Friday, February 20, 2009

February 20: Digital Underground, "Sex Packets"

Artist: Digital Underground
Album: Sex Packets
Year: 1990
Label: Tommy Boy

While a majority of the hip-hop world was trying to be political like Public Enemy, or hardcore like N.W.A., a group of rappers from Oakland decided to keep things funky and funny, and in the process unleashed one of the finest hip-hop records ever. Light-hearted, yet undeniably solid rhymes defined Digital Underground and their famed debut record, 1990's Sex Packets.

Led by the dual personalities of Shock G/Humpty Hump (in case you didn't know, they are the same person), the record is like none other in any aspect. The beats and music draw clear inspiration and influence from George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. They lyrics are witty, humorous, and absolutely original. Having more than half a dozen different emcees around the microphone also provides for a variety of styles and vibes throughout the album. While Shock G handles a majority of the vocal duties, distinguished rappers like Money B, PeeWee, and DJ Fuze take prominent roles throughout the album. Oh..and some guy named Tupac Shakur got his start in Digital Underground as well.

Group founder and primary rapper Shock G also handles engineering and producing duties on Sex Packets. The soundscapes he creates are nothing short of astonishing. Taking loops from P-Funk, Hendrix, and a huge amount of original keyboard tracks would normally be too much for a single record. However, the record flows smoothly as the music keeps the vibe the very definition of the word "fun." The group addresses the fact that their form of hip-hop is difficult to pigeon-hole into a genre with the song, "The Way We Swing." Sex Packets is a party record in its purest form. Every song is a good time both musically and lyrically.

Sex Packets leaves no doubt that Shock G can turn a phrase as good as any lyricist in any musical genre. Mixing hilarious one liners and visuals with some of the most sensuous rhymes ever committed to record enables Shock G to shine tall above other emcees. It is this latitude that separates Sex Packets from what one would consider a "novelty" record. The album IS funny, and it IS sexy, but at its core are amazing music and peerless rapping skills. If it was "just another novelty rap record," the albums' mega-hit "The Humpty Dance" would have lost relevance long ago...and it hasn't.

Combining outrageous stories, non-traditional delivery, and a dual personality are usually a recipe for disaster when they are all on a single track. Throughout Sex Packets, Digital Underground puts on a brilliant display of all that rappers strive to accomplish. Whether describing their idea for a new sexually-hallucinogenic drug (a Sex Packet) or regaling tales of exploits in the bathrooms of fast food restaurants, they make it clear that they have no interest in "hardcore" or "gangsta" rap and would rather have fun in their rhymes. Incredible music and beats under expertly delivered, clever rhymes make Sex Packets part of the crux of hip-hop music.

Standout tracks: "The Humpty Dance," "Freaks Of The Industry" and "Dowutwhyalike."

1 comment:

CasCbus said...

I was wondering when this album was going to get your loving review...remember that show in Cbus? Awesome!!