90s Stand Out Singles: “The Humpty Dance” Digital Underground (1990)
“The Humpty Dance” (1990) came to us courtesy of The Digital Underground, a hip hop group formed in Oakland, CA, in the late ’80s. The group consisted of 4 members, including a young Tupac Shakur, but MC Shock G was its founding member and de facto leader.
For two songs in their catalog, Shock G would don a pair of Groucho glasses, grab the mic and assume his alter ego, “Humpty Hump.” The idea was to be ridiculous, look ridiculous, and convince us that “Humpty” was an irresistible sexual dynamo. And lo and behold, it worked — and then some.
“The Humpty Dance” combined an iconic bass groove with a mixture of samples and rapping that was just flat-out fun. I also learned a lot from this song. As a Junior in high school, I had my fair share of difficulties getting “busy” with the ladies. But I had no idea that a fast-food restaurant bathroom was a viable option for such things. I also learned new words, like “Looptid.” It was awesome.
And what was the Humpty Dance? Well, I’m still not sure. Even though Humpty attempts to explain it halfway through the song, it’s hard to put your finger on it. But I didn’t care. I loved this song and still do. I love it so much that if I were a polygamist, I would marry it.
Speaking of marriage, this song factors into a fun story about when I wed my wife Sarah in 2005. I was put in charge of the Wedding Band. The guy who ran the group in Florida got in touch with me a few months before our date.
He had sent me a list of 250 songs the band typically played and asked if there was “any song you want us to play, or not to play?” I told him, “These are all fine; you play whatever you want. The only thing I ask is that you learn and play The Humpty Dance.” He said, “no problem.”
Fast forward to the reception of our wedding. The party is banging, but something’s missing. We are coming to the end of the band’s time, and they haven’t played the song I was waiting for. So I approached the bandleader and reminded him of our arrangement. The guy said, “Oh yeah, I’m sorry, we didn’t learn it.” I could have walked away and been pissed but no. I said, “I asked you for one thing. One thing. I don’t care; you need to figure it out.”
The bass player of the band who had been overhearing our conversation started playing a sliding bass riff. The drummer took the cue and jumped in behind him. Okay, we had a groove. It wasn’t quite the song, but it was close enough.
But who was going to sing? The lead singer of the wedding band was useless. Before I had a chance to ask if anyone would volunteer, my friends, Keith and Jason, jumped on stage and started rapping, Humpty Style. It was glorious.
After the first verse, Keith and Jason forgot the rest of the words. So for about 30 seconds, the band was playing the groove while the two of them were anxiously looking around. And that’s when one of our wedding guests, a young lady named Stephanie from the upscale suburb of Shaker Heights, OH approached the stage and said, “Hey, I know the rest of the song.” We all nodded in surprise as she climbed up on the stage and in front of the microphone.
Without missing a beat, Steph brought the rest of the song home and completed it in a way that would have made Shock G proud. The applause at the end was thunderous and well deserved.
We received some awesome wedding presents that day, but the delivery of “The Humpty Dance” was probably my favorite.