Digital Underground changed the game when they emerged on the scene in 1990. Actually, let's back up a bit. I distinctly remember "Doowutchyalike" getting myself and my eighth grade cohorts all the way hype on many a Saturday morning when it repeatedly aired on Yo! MTV Raps the year before. By the time Sex Packets was released in 1990, D.U. had also released "Same Song" with a favorable response. Featuring a young and relatively inexperienced Tupac Shakur, he was by no means the star of the crew, but his rhymes were good and had a cute face which undoubtedly served him well in his future acting career. In any case, D.U. was fronted by Shock G. Who we all know by now that his alter ego is Humpty Hump, creator of the famed dance, right? Shock G also happens to be a stellar producer, instrumentalist and cousin of Morris Day. Is it any surprise that, much like his cousin's sex-dripping debut in the early '80s, Shock G's debut with D.U. would be titled Sex Packets?
Released as a concept album--remember those?--Sex Packets referred to "Genetic Suppression Relief Antedotes," supposedly pharmaceutically manufactured substances that "the government" supplied astronauts with on long space visits. Speaking of sex, D.U. may have been one of the first groups to have used the term "give brain" for oral pleasures on "Gutfest '89." Granted, D.U. was a group of young men, including Shock G, former roadie Tupac, Chopmaster J, DJ Kenny-K and Money-B, so several of the tracks were oriented towards getting freaky. Perfect for college parties, the album offered its listeners samples of Parliament Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock, Donna Summer and various other sources that were pioneered by acts such as De La Soul before them. This is not to take anything away from D.U., since their sound was at once so unique yet accessible. In fact, this album achieved platinum status as well "Same Song" being featured in the Dan Akroyd movie Nothing But Trouble, which they also starred in.
Sex Packets stands out to me much more than some of the other albums released during the time because of the ingenuity they displayed, the overall smoothness of some of the jazzier tracks, and the overall flow of the album. Back when Sex Packets was released, since formats that music recordings were released had two sides, this album was separated into the "Safe Side" and the "Sex Side." Get it? How it's a reference to "sex packets" as in the condoms that were pushed in the wake of the AIDS epidemic of the time and would soon adorn the clothing of the forthcoming girl group TLC?
Digital Underground continued their presence in hip hop music with "Kiss You Back." Shock G continued his musical relationship with Tupac by appearing and producing the hit "I Get Around" as well as several tracks on 2Pacalypse Now and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Sadly, Shock G's record collection burned in a house fire during the early '90s but did not prevent him from producing future D.U. albums. He sadly admitted to drug use alongside George Clinton but luckily this didn't hamper his production of great music. He was recently on BET's Hip Hop Awards performing as Humpty Hump mostly and providing piano accompaniment to a Tupac tribute featuring "I Get Around."
In short, Sex Packets may be an album that many of us appreciated at the time but have since forgotten of its greatness. Luckily, we know better and can pay this album the respect it deserves. Let's remember a time when folks actually danced and were required to know of the latest and hottest dances by getting our groove on with the "Humpty Dance." Make sure you move the furniture out of the way before you attempt to do this dance or get busy in a Burger King bathroom.