Though most of you may have forgotten (or were not yet born), by 1991 Digital Underground was one of the hottest up and coming groups in hip-hop. Led by the cool laid back ringleader Shock G and his alter-ego court jester Humpty Hump, DU was able to penetrate the earth’s surface and obtain a bit of commercial success with their formula of unthreatening lighthearted party rhymes over funk beats. Their 1990 debut album Sex Packets was critically acclaimed as DU would Humpty dance their way to a platinum plaque. In the summer of 1991 DU returned to drop an EP, properly titled This Is an E.P. Release, as an appetizer to keep their fans temporarily satisfied and build anticipation for the full length follow-up. Even though the reviews for This Is an E.P. Release were mixed it would go on to earn DU a gold plaque.
DU would return in the fall of 1991 with their second full length effort. Since Digital Underground was largely influenced by the P-Funk sound and as a way to pay homage to their funk forefathers they titled the album Sons of the P. Sons of the P received favorable reviews and would earn DU their second consecutive gold plaque.
DU continued to record albums throughout the nineties (and even released a few projects independently in the 00’s), but Sons of the P is really the last DU effort to garner any significant airplay or commercial success. Almost overnight Shock and company went from hip-hop relevancy to qualifying for the next artist featured on TV-One’s UnSung. Time is truly illmatic.
The DFLO Shuttle – As explained on the back of the cd jacket, the DFLO (short for Dolio-Flow) Shuttle is a small make-believe metro rail system that runs between the underground recording labs and the earth’s surface. It is the only link between the underground and the real world. Shock and some of the extended DU family spend 5 minutes or so talking about the DFLO Shuttle, including a verse from 2pac. The concept is kind of silly and the instrumental was pretty boring.
Heartbeat Props – This was a pretty clever title and unique concept. Shock and company flip Funkadelic’s “Freak Of The Week” for the backdrop as Shock,
Shock Humpty, Money B, and Big Money Otis give props to the black leaders who are still breathing. Or at least were still breathing in 1991. It was kind if interesting to hear them shout out Bill Cosby and Beverly Johnson in the same song. This was decent, although at 7 and a half minutes it runs a bit too long.
No Nose Job – Over a sick stripped down instrumental Humpty rolls solo as he playfully refuses to get a nose job. At the surface this comes off as your typical light-hearted Humpty Hump song, but if you listen closely to Humpty’s lyrics you’ll hear him raise some good points about being comfortable and loving yourself (which is pretty relevant considering some of the stories in the news lately). This still holds up well today.
Sons Of The P – Shock and friends slow the pace down a bit to pay homage to the Fathers of P-Funk, with an assist from the most recognized forefather of the P-Funk movement, George Clinton. There is more chanting, spoken word, and singing than actual rapping on this one. It grows on you the more you listen to it, but they could have cut this one at the 4 and a half-minute mark instead of letting it roll on for over 9 minutes.
Flowin’ On The D-Line – Over a rough instrumental Shock G spits one verse as he revisits the events he experienced while riding the train (which may or may not be another name for the DFLO shuttle) one random evening. Shock’s rhymes were pretty entertaining and the beat knocks.
Kiss You Back – This was the first single and easily the biggest hit on Sons of the P. DU loops up a piece of Funkadelic’s “(Knot Just) Knee Deep” for the backdrop as Shock expresses his affection for his lady (even though at one point in the song he kindly reminds her that “if you hit me then I’ll hit you back“). Shock’s verses are more spoken word than raps, but this song is catchy as hell.
Tales Of The Funky – DU uses this one to reminisce and pay homage to Parliament and Funkadelic. Nice sentiment, but I wasn’t feeling this one.
The Higher Heights Of Spirituality – Over a smooth reprise of the instrumental used on “Sons Of The P”, an uncredited poet shares a brief spoken word piece. Decent.
Family Of The Underground – This is my favorite song on Sons of the P. It opens with Treach (from Naughty By Nature) and Pac discussing the size of their respective crews (the Flava Unit and DU), to which Treach suggests that the entire DU family should come together to do a record, and ironically Pac doesn’t even spit a verse on the song. Fittingly they loop up a portion of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair” for the backdrop. None of the emcees involved contribute great verses but you can feel the love and the instrumental is dripping with good vibes and suitable to play at your summertime cookout.
The D-Flowstrumental – Instrumental version of “The DFLO Shuttle”.
Good Thing We’re Rappin’ – This one opens with Pac warning parents to put the kids to bed because the “G” part of the Sons of the P is over. The hard instrumental drops and Humpty spends the next two verses reliving his pimping days (Shock has stated in interviews that he actually was a pimp before he got into the rap game). The usually playful funnyman comes off semi-sinister, scolding hookers for being disobedient and checking players for being disrespectful. This is easily the most gangster record in DU’s catalog and it’s hi-larious.
Sons of the P has a more serious and slightly militant tone than any of DU’s prior projects. Hell, even Humpty takes off his clown nose (figuratively speaking) to get slightly serious on a few songs. Sonically, Sons of the P lives up to its name as the P-Funk influence is present throughout. Unfortunately there are a few songs that don’t work and most of the album’s songs over stay their welcome with extended run times. Sons of the P isn’t DU’s best work, but its a decent listen and an honest homage to P-Funk and it’s forefathers.