Why Rap Album Skits Are (Not) Important (Anymore)

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For those unfamiliar with the album skit, it’s a break between songs where – usually – the artist(s) gets a chance to act out an additional fantasy or otherwise imaginary scenario. Unlike songs, where a clever or horrible idea can be lost in the music indefinitely, skits usually have no replay value unless they’re really funny or unexpectedly shocking. Thanks to the internet, funny &/or shocking is not the easiest thing to pull off these days.

Word is that Prince Paul & De La Soul are the inventor(s) of the rap album skit because of De La’s 1989 album “3 Feet High and Rising.” Official or not, I can’t remember a lot of pre-1989 (rap) albums that had game show episodes or even sexual conquests sprinkled betwixt their songs. In fact, the first time I heard all the skits on “3FHR” beginning to end, I found myself enjoying them as much as the new style of speak I had just discovered. I can’t remember where I bought that tape, but I remember Paul’s many characters.

It’s no secret that rap songs carry a certain amount of prejudice. Certain subjects – regardless how mundane or harmless – are completely off limits to rappers. The things that aren’t restricted are usually too ridiculous to be made into songs, but neither of the aforementioned should take away from the creativity of an idea. So, instead of composing a hook for a song about getting a BJ while selling crack (as a ludicrous example), make a skit. (Jokes are usually much more funny when they don’t rhyme, anyway.)

Common has an awesome skit on his “Like Water For Chocolate” album where he’s praised by a woman, only to turn around & pimp one. Now, while NOBODY wants to hear Common Sense rap about misogyny, even in fantasy form, a well executed skit makes that small story worthy of sharing. It’s reminiscent of Dr. Dre’s $20 Sack Pyramid, where a post-career ending injury The D.O.C. answers trivia questions in an attempt to score some dope. Those were the little flashes of brilliance that separated artists from rappers, & MC’s from entertainers.

As time progressed, the rap album skit has become nothing more than a vague tool used to fill the empty spaces between songs. & even that very space’s existence is being threatened by the (digital) mixtape phenomenon. By definition, the rap mixtape is – itself – filler: “unnecessary” songs or cutting-room throwaway joints that would otherwise be homeless forever. Even when rappers do put an album’s degree of effort into a mixtape, a skit is still an unimportant asset to the recording, especially one without a budget or chance at financial gain. A “bonus,” so to speak. With that said, it’s only natural that today’s skit is usually just the featured artist yelling derogatory statements at ratchets ladies, or smoking weed as he loads his weapon(s) in an effort to murder the competition. I guess if I were actively rapping in 2012 I wouldn’t have the wherewithal to compose skits either, between the money-getting & trying not to get shot & whatnot.

At some point, I imagine CDs & records will be nothing but joke punchlines & thrift store souvenirs–bought merely for the purposes of irony (like having a landline). Thanks to the ‘net, rappers have taken skits online, into real life, with varying results, but what do I know?

If nothing else, allow me take this time out to salute the cats who would put as much thought into what happens between songs as the actual songs themselves.

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8 comments on “Why Rap Album Skits Are (Not) Important (Anymore)

  1. Loki says:

    Interesting, I have noticed many artists have given up on them too.
    Although there are some incredibly funny ones out there from this past decade.
    Putting together an album as we speak, I have been trying to put some thought into intros and outros and whats in between, its an interesting exercise to try and think of something that really adds to the concept and adds some excitement

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  2. markdub7 says:

    Yo…you gotta check the skit on Little Brother’s The Listening which leads into Phonte singing this song worthy of a skit itself, Make Me Hot, P. HILARIOUS!!!

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  3. The skits on Little Brother’s “The Minstrel Show” are great too.

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  4. Nagan says:

    i kinda miss skits in the way the existed back then. when done right, they were the icing on the cake (like your mention of de la soul) or they could be boring/unfunny wastes of time.
    The itunes generation tends to buy individual tracks when peeps could’t back in the day (either single or full album if non bootlegged). I miss the good ones (except when i load full albums onto my mp3 player whilst exercising hitting random select and copping 3 skits in a row while trying to keep my rhythm lol)

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  5. […] Why Rap Album Skits Are (Not) Important (Anymore) by Tony Grands […]

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  6. Me thinks perhaps it also the visual aspect of modern music that has contributed to the aforementioned “Death of the Skit”. Artists with the budget and know how are heavily invested in the art of the video, just hearing funny shit alone is not sufficient in this era of digital bombardment.

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