funk slightly towards something approximating more traditional hip-hop. Not to say that they abondon it entirely, in fact this may very well be the true G-funk as opposed to Dr. Dre’s early ’90s sound which in fact owed more to the blaxploitation era Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes than to Parliament or Funkadelic. It’s not that the D.U. has turnt its back on the P, it’s just that the flows are tighter than last time around, Shock and Money seriously upped their skills and the beats hit harder than on their giddily, whimsically brilliant debut, which makes them somewhat less funky by default.

The subjects are more serious too, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner. No Nose Job may not be quite ment for literal interpretation (especially the part where some surgeon hilariously forces a nose job on a protesting Humpty Hump so that he may become a huge star), but it’s most definitely a much more profound statement than anything off Sex Packets, urging other black celebrities not to get cosmetic surgery or try to look less black via coloured contact lenses, because it might lead to black children growing up to dislike their appearances and think there’s something wrong with being black. On Hearbeat Props nation of islam, Malcolm X and Louis Farrakan are namechecked, and on The DFLO Shuttle 2pac talkes about having no choice but to sell drugs, and sounding like the thug life martyr everyone would get to know soon enough, for the very first time.

If the industry stories about how Digital Underground came into existence are true Sons of the P may be the album Shock G initially wanted to record, before he decided he didn’t want the Underground to sound like a Public Enemy redux. If Sons is an indication he might as well have done so, since despite some overlap in subject matter with Chuck D and cohorts they don’t really sound alike that much. Also the conscious, afro-centric lyricism fits Shock just as well as the sex-crazed humpty-dancing of D.U.’s debut album, making this experimentation with some new sounds quite succesful indeed.

Not that the guys have forgotten about the folks who bought Sex Packets. On the title track George Clinton himself gives his followers a thumbs-up, referring to himself and the D.U. as the sons of P, which is odd, because I recall him and Bootsy being fathers of the P, but whatever. Tales of the Funky is the moment that most recalls their debut, being that it’s a rather careless affair performed completely in P Funk slang (Bop Guns, Mothership connection and what not are namechecked) and Kiss You Back and It’s a Good Thing We’re Rappin’  are some vintage Humpty Hump sex rap, albeit the latter a bit more mysogynic and violent than I’m used to.

All in all, Sons of the P is a really good follow-up to Sex Packets, lacking highlight of the caliber of the Humpty Dance and Packet Man, but flowing better as an album, updating their sound and fucking around with some new lyrical themes quite succesfully, without selling their souls.

Well played.

Best tracks
No Nose Job
Tales of the Funky
Kiss You Back
Good Thing We’re Rappin’

Recommendations
Buy this album.