by JR Valrey, The Minister of Information
Atron Gregory is a very talented music executive from Northern California who is responsible for signing Digital Underground and Tupac Shakur and getting their careers started as major recording artists. On Saturday, Aug. 21, he is one of the many organizers putting together a citywide, day long tribute to the heart of Digital Underground, Shock G, who passed away recently.
Shock G Day, which will include a community feed with the East Oakland Collective, a motorcade from East Oakland to West Oakland, a free Digital Underground concert and tribute at Oakland’s City Hall, then an after-party at the New Parish venue featuring longtime Digital Underground Dj, Dj Fuze, Dj D Sharp and others.
I talked to Atron Gregory about his relationships with Bay Area Hip Hop legends Shock G and Tupac Shakur in the days leading up to the historic event in Bay Area Hip Hop history. Check him out in his own words.
JR Valrey: How and when did you meet Shock G? When did y’all start your lifelong working relationship?
Atron Gregory: We met in North Hollywood with Chopmaster J through an introduction from my good friend, jazz keyboardist Rodney Franklin. I began working with Digital Underground in 1988.
JR Valrey: What made Shock G special as a pianist and as a rapper?
Atron Gregory: As a pianist, his interpretation of songs and music is very unique. As a rapper, his ability to not only tell stories but to tell stories that have social and cultural meaning, as multiple characters, is also incredibly rare.
JR Valrey: Why did you decide to work with Digital Underground after working with more established groups in the music industry?
Atron Gregory: I was looking to start my own company, TNT, and looking for a unique group or artist that was different from anyone I had been hearing at the time.
JR Valrey: What did you see in Tupac Shakur when you helped to discover him and put him on the international stage? What was Shock G’s role in that process?
Atron Gregory: Tupac’s spirit, energy and desire were infectious and anyone around him could see and feel that. Shock had multiple roles in the process as a producer, a mentor and a friend.
JR Valrey: What are some of the biggest accomplishments that you have with Digital Underground?
Atron Gregory: After 30 years with Digital Underground, their accomplishments are endless, but I think the most important accomplishment is the fact that their music has transcended multiple decades and is still enjoyed today.
JR Valrey: What made you call the rest of the DU family and put together a Shock G Day in Oakland after his passing?
Atron Gregory: Actually they called me and said that this is something we had to do because the City of Oakland wanted to celebrate Shock.
JR Valrey: Shock G Day has many different components, most notably a food giveaway. What does giving away food have to do with Shock G?
Atron Gregory: Most people don’t know that part of Shock, but he was very caring and giving to those who at times during their lives might have needed help.
JR Valrey: What do you want people to get out of Shock G Day?
Atron Gregory: That we can come together in unity for the common good of ALL people – and not only to support people but have a good time.
JR Valrey: How could people get more information online?
Atron Gregory: www.digitalundergroundday.com
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. Visit www.BlackNewWorldMedia.com to read more.