The Humpty Dance

Album: Sex Packets (1990)
Charted: 80 11
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  • "Humpty Hump" is a character created by Digital Underground's leader, Shock G (Greg Jacobs). Digital Underground were disciples of Parliament/Funkadelic, with big funk beats, lots of rotating members, and outrageous personalities with costumes to match. This was their biggest hit, although they recorded many other rap classics, including "Same Song" and "Kiss You Back."

    The Humpty Hump character had a very large nose, funny hats, and wild, pimp-like costumes. He was clever, funny and sex-obsessed, and was proud of his nose. Many rap crews used characters (like Flavor Flav of Public Enemy), but Greg Jacobs would rap as both Humpty and Shock G, often in the same song.

    Humpty first appeared on the lead single from the album, "Doowutchyalike," and when "The Humpty Dance" became a big hit, it was clear that Humpty was the star. Digital Underground's label, Tommy Boy, wanted more Humpty hits, but Jacobs knew the act would wear thin so he only let him loose on a few more songs, including their 1991 track "No Nose Job." This caused friction between the group and the label, and after the third Digital Underground album (The Body-Hat Syndrome, 1993), Tommy Boy released them from their 7-album deal. Chopmaster J, one of the group's founders, later acquired the Digital Underground name and put together a new version of the group that he called "Digital Underground Next Generation."
  • 1990 was a big year for sampling, as the landmark lawsuit banning the practice without permission had not been settled. Digital Underground took pieces from many different songs, but primarily from "Let's Play House" by Parliament, which is where the "gimme the music" and "do me baby" lines come from along with some of the drum breaks. Pieces of "Bop Gun" by Parliament and "Sing a Simple Song" by Sly & the Family Stone were also used.
  • The word "hump" isn't always as dirty as it sounds. "Humpin'" is a lot like "Bumpin'," meaning something that feels energetic and fresh - it dates back to the 1980 song by The Gap Band, "Humpin.'"

    When Shock G was looking to name his character from "Doowutchyalike," he went with "Humpty Hump," since that was a variation on "Humpin'" that was big at the time. His publicist at Tommy Boy Records, Laura Hines, wrote up the bio, and Monica Lynch, the president of the label, then asked him to write a whole song about Humpty, which he did. This happened so late in the process that Humpty doesn't appear on the cover of the Sex Packets album.
  • Humpty Hump was a comic character, but Digital Underground was a groundbreaking and very well-respected rap group, known for their clever lyrics and creative beats. Tupac Shakur was part of the Digital Underground crew before becoming a solo artist, and DU members contributed to many of his seminal recordings. For Greg Jacobs (who played Humpty), his work on Tupac's albums was an outlet for more serious music - he found it much easier to put on the nose and play Humpty when he was also working on Tupac's socially and politically conscious songs.

    Wyclef Jean mentions the Humpty/Pac relationship in the song "Hips Don't Lie" with the lyrics, "Back like when Pac carried crates for Humpty Hump."
  • Most radio stations played an edited version of this song that inserts comic sound effect in two places, covering the "69" in the line "In a 69 my Humpty Nose will tickle your rear" and "Burger King" in "I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom."
  • Humpty Hump's "real" name, depending on who you ask, is Eddie Humprey, Earl Humphries, or Edward Ellington Humphries III. Variations of this name show up in some of the credits for Digital Underground's songs. The backstory is that Hump sustained severe burns in a kitchen accident, causing him to wear a large fake nose.
  • Since Humpty Hump and Shock G are the same person, there have been times when someone else has had to portray Humpty. This was usually Kent Racker, the real-life little brother of Greg Jacobs (Shock/Humpty). On DU's track "Same Song," Shock and Humpty have back-to-back verses, so on at least one occasion Racker dressed as Humpty and lip-synched his verse while Jacobs did the live vocal off-stage before emerging as Shock G. Racker also did the Humpty part when the The West Coast Rap All-Stars collective performed "We're All In The Same Gang" on the Arsenio Hall Show.

    In the video, there are some scenes where Humpty and Shock G are on screen at the same time. In this case, Shock G was played by a representative from their label, Tommy Boy Records.
  • This is the first track on Sex Packets, which is a concept album about a wonder drug that causes users to climax.
  • The band shot a video for this song in 1989 before heading to Europe to tour. It was shot at Club Townsend in San Francisco, chosen because they drew a very diverse crowd that is in line with the lyrics about the Humpty Dance being for all people. (The video almost didn't happen - the shoot took place two days after the Loma Prieta earthquake that disrupted the World Series).

    The song wasn't officially released until 1990, but at the end of 1989 it was leaked to various radio stations and started making the rounds in big cities. When Digital Underground returned from Europe in January 1990, the song was already big in New York and was picking up speed nationwide. MTV put the video in hot rotation, and in June it reached its US chart peak at #11.

    The sudden success was shocking to the band, especially since they considered it a goof. According to Shock G, having a hit come so easily went to his head, and it took him a while to learn that this was not typical.
  • The video became the basis for subsequent live performances of the song. This meant that Humpty had to have dancers on either side of him doing the Humpty Dance. The group's other vocalist, Money-B, was one of the dancers, and in the video Money-B's brother was the other. When they did the song live, Tupac was enlisted as the other dancer.
  • When Shock G created the bass line for this song, he tried to make it "hump," going for that big swell to match the theme.
  • Over the next few years, more hip-hop songs worked with the "hump" motif: Bobby Brown had a #3 US hit with "Humpin' Around" in 1992; Rodney O & Joe Cooley went to #84 with "Humps For The Blvd" in 1993; and 95 South had "Hump Wit It" in 1994.
  • This song was used in a 2017 commercial for Turbotax in which a hospitalized Humpty Dumpty hears the song and considers legal action. "It is kinda catchy" he concludes after getting some tax advice.
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