TAMPA — Hundreds attended the funeral of rapper, musician and producer Gregory “Shock G” Jacobs at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church on Saturday, while tens of thousands tuned in virtually.
Speakers ranged from family friends to fellow musicians from the 90s hip hop scene. Nearly each one battled tears as they spoke about the life of Jacobs, who died last week at 57 in the city where he spent part of his childhood.
The death of Jacobs sparked an outpouring of grief and love across the world and in Tampa, where his career began and where he was laid to rest Saturday.
“We lost another legend,” said rapper Robert “Rob Base” Ginyard. “The hip hop community is going to miss you, Shock. But, really, the whole world is going to miss you.”
Jacobs was a founding member of Digital Underground, an American alternative hip hop group in the 90s. The group rotated its musicians with each album and tour, but Jacobs was a mainstay. He went on to collaborate with some of the biggest names in music, such as Prince, Dr. Dre, and Tupac Shakur, who got his start by performing on the road with Digital Underground.
David “DJ fuze” Elliot, another member of Digital Underground, cried as he recalled memories with Shock G — who also rapped as Humpty Hump, among other aliases — on tour busses nearly two decades ago. The now-51-year-old recalled Jacobs’ ability to find laughter at any time on any day.
“He had a gift that could turn mundane moments of daily life into hilarious and cherished lifetime memories,” Elliot said.
Tom Silverman, the founder of the hip-hop and electro-funk music label Tommy Boy Entertainment that signed Digital Underground in the 90s, praised Jacobs for his abilities beyond music. He said the rapper was a visionary that had aspirations and dreams as big as building theme parks.
If he had the money to do it, Silverman said Shock G would’ve been another Walt Disney. He later called him the “Nikola Tesla of Hip Hop.” He also agreed with DJ Fuze — Jacobs had a sense of humor that could make anyone laugh.
“Even yesterday as I looked at him in the casket, I fully expected him to smile and wink at me,” Silverman joked. “That’s the kind of thing he would always do.”
Jacobs was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but spent much of his childhood in Tampa. He attended Chamberlain High School but left school in the early 1980s to begin his music career.
He formed the Master Blasters, a local group of DJs and MCs, and at 16 landed a spot as a DJ performing as Gregory Racker on WTMP-AM, according to the Hip Hop Wiki. Jacobs eventually obtained his diploma, taught himself piano and studied music theory at Hillsborough Community College.
He then moved to Oakland and in 1987 formed Digital Underground with Jimi “Chopmaster J” Dright and Kenneth “Kenny K” Waters, the legendary Tampa DJ who died in 1994.
He was found dead on April 22 at a Tampa motel. A cause of death has not yet been announced but an autopsy is planned.
Nzazi Malonga, a longtime friend who served as head of security and helped manage the group, said after Jacobs’ death was announced that the rapper struggled with drug addiction for years, according to the Associated Press. Tampa police records also detail Jacobs’ struggle with drugs in the weeks before his death.
Despite recent events, however, those who spoke Saturday focussed on the positives in Jacob’s life. In addition to half a dozen speakers at the service itself, video tributes were also played from a big screen. They included messages from musicians George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Chuck D, Busta Rhymes, Jermaine Dupri and Cee-Lo Green.
Jacobs is survived by his mother, Shirley Kraft; father, Edward Racker; brother, Kent Racker; and sister, Elizabeth Racker.