Before we get into this post, I must start by saying rest in peace to the underappreciated musical genius that was Gregory “Shock G” Jacobs, who we lost almost a year ago to the date. Thank you for your contribution to our beloved genre and may you continue to rest in peace.
We last checked in with Digital Underground with their 1993 release, Body-Hat Syndrome, and to put it mildly, the album was only a few dirty diapers away from being trash. Being the fan that I am of the Shock G led Oakland collective, the underwhelming output hurt my soul a bit. Body-Hat Syndrome would also be the first DU project to not earn at minimum, a gold plaque and coincidentally, would be the last project they would release on Tommy Boy Records. DU would pick up the pieces and return in ‘96, independently releasing their fourth full-length, Future Rhythm.
Based on the album cover and elaborate sixteen page insert, Future Rhythm has double meaning, as it not only refers to the music, but also acts as a faux virtual reality video game, where you can select from over sixty players (the insert highlights a few of the options, including: Deemo The Assassin, Tasheeba The Sex Slave, The Death Lord, Terry The Trick and Malika The Master Pimpstress, and all of them come complete with bizarre background storylines) and choose to engage in “High Risk Anti-Protection Combat-Orgy” or select an alternate game, like: “Glooty-Us-Maximus”, where you can “choose from over 200 multi-colored asses to see which ones don’t stank when dey poot” or “Walk The Dog Real Kool” where you can put some hoes, I mean, dogs on leashes and walk dem bitches like a pimp. And if you’re not tech savvy, no worries, all the games are “Use-Her-Friendly”. Shock G would stick to DU tradition, keeping the production in-house with his D-Flo production squad and invite a gang of friends to cameo on a bunch of the album’s tracks. Like Body-Hat Syndrome, Future Rhythm also wasn’t a commercial success, but it did receive favorable reviews from several publications upon its release.
I found Future Rhythm at a used bookstore a few years back for a couple of bucks and have never listened to it until now. Would the DU’s rhythm usher in the Future? Let’s find out.
Walk Real Kool – After a computer voice welcomes the listener to the album (or the game) and instructs him or her to select a player, D-Flo lays down a slow-rolling jazzy funk mash up. Shock G is joined by Erika “Shay” Sulpacio and Marsha Lurry, as the three sing about the state of the Black and Brown community and ask the rhetorical question of “Where are we going as a people?” on the hook. I enjoyed the easily digestible food for thought and the tight groove that back’s the conscious message.
Glooty-Us-Maximus – Saafir, Skatz and one-half of the Luniz, Numskull join DU for this song about beautiful women, bougie attitudes and stank asses. Speaking of asses, this record is booty. Humpty Hump makes his first appearance of the night, but even his presence doesn’t make this one worth listening to more than once.
Oregano Flow (Gumbo Soup Mix) – Shock goes dolo on this one as he gets into his Oakland player bag and sprinkles his “oregano flow (not too heavy on the garlic)” all over the track. He and the D-Flo strip the panties, bra, heels and melody off Loose Ends’ “Hangin’ On A String” instrumental, leaving it butt-naked for all its funkiness to be exposed and shine. This was really dope.
Fool Get A Clue – Shock is joined by Shaquaan and Shabaam (collectively known as The Black Spooks), as the three stand up for freedom of expression and sexual liberation over a smooth deep-fried funk groove built around a slice of Funkadelic’s “Funk Gets Stronger”. This D-Flo groove gets stronger as it goes on, ending with a full out jam session complete with nasty guitar licks and fabulous horn solos.
Rumpty Rump – Quick interlude that features Money B leaving a voicemail for Shock about an idea to create a female version of Humpty Hump, named Rumpty Rump. But instead of having a big fake nose like Humpty, she would have a big fake ass. Wait. Did Money B predict the coming of Nicki Minaj?
Food Fight – This one pairs Humpty up with Del The Funky Homosapien, as the unlikely duo square off with rival crews in a good old-fashion food fight. Humpty comes armed with cheeseburgers, cantaloupes and melons, while Del’s equipped with lettuce, ham hocks, pork balls and his secret weapon, paprika (throw a little seasoning in a wack emcee’s eye. Now, that’s gangsta). Fittingly, this class clown session appeared in Marlon and Shawn Wayans’ hood movie parody flick, Don’t Be A Menace (there is no damn way I’m typing out the full title of that movie). The instrumentation is decent and much like Humpty’s nose, it grows on me the more I listen to it.
Future Rhythm – The title track finds Shock and Humpty joined by their buddies, Krazy Horse and Mac-Mone, as they all take shots predicting the future over a drowsily melodic backdrop. They successfully predict that texting (“text to the sexless”) and FaceTime (“I seen them with my tv screen phone”) would become the norm in the future (and for you young bucks, neither was a thing in ‘96, as the cellphone itself wasn’t even common place at time), but unfortunately, they were wrong about no longer having “imitation G’s flexin’ techs in the hood” and the ability to “fax freaks through the internet.” Instagram and OnlyFans has gotten us damn near close to the latter, though.
Hokis Pokis (A Classic Case) – I’m not sure what Humpty and the crew’s loony inside joke is on this one, but at least the drunken background music is mildly entertaining.
We Got More – Like “Food Fight” this song was also featured in the Don’t Be A Menace movie and included on the movie’s soundtrack. The Luniz drop by and join Shock G and Humpty to talk their Oakland shit over dope drums, laced with a sick snake charmer sounding horn. This is one of the few records on Future Rhythm that I vaguely remember from back in the day, and it still sounds dope, and somewhat current.
Hella Bump – Hella underwhelming.
Stylin’ – This might be my favorite joint on Future Rhythm. The D-Flo crew creates a cool jazz atmosphere, punctuated by a sassy synthesized saxophone chord that Shock, Humpty and their special guests, Kenya and Tyranny use to brag and boast of their original styling, rapping and harmonizing their way through it. Well done gents.
Midnite Snack – Shock and the fellas bring back a reprised version of the instrumental from “Food Fight” and let it rock a little while for this short and cleverly titled interlude.
Oregano Flow (Hot Sauce Mix) – There is nothing hot about the sauce in this mix. The instrumental has a super cheesy circus feel and needs a shit load of oregano, garlic and everything else to make it taste good.
Want It All – The final song of the evening features a warm backdrop filled with melodic vibrations and DU taking a cleverly comical approach to address the duplicity that exist in all of us. After Shock G’s recent transition, hearing him harmonize “It’s great to be alive, I wonder what it’s like to die, I wanna live drug free, but I wanna be somber, I wanna get high, ’til the world is over” hits different.
After their disappointing 1993 release, Body-Hat Syndrome, Future Rhythm is definitely a step back in the right direction for Digital Underground. The album finds Shock G and company splattering light-hearted rhymes and harmonies (with a few hidden messages and some hyper-sexual undertones) over bluesy-cool jazz-funk fused hip-hop instrumentation, and most of it sounds pretty damn entertaining. It’s safe to say that DU’s best days were behind them by 1996, but like Jordan leaving the Bulls and finishing his career with the Wizards, Future Rhythm proves that the Oakland collective still had some productive gas left in their creative tanks.