Digital Underground’s Shock G talks about his relationship with Tupac Shakur and other tour stories
Not Just Knee Deep (Part 4)
Wax Poetics: I saw that you were working on two books, one about Tupac and one on tour stories, is this correct?
Shock G: Well, the two books have merged into one. It was impossible to keep the best stories out of either book, so one big book now. I have Alexis Wolfe [author of Emerald City Hip-Hop] helping me as an editor and writer.
Do you have a Tupac memory that you’ve not shared before?
Oh, there’s way too many. Here’s a funny one my friend Shep and I call “Rainbow of Garbage.”
At Tupac’s first apartment (MacArthur Blvd., Oakland), the stack of dirty dishes in the sink was so high it would lean against the refrigerator, while the pile of pizza boxes and take-out containers towering from his big outdoor-style garbage can would do the same on the opposite side. Sometimes it would get so tall that it met the loose junk on top (cereal boxes, magazines, baskets of snacks, papers) and formed a rainbow of garbage. For real too. Ask Man Man or Mopreme, or especially Mouse or Saafir, they both lived there with him at different times. Like any of the truly prolific geniuses throughout history, Pac’s weirdo traits were just as extreme.
Do you still find new inspiration in Tupac’s music?
With almost every listen, I discover a new enlightenment, even the songs I already wore out.
Could you tell me any tour stories?
Tour story? Here’s one called “The Batman Shirt.”
The Batman Shirt was a tour game in which whoever got caught with the ugliest girl leaving their room in the morning had to wear the filthy Batman shirt. It was a simple Batman T-shirt, but it was dirty and musty. The rule was this: it never got washed (the entire two-month tour), and if you lost, you had to spend the entire day in it, from hotel check out, on your tour bus, during sound check, through dinnertime, and you had to do your show in it as well. Twenty-four hours, no exception. If you didn’t wear it, you got a beat-down from all the people who previously had to wear it, and trust me, this became a huge angry click of people in the first two weeks. The more people wore it, the dirtier and mustier it became, so three weeks into the tour, you could imagine how rancid that muthafucka was. Fools were personally offended if it was your turn and you didn’t complete the day in it. Towards the end of the tour, it literally would ruin your tour to have to wear it.
Pac never lost that particular competition, but the stories of the people who did are hilarious. It was during the Heavy-D, Big Daddy Kane, Digital Underground, Queen Latifah, 3rd Base, MC Lyte, Kwame tour. Seven separate full tour buses involved in the game, all the young males, from dancers and roadies to stars and bodyguards. The shame of people smelling you and avoiding you before you even walk up for a full day. The beatings from the angry former-wearer mobs on those fools who thought they could sneak it off before their “term” was over.
I myself got falsely accused for a girl who was dumped in my room by someone else. I didn’t even sleep with her! But nonetheless, they convicted me. I was framed, so I swore my innocence, and I refused to wear the Batman shirt. I took my chances getting caught by the mob and figured I’d just avoid them the rest of the tour. After all, the entire tour wasn’t in on the game, just the overly wild and promiscuous cats, which was maybe a quarter of the six-bus, sixty-person entourage.
But they eventually caught me. It went down in Houston, a terrible beat-down in which I was stripped and whipped in front of dozens of fans in the lobby of a Hyatt. The full story is funny as fuck, how they stalked me and dragged me out of an elevator; twenty people tearing my clothes off in a frenzy as they pummelled me and left me naked in the mezzanine lobby.
Afterwards, fans were leaning over to check and make sure it was me, and then asking for my autograph as I lay there out of breath naked in a foetal position with hand and fist prints all over my body.
“Oh shit, that is the guy from Digital Underground! Can I have your autograph?” In a broken, out-of-breath whisper, I mumbled: “Can you…help me…find my pants please?”
Or another is “The Digital Underground and 3rd Bass vs. Flavor Unit Water Fight.”
It lasted over a month, and escalated city after city until Albany, New York, in which they held Pac upside down, stripped his pants off, and soaked him and beat him with water guns in front of hundreds of fans outside the coliseum we had just played. Earlier that night, after we had drenched them and their entire dressing room at the venue, Tupac missed the ride back to the hotel with us, so he was exposed and they attacked him in our absence.
Later that night, a group meeting ensued when Pac came storming back into the hotel all tore up and pissed. “Look what they did to me!!” He had a golf ball size knot on his forehead. “We have to hit ’em back now!!! C’mon, we have to attack!!” He was foaming at the mouth. “Not right now, they’re expecting us right now,” I said. We calmed him down and assured him. We’d hit back, but a tactical plan was best.
Later that night, we ambushed the entire Flavor Unit with liters of scorching hot water as they were walking back to the hotel with their take-out dinners from a nearby restaurant. Out of nowhere, from behind trees, fences, and parked cars, we jumped out, circling them like Indians at war, lashing them in a whipping motion as we swung and squeezed the burning water out of the huge plastic two-liter bottles, smacking them with cupfuls of water in each swing, and causing Queen Latifah, Amanda her road manager, Treach from Naughty by Nature, Latifah’s DJ AD, and Apache to all sling their to-go plates of Jamaican food into the air while screaming… “Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!! That shit’s hot!!! Aaaaahhhhh!!!!” and they fell to the ground and rolled and squirmed like they were on fire. [laughs]
We circled until we drenched them, and ran off yelling, “That was for Tupac!!” Pac was smiling and laughing as we ran off. “That’s what you get!! Ha ha ha, that’s what you get!!” Their food was all over the street.
Apache, who was an intimidating tough and grimy thug type—his popular song was “I Need a Gangsta Bitch”—was the one I sprayed. He yelled at me from the ground: “Fuck that, Shock!! It’s on!! From now on, I’m throwing coffee! Soup! Airythang!!!”
I remember having goose-bumps of excitement and surprise as I was lashing him, we didn’t know if the water would stay hot all that time, or how hot it actually was to begin with. When they screamed and tossed their food into the air, a rush of fear and concern shot through my mind: “Oh shit, it must be really hot! Hotter than we anticipated, did we take this too far??! Oh shit, that’s Apache! He’s gonna kill me!”
As I ran away, his threats made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. But it felt good inside, we had avenged their jumping of Tupac.
The full story is amazing with all the key water victories and defeats that led up to this, and the grand finale war that included Amanda being kidnapped, tied up, and forced to take a freezing cold shower, people getting washed down the hallway with the emergency fire hoses, the entire tour (all six groups) being evicted from the Hartford Connecticut hotel (we slept on the tour buses), and Big Daddy Kane’s body guard “Minister” breaking his leg as he slipped attempting to avoid an ice-tray full of water being dumped on him backstage in Hartford. When we all saw him return from the hospital in pain and on crutches, that ended the feud. That was the final reality check.
Similar horse-play on the previous tour was how T-Roy [Heavy-D’s dancer, and close tour pal of Tupac] died after being flipped off a three-story loading-dock tier, attempting to avoid getting hit by a rolling dumpster someone was chasing him with backstage. It was the first time I saw Pac cry, openly and shamelessly, after he was one of the first of us to look over the rail and see T-Roy’s twisted body fifty feet below on the concrete. Pac ran from door to door backstage with tears flowing from his eyes crying out, “He’s dead! He’s dead!”
Later, the entire fifty-person tour congregated at the hospital as we all waited outside T-Roy’s room until they pronounced him dead a few hours later.
But outside of that one rare tragedy, it was all in good clean fun. It was a time when hip-hop tours were the most fun places to be in the world. The end of those late-’80s/early ’90s big arena and stadium rap tours was the end of an era. It was the end of the wild and crazy summer-camp-styled games. A few years later, the mid-’90s came, which was a whole different vibe. The mid-’90s marked the beginning of the even more dangerous and more tense gangster games, in which the water guns were replaced with real ones, the smiles replaced with frowns, and the occasional accidental injury was replaced by cold and calculated murder.
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