We last heard from the Oakland based collective, Digital Underground, in 1991 with their homage to P-funk album, Sons of The P. They would return at the tail end of 1993 with their fourth project, third full-length album, and their final release on Tommy Boy, The Body-Hat Syndrome.
As usual, D-Flo (which is the collective of Shock-G, Gary Katz and DJ JZ ) would handle all of the production work on The Body-Hat Syndrome. Along with the usual suspects of Shock-G, Humpty, Money B and Schmoovy-Schmoov on the mic, newcomers Clee and Saafir (who I will always associate as Harold from the classic hood movie Menace II Society, but is often revered for being a sharp lyricists and known for his classic battle with the Hieroglyphic crew back in the nineties) appear on several of the album’s songs, and O.G. member of DU, 2pac stops by to make a couple of appearances as well.
The Body-Hat Syndrome did receive favorable reviews upon its release, but the album’s sells weren’t as favorable. It would be the first project in DU’s catalog that did not earn at least a gold plaque (which is 500,000 copies sold for those not familiar with record business jargon).
Up until a few years ago, I had no idea The Body-Hat Syndrome even existed, until I stumbled across a copy while diggin’ through the used cd bins at one of my favorite spots. I’m still scratching my head on how I missed this album from a time when Digital Underground was truly poppin’, still on Tommy Boy (so there had to be promotional money behind it) and released at a time where I kept up with everything hip-hop related.
The man who knows something, knows that he knows nothing at all.
The Return of The Crazy One – DU kicks off The Body-Hat Syndrome with a funky beat and the crew’s’ resident clown (also Shock-G’s alter-ego) Humpty-Hump clowning all over the track. Hump doesn’t say anything mind-blowing on this one, but his nonsensical rhymes will keep you entertained.
Doo Woo You – Saafir makes his rap recording debut on this one, as he and Shock-G take turns calling out all of their closed-minded haters, though the hook could lead one to believe this is a love song. D-Flo’s instrumental sounds like a drowsy stripped-down-filtered version of the backdrop for 2pac’s “I Get Around” (which D-Flo also produced), and that’s not a bad thing. At seven and a half minutes, the song may run a bit too long, but I still dug it.
Holly Wanstaho – Saafir teams up with Shock-G again, and this time their shittin’ on a girl named Holly and her hoeing hobby. Shock and Saafir fail to impress on the mic, and the instrumental sounds like a bunch of noise.
Bran Nu Swetta – DU keeps things light, as Shock, Money B and Saafir each spit a verse about their experiences with women whose interest in them was so intense it bordered on stalking. I’ve never really listened to a lot of Saafir’s lyrics before today, but I’ve heard many call him a master wordsmith. I have to admit I’m not that impressed with what I’ve heard from him on The Body-Hat Syndrome, up to this point. Money B actually delivers the strongest verse on the song, in my opinion. The instrumental is barely decent, and there is really no reason to listen to this song more than once.
The Humpty Dance Awards – This is the first of three bonus tracks only included on the CD format of The Body-Hat Syndrome. Fresh off of his new-found success in Hollywood, 2pac reunites with his Digital brethren, as he and Humpty host the first ever Humpty Dance Awards. You ask, “what are the Humpty Dance Awards”? It’s a faux award given to artist that Digital Underground feels borrowed elements from their hit record “The Humpty Dance”. The CD insert even includes an elaborate ballot with different categories (i.e. “Best Use By Group Or Duo”, “Best R&B Usage”, “Hidden Use Award”, “Boldest Jack-Move”, etc.). Pac and Hump play a quick clip off all the songs up for the award, and I must admit, I never new how many different songs borrowed the drums from “The Humpty Dance”. It appears to all be done in jest with no hard feelings from DU, considering the long drawn out thesis in the album insert about all musical ideas being free and that no one can own a beat, melody or musical phrase. This was cute.
Body-Hats (Part One) – I guess this is the working title track, which DU breaks down into three parts. For Part One, D-Flo hooks up a decent up-tempo backdrop that Shock-G, Hump, Money B and Saafir use to, abstractly, discuss all the threats (both physical and mental) the “body-hat” can protect you from. Or, as Shock says at the song’s close: “Barring abstinence, the Body-Hat is the best known protection against FADES” (which he explained on “Doo Woo You” is an acronym for Falsely Acquired Diluted Education Syndrome”). The song is decent enough, I guess.
Dope-A-Delic (Do-U-B-Leeve-In-D-Flo?) – This is the second of three bonus songs only included on the CD format of The Body-Hat Syndrome. Clee and Humpty, tag-team the mic as they fire shots at all the “bland” emcees and “weak rookie rappers”. The duo actually sounds okay, but the instrumental lacks energy.
Intermission – Quick mash-up of short clips taken from the DU catalog.
Wussup Wit The Luv – It’s rare for Digital Underground to get serious on a record. Matter of fact, up to this point in their career the only other serious record I can recall them being a part of was “All In The Same Gang” as part of the West Coast Rap All-Stars (remember that one?). On this song Shock-G, Money B, Clee and 2pac get very serious as they address the many evils that exist in this world and call for more love amongst humanity. Shock-G does provide one unintentional moment of comic relief when he sings “One brother speaks in African”, which is hi-larious to me, considering African is a person’s descent not a language. But I digress. I like the song’s sentiment and I “luv” the laid back piano chords and melancholy vibe of the production.
digital Lover – Not sure why DU decided to spell “digital” in the song title with a lowercase “d”. Typo or intentional? I guess it’s one of those mysteries the world will never know. Or someone could just ask Shock-G. When I first saw the song title, I thought “digital” was going to be a double entendre for the first word in the group’s name and as in fingers…catch my drift. The album insert (no pun intended) has an illustration of what appears to be a female robot bent over with an arrow labeled “enter here” pointed between her legs and the title “digital lover (NO CONDOMS NECESSARY)” above the drawing. So, maybe I was wrong on both ends. But who cares? The song is trash.
Carry The Way (Along Time) – DU blows their own horns on this one, as they pay homage to their contribution to hip-hop. Shock-G, Clee, Saafir and Money B all take turns patting themselves on the back. No one’s lyrics are memorable and the instrumental is so drowsy and terrible I don’t even think the god Rakim could have sparked my interest rapping over it.
Body-Hats (Part Two) – DU picks up right where they left off with Part One, bringing back the same instrumental, as the same parties from the first go round discuss the same damn thing.
Circus Entrance – Short skit that sets up the next song…
Jerkit Circus – Money B, Humpty and Shock-G annoyingly scream their way through most of this ode to masturbation. And if our hosts weren’t annoying enough, the garbage D-Flo instrumental only makes things worse. Geez…I’ve never heard anyone make jackin’ off sound so miserable.
Circus Exit (The After Nut) – An unnecessary interlude to wrap up the disaster that was “Jerkit Circus”.
Shake & Bake – More juvenile sex rhymes from Humpty over a mediocre funk track.
Body Hats (Part Three) – Same thing as Part One and Two, but only Shock and Humpty show up for this one.
Do You Like It Dirty? – For this one Shock-G and Humpty take turns on the mic, and I believe on the same chick. Years before “eating someone’s groceries” became a “thing” in hip-hop, Shock and Hump give intimate details on a freak that likes to do more than just toss their salads. Their rhymes are mildly entertaining, but the instrumental is super trash.
Bran Nu Sweat This Beat – DU brings back the instrumental from “Bran Nu Swetta” for this quick thirty-second interlude.
Wheee! – The final song on The Body-Hat Syndrome (at least on the CD format…this is the third of the three bonus songs only included on the CD) finds Shock-G (well, it starts off as Shock-G, but by the middle of both his verses he transforms into Humpty without notice), Money B, Clee and Schmoovy-Schmoov living their best lives just having good old fashion care-free fun. The heavy drums and the melodic piano chords help create the perfect atmosphere for their playful-unformatted-nonsensical rhymes. This is probably my favorite song on The Body-Hat Syndrome. Great way to end the album.
The Body-Hat Syndrome is definitely not Digital Underground’s best body (no pun intended) of work. At twenty tracks (at least the CD format), its way too long, and with most of the songs being sub par (both lyrically and production wise) with juvenile content, it makes an already lengthy project even more testing on the attention span. There are a handful of dope songs sprinkled in to the pot, but not enough to say The Body-Hat Syndrome is a good project. This definitely would have worked better as an EP.