Nineteen eighty six was a good year for rap, but also an awkward one. Fresh ideas seemed to be drying-up as everyone realised there was only so many times you could replay the theme to Gilligan’s Island over a drum machine beat before people would get sick of it. Shout Rap was starting to sound a little tired compared to the intricate rhymes of T La Rock and the stylish tough talk of Just-Ice, but it would be another twelve months until Criminal Minded would rewrite the rules of the game. Schoolly D had damn-near perfected the art of sparse, abrasive drum machine assaults, but this debut from Connecticut’s Skinny Boys demonstrated that there was still some life left in the bare-bones sound.
Combining TR-909 programming with loud turntable stabs of noise and a whole lotta human beatboxing, Shockin’ Shaun and Jockbox rocked vocal routines with the gusto you’d expect from a late-night house party set. Weightless stands the test of time as a testament to the sound of hardcore rap, as twenty years later it still has the capacity to smash speakers and upset your neighbours when played at inappropriate volumes.
The keyboards on tracks like “Weightless” might sound ancient, but the scratch-heavy “Unity” and the guitar-shredding “Rip The Cut” and “Feed Us The Beat” sound better than ever compared to the smoothed-out sounds of recent years. “Jock Box” is a quality showcase of mid-school beatboxing, while “Awesome” is just that. I spoke to the crew recently and they explained that their management screwed them over royally, so they hardly saw a cent from this album and didn’t even know that it had been reissued until I mentioned the fact, but it doesn’t alter the fact that this is a fine example of raw rap designed for your boom box – fuck the radio.
Skinny Boys – Feed Us The Beat [Weightless, Warlock, 1986] Reissued by Traffic Entertainment, 2006.
Review copy supplied courtesy of Shogun Distribution.
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