The Humpty Dance
In a Nutshell
In a Nutshell
Dancing—it's everywhere. As you can see in popular shows like Dancing with the Stars
and So You Think You Can Dance
, as well as in underdog dance stories like Footloose, Dirty Dancing,
and Step Up
, dance is a form of communication that can express the entire spectrum of human emotion. At some time or another, we all have the inclination or obligation to do it: the prom, a wedding, or even when you're alone at home and a really good song is playing—and then somebody walks in and you have to pretend that you were just stretching.
And then there's the Humpty Dance. No doubt the funkiest single of 1990, in a hip-hop climate dominated by hardcore gangsta rap
and socially conscious calls to action
, Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" showcased the absurd character of Humpty Hump, Digital Underground's resident court jester/ladies' man. With "The Humpty Dance," Digital Underground revels in dancing for the sake of dancing, letting loose, and throwing your inhibitions to the wind. If you're looking for a lot of gritty substance in this song, well, stop looking, and start dancing.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Shock-G (vocals), DJ Fuze (beats, vocals)
|Label||Tommy Boy Records|
|Writer(s)||Gregory Jacobs (Shock-G)|
|Producer(s)||Gregory Jacobs (Shock-G)|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
The message of "The Humpty Dance" isn't meant to be closely analyzed, or even fully understood—it's meant to be felt. Have you ever been to a rockin' concert and felt the synergy between the performer and the crowd? The French sociologist Emile Durkheim called this feeling "collective effervescence," meaning a kind of hypnotic wave that washes over a crowd, but you don't need to know any fancy words to understand what he's talking about.
Humpty revels in sexual freedom and the power of music and dance and rejects what others would label as the limitations of his physical appearance. While his nose
and avid pursuit of female attention might remind you of Cyrano De Bergerac
, he's also the heir to Groucho Marx
. But that's just the surface. As in Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors
, what appears to us to be pure farce is actually drawing on older, more traditional forms. For Shakespeare, inspiration came from the Roman playwright Plautus, and for Humpty, we get a mix of Groucho, Benny Hill, Parliament Funkadelic, and the boom of late 1980s hip-hop—a far cry from the hardcore gangsta personas
and socially conscious attitudes
that were becoming more and more popular heading into the ‘90s—, and it all synthesizes into one catchy song.
On the Charts
"The Humpty Dance" reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop chart in 1990.