DL: Digital Underground – Raw Uncut [DVD]

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Sadly despite the fact that they sold millions, hit the top of the charts and became a familiar name even to non-rap fans everywhere, D.U. is little mentioned today. Even the legions of 2Pac fans have largely forgotten that his first major break in the business was rapping on D.U.'s "Same Song" and that he shared the billing with Money B and Shock G on his landmark hit "I Get Around." Thankfully the Underground sound is still around, and with their new "Raw Uncut Docu-Musical" there's a little something for everyone - the new jacks who weren't a part of their funk renaissance, and the golden era fans who fondly remember "The Way We Swing" and "Doowhutchyalike."

The DVD's main feature starts squarely in 1989, reminding us that a large plastic nose (Shock G's alter ego Humpty Hump) made it all possible. The narrator also correctly notes that it was their fusion of George Clinton's P-Funk sound and style with new age hip-hop attitude that made their music fresh and fun yet helped them also maintain a slight attitude and edge without being forceful or preachy. A KRS-One track rapping about D.U. friends and family opens the video, and then all the crew introduce themselves. Interesting fact I learned from this segment - DJ Fuze actually used to be known as "Davey D" but gave it up because there was one in New York AND one out in the West (that of course being the famous DaveyD of radio and WWW acclaim). Initially he wanted to be DJ Goldfingers, but it didn't sticks, so Fuze he became.

The documentary doesn't spare on the little and historically important details, a fact hardcore D.U. fans will definitely appreciate. The narrator even mentions that their debut single "Underwater Rimes" backed with "Your Life's a Cartoon" was pressed on TNT and sold about 30,000 copies - mostly in California. The version of "Underwater Rhymes" most fans are familiar with from "Sex Packets" is actually a remix of that debut track. This success led to Tommy Boy offering a record deal to Digital Underground. The crew talk about how well they were received in Europe around this time, and how "Doowhutchyalike" was a big international hit, landing them with a different promoter in every country they visited on tour. It's also cool to hear them note how at every venue, they'd find BDP, P.E. and EPMD tags and posters, and how grateful they were to be on that same circuit just following in their footsteps. "Humpty" of course liked Amsterdam best. Parental advisory here, there is some graphic nudity and language, but that's all in keeping with their "have fun swing."

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The strength of "Doowhutchyalike" landed them a gig touring WITH P.E. in the United States, which they chose on purpose over touring with Hammer, even though it would be less money. No love for their fellow Oakland rapper? Perhaps, but they knew touring with P.E. was not only an honor but a way to connect with rabidly hardcore hip-hop fans. It must have worked. Among the first ten rap albums I ever bought (as opposed to being given as gifts or getting as dubs from friends) were Digital Underground's "Sex Packets" and P.E.'s "Fear of a Black Planet." Ahh, those were the days. Shock G also reveals that the plastic nose was part of a hidden revolutionary message in "Doowhutchyalike," where people could live in a world without government, and that the nose symbolized you could be ugly or beautiful and it didn't matter as long as you did onto others as you'd want them to do unto you.

The D.U. evolution continues, discussing how they released "Same Song" as part of the soundtrack for the movie "Nothing But Trouble" starring (and directed by) Dan Aykroyd, and how D.U. got involved with the "We're All in the Same Gang" project. At this point more focus is given to 2Pac's membership in the group, how he got put on "Same Song" and how D.U. was only insured for 8 people when they went on tour, so somebody had to stay behind just so 'Pac had a spot to go on the road - that's how much faith they had in him as a rising star. It brings a smile to the heart of D.U., Tupac and hip-hop fans alike to see Shakur clowning around backstage at a show with super soakers. It's also revealed that even at the young age of 18, Shakur had an incredibly nihilistic attitude, proclaiming that if he sold a million records and died by the age of 25 he'd live a full life. Money B has a good laugh about how Shakur wrote his verse for "I Get Around" just in case they didn't make it to the studio in time to pen their own, and how it was so violent and hardcore ("shoot you with my four-four") that B knew there was no way in hell he was performing it. B talks about how much fun they had filing the video, and that if even half of that came through on screen, it would be a huge hit. Of course it's ultimately a tragic story, nothing that "Me Against the World" was the last album that D.U. would produce tracks for Shakur on, and how he was gunned down after signing to Death Row. They still pay tribute to him in concert though, a fact I can personally attest to having seen them perform live in Omaha.

Review by Steve 'Flash' Juon

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