1990, Music

Sex Packets (1990) by Digital Underground

What can I possible say about this insane album? It’s a concept album about a sex drug but, like most concept albums, that concept isn’t evident on many of the tracks. And it features the main rapper rapping both as himself and, infamously, in character, something I don’t know how often I’ve encountered before (and certainly not this early).

Sure, I remember “The Humpty Dance”. I remember it as a novelty – so I had no idea this group lasted as long as they did, nor that Humpty was just a character that wouldn’t appear on all other songs. (Also, I did not get the lyrics, but then I was 8.)

This is a bizarre, funny, crude and inventive record. There’s a fair amount going on in the background which is something I can appreciate when it’s done well. It’s not the densest production I’ve ever heard but it’s certainly got enough going on that I can listen to it as music, which I can’t always do when I’m listening to a more austere approach to hip hop production.

But you usually don’t have to focus on the production because, whatever you may think of the lyrics, they’re, um, not boring. It takes talent to balance ambition and humour and here it works more often than not. Sure, the concept isn’t really present on a lot of the track, but at least there are jokes (some of which have not dated well). In addition, the usual braggadocio is undercut by meta observations of the cliches of hip hop, something even someone like me can appreciate. I wish there was more of the latter, actually, rather than the dumb concept, but I appreciate that they tried to do more than one thing.

It definitely overstays its welcome, but that’s basically every ’90s hip hop album I’ve ever encountered (except Illmatic). And I can’t help but appreciate the intelligence – even nerdiness – behind a lot of it.
It’s unique, anyway.


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