The following is an unedited Q and A e-mail exchange between Mr. Todd Davis and Shock G from 2008 (part 2 of 3). For Part 1, click here
7). At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue music on a professional basis??
It kinda just always was. I was voted “Most Talented” at my junior high school, was a paid radio DJ at 16 years old, and produced many artists around Tampa for hire at age 19. At age 20 I had a regular gig playing jazz solo piano at Carmines in Ybor City Tampa, and at Rough Riders, a bar near campus where I attended Hillsborough Community College. At HCC in 1982 & 83 I studied music theory under Jim Burge and piano under Patricia Trice.
I also played keys in Warren Brooks band the year he made the finals in the WTMP Battle of the Bands for a Polygram recording contract. We lost to Edith Langston & the Gospel Myths. (!!??) Gospel groups always won everything in Tampa, and it was all rigged that way. Another reason I skipped town, there was no contemporary music outlets down there back then.
8). How did you all first come together to form the group, and eventually ink a deal with Tommy Boy??
d.u. was just a concept band, a project. We had the idea before we actually had the full cast. I met Money-B through DJ-Fuze, who we asked to DJ for us at our first live show as d.u., a showcase show for Tommy-Boy. They had us opening up for Tone Loc who’s Wild Thing single was huge that year.
We had a 12inch single out doing pretty well, “Underwater Rimes”, and one day the buyer at the big Berkeley record store Rasputins (Darcia Dabney I think her name was) gave the Tommy Boy rep a copy of our record. She said to him.. “You guys have De La Soul, you’ll probably like this too” and gave him the record. Later they contacted us and said they wanna hear more stuff. The next demo consisted of “Doowutchyalike” and “The Way We Swing” which both later made it on to Sex Packets, and 2 other songs that didn’t make the album.
9). Where did the moniker, D.U., originally derive from??
We wanted something modern but deliberately vague, because we didn’t know what our sound or style was gonna be yet. We tried being Black Panther rappers but Public Enemy & X-Clan beat us to it. Then Jimi had an idea for us to be hippie rappers and rep the bays flower-child/peace & love history; but then De-La Soul dropped 3 Feet High & Rising.
So then we were like fuck it, let’s just do like P-Funk and do alittle bit of everything. We needed a name that represented the way the music was being made at the time, on all the new digital sequencing machines & samplers. As well as something that reflected the underground street nature of hip-hop at the time; it was still considered a fad that the industry was going thru, like disco or something. Most people thought rap wouldn’t last, even still in 1988, so we added “underground” to it.
10) a). As a songwriter, when you sit down to pen your rhymes, where do you draw your inspiration(s) from??
Love, life, laughter, the pool party last night, the new girl I just met, the funny joke a friend said that killed everybody in the room!
b). You are also a multi-instrumentalist — What all do, and can, you play??
These days, only keys well enough to say I play it. I gave up drums & turntables long ago, I leave it to the specialists now, like DJ NuStyles, he’s a wild dragon on the turns!
11). Let’s discuss your longevity in this business of music — What do you feel has been, and will continue to be, the key to your success?? And, what will keep sustaining you in this grueling industry??
As a musician, to simply make your living thru music is the true blessing, even if you’re just playing the bar or hotel down the street. Record deals and videos and budgets to make albums with are all icing on the cake. The top-40 people we see on TV & radio, they’re less than 1 percent of the artists surviving in the industry. You may see any of us sit in with any other of us.
I saw George Clinton do a blues onstage with Bonnie Raitt the country singer at Slims in San Francisco once. I caught Sly Stone with Billy Preston on piano in a tiny 75-seat theater in hollywood back in 87. At a d.u. show in Austin Texas recently, RZA walked out and grabbed the mic while I was on keys. Throughout d.u.’s heydey in the early nineties u may have spotted me sittin in on organ w/Eric Baker & his blues band at the Fifth Ammendment, a tiny jazz dive in Oakland. Erykah Badu jumped on drum-machine while me & Money-B improvised “I Get Around” during the grand finale at a Tupac birthday celebration in LA a few years back; she’s MURDER on the drums & percussion. She could’ve made it as just a drum programmer had she preferred to.
Speaking of Tupac, he can be seen playing congas onstage with us during our MTV-Raps performance of “No Nose Job” way after Juice and after his own album was out. He’s also featured in the Gold Money video on Saxophone acting out the horn parts in the song.
The singer L. Dubois who we featured on “And 2morrow” from the Tupac “Rose From Concrete; Volume 2” album, we had just met in the street on our way to the studio 2 days earlier. He was singing for spare change in the Santa Monica Promenade, but peep how good he was!
It’s all one language.
My favorite story of this kind happened at Woodstock 99. I was enjoying P-Funks performance from backstage, when this little kid rips the most amazing trumpet solo in the middle of Flashlight. By the end of the solo, he was just screaming notes out of it, the crowd was going insane. Afterwards he came backstage and I said “Wow, that was ridiculous. How long have u been on tour with them?” and he said..
I just met George last night in the hotel lobby. I told him I play for my school and he told me ta bring my horn”. The kid was like 14 years old.
I grew up in Michigan, and graduated from high school in 2005. I then attended Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where I majored in Music Business and received a Bachelor's of Business Administration Degree. During my time in school there, I began writing for Billboard magazine. And then, after contributing to a Nashville-based music site as a hip-hop correspondent, I was able to transition into a role as a features writer for AllHipHop.com.
If Sidney Shaw from 'Brown Sugar' were to ask me, "When did you fall in love with hip-hop?", my answer would be Snoop Doggy Dogg and Coolio in the mid-90s. Therefore, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to now be at West Coast Styles and be conducting interviews and creating think pieces about how the culture has affected people, politics, and society as a whole.
Peace and blessings to all.