In the heyday of Knowingly Undersold circa 2010, I saved a number of draft titles for future posts I intended to write. In short order this blog largely dried up as life raced ahead, and these drafts sat unacknowledged and disregarded until three years ago, when I launched into the Set of 400. It was then I unearthed my long-forgotten plan to pen “The Case for Digital Underground to Make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” They hadn’t been eligible until 2014 – 25 years from their landmark platinum-selling debut – so I figured I had plenty of time to start banging the drums and getting the momentum rolling. Or, as befits the rest of the early Knowingly Undersold catalog, it could at least be fairly amusing, or fall flat in glorious immolation in the effort.
On Digital Underground’s Sons of the P in 1991, young Joe was introduced to the concept presented in the second song, “Heartbeat Props,” whereas you’ve “gotta start giving the props to the living…why wait until the heartbeat stops? Yo, go on and give my man his props!” Had this nudged toward the forefront of my mind over the past decade, I could’ve recognized that the clock was a-ticking, and maybe the time to put this post together was sooner rather than later. But come on, what was the hurry? The members of D.U. were still relatively young – there was plenty of time to gather up the laurels and shout from the rooftops. There was no rush.
But, there were signs along the way that this might’ve been a more pressing necessity. The band officially broke up in 2008, after the release of the sixth and final full length album ..Cuz a D.U. Party Don’t Stop!, which was itself a decade beyond their previous album, Who Got the Gravy?, with only a handful of greatest hits compilations rolling out in the intervening years. Greg Jacobs, a.k.a. Shock G, a.k.a. Humpty Hump, a.k.a. Edward Ellington Humphrey III, a.k.a. MC Blowfish, a.k.a. Piano Man, had expressed an interest in doing more non-funkadelic style music, and to continue to lean into his successful producing career. It doesn’t appear there were hard feelings from the other main, surviving members of the group – drummer/producer Chopmaster J and stalwart rap partner Money B – and even though full tours were halted, a number of Shock G/D.U. live shows still popped up in the following years. They weren’t super frequent, and there was little evidence that Shock was keeping busy producing either – after 2010’s final Digital Underground release, The Greenlight EP, and a number of singles from a SoundCloud rapper who has 40 followers. But still, everyone seemed relatively happy and fairly busy, and a career as a nostalgia act is one that can stretch for quite a while. Time, I felt, was still on my side.