While the world of hip-hop has brought audiences a diverse, enriching variety of sounds and messages, it has also delivered some of the most notorious feuds of all time. 2Pac and B.I.G. Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Kid and Play.
But perhaps none has been more controversial – or more deadly – than the decades-long beef between two of the greatest artists the game has ever produced: Humpty Hump and Chunky A.
Now, after 30 years, world leaders are pleading with the two sides to come to a truce.
Before teaching audiences how to limp to the side like their leg was broken in the 1989-90 hit single “The Humpty Dance,” Edward Ellington Humphrey III was lead singer of an R&B group known around Oakland, CA as Smooth Eddie and the Humpers.
Since most of their pay was retained by the clubs that booked them over questions about whether ladies at the show could drink for free, Humphrey spent his daytime hours managing a local Burger King. One fateful day, between working drive-thru and getting busy in the bathroom, an accident involving a deep fryer caused severe burns to his face. His nose would need 27 plastic surgeries, altering not only his looks but adding a muffled nasal tone to his singing. Between the disfigurement and the vocal issues, Smooth Eddie was out of the Humpers.
While hustling a hallucinogenic he called “sex packets” on the street, Humphrey met Greg “Shock G” Jacobs, and Digital Underground was born. Over the next few years, the group would enjoy hit singles with “Doowutchyalike,” “Same Song,” and Humphrey’s autobiographical magnum opus, “The Humpty Dance.”
As Digital Underground was taking off in 1989, Arsenio Hall was enjoying stratospheric success on the Fox Network as a late-night television host.Loitering around the Hollywood studios with a demo tape of “Freaks of the Industry,” Humphrey (or “Humpty Hump,” as he now preferred to be known) was trying to reach the show’s booking agent. Unfortunately, his lascivious ways got the better of him, as he reportedly attempted to woo a young woman there by hollering “Hey, yo, fat girl! C’mere, are ya ticklish?”
Her boyfriend happened to be Arsenio’s booking agent (and younger brother), Chunkton Arthur Hall.(Not even those working on Arsenio’s show knew that Chunkton and Arsenio were related, as Chunkton would tell people his name was Tyrone Johnson and that his father owned Ebony magazine.)
Chunkton used one of the several gold chains he was wearing to try to strangle this man who dissed his girl, but Humphy’s nose caught Chunkton in the eye, damaging his cornea and making him sensitive to lights. After that day, Chunkton had to constantly wear sunglasses to protect his eye.
Digital Underground would eventually get the spot on Arsenio’s show twice (including the historic performance with the West Coast All Stars), over Chunkton’s protestations. The argument over the booking and Arsenio’s refusal to bankroll Chunkton’s musical ambitions would lead to the brothers suffering a major falling out which, according to those close to the family, continues to this day.
Chunkton left Arsenio, teaming up with legendary funk group Cameo for the “Large and in Charge” album under the pseudonym Chunky A. The effort spawned a hit single, “Owww!”
But the track “Stank Breath,” which was written to return the favor of Humpty’s comments towards his girl by disrespecting Humpty’s girlfriend, angered Humpty (and his girlfriend, Hope).
It came to a head at the 1990 MTV Music Awards, where Arsenio was the show’s host and Digital Underground was nominated for Best Rap Video. Chunky and his crew showed up with a box of previously uncounted votes in this category, which changed the results of the category and awarded MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” with the coveted statuette.
As members of the Underground and Chunky A’s posse began arguing backstage, gunfire erupted, killing fellow nominated rappers Young MC and Biz Markie, as well as other nominated artists that night: Sinead O’Connor, Alannah Myles, Billy Idol, Michael Penn, Michelle Shocked, Mike Patton of Faith No More, Jane Child, Lisa Stansfield, and several members of the New Bohemians. Music industry experts say each of those artists would definitely have gone on to have several more hits had they not met their untimely ends that night at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
The slaughter that evening (where, incidentally, the band Slaughter was also killed) led to something that booking agents would call the “Humpty-Chunky Rule,” where neither of the artists or their associated acts would be allowed to perform within 1,000 miles of one another in the same week.
Now, over 30 years later, a bipartisan effort in Congress seeks to end this war. Co-sponsored by senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Ben Sasse (R-NE), the resolution pleads with both sides to end the dispute.
The measure was pushed hard by Vice President Harris in the 2020 campaign, as she said millions of Americans want peace between the renowned rappers. Harris is a noted fan of Digital Underground, featuring rapper 2Pac, who she called the “best rapper alive” last year.
Will Chunkton Arthur “Chunky A” Hall and Edward Ellington “Humpty Hump” Humphrey III finally put aside their differences and make amends? For the good of humanity, one can only hope so.