BRING BACK THE RAP SKIT
I think the title says it all. You can still find them out there, in the wild, sneaking into song intros and mixtapes every once in awhile, but the golden age of the rap skit has long passed, and I think that’s a shame.
I will readily admit, the worst rap skits were filler, distractions from the music and interruptions of musical flow and progression. The best were the opposite. The best rap skits worked in concert with an artist or groups music to create a more complete album.
Maybe the role of rap skits has been filled by widespread social media. Now, you’re only ever a few clicks away from knowing what your favorite rapper is like outside their music, what they talk about with their friends, what they think is funny. Hell, DJ Khaled’s entire short-lived snapchat career was basically a rap skit broken up into ten-second segments. Maybe the rap skit died with real rap beef. No beef, no need to take mid-album shots at your rivals, a la The Madd Rapper. Maybe playlists and singles killed the rap skit. As albums-full, unified listening experiences-die a long slow death at the hands of sharable, streamable playlists, there might not even be a place for skits anymore.
BUT I STILL SAY BRING THEM BACK.
I think Nas’s Illmatic loses something without “The Genesis.” Enter the 36 Chambers would be a completely different listening experience without “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” or the famous (infamous?) intro to “Method Man.” De La Soul’s 1989 debut 3 Feet High and Rising may not have left the indelible mark on hip-hop that it did without the weird, off-the-wall game show style skits throughout.
With how memetic pop culture has become in the last year or two, the rap skit could make a big comeback. If the internet can latch onto one good line or one good joke, they will beat it to death and a rapper can take that kind of publicity right to the bank. Childish Gambino released “Centipede” as an unannounced single not tied to any album. Half the song is a classic 90s type skit about selling drugs and making money, and that’s the half that the internet fixated on.
The video for Chance the Rapper’s song “NaNa” has a scene with him, Hannibal Buress, and Donald Glover sitting around eating pizza and riffing and you’re lying if you don’t want that audio in the middle of Chance’s next mixtape. There’s a reason Chance could host SNL this year without doubling as the musical guest.
And I guess that brings up an interesting point. Maybe rappers aren’t funny anymore. It could be true that they don’t have the charisma and flair for banter that groups used to. In the last six years, only two rappers have hosted SNL – Chance the Rapper this year, and Drake in 2016. It’s not the only measure of comedic chops out there, but there’s a correlation between live sketches and rap skits. So there’s a chance I’m off base here. The time of rap skits might truly be done.
I don’t think it is though. Rap music videos are maybe the most creative they’ve ever been, and they have a bigger audience than they’ve ever had. And many of these videos integrate rap skits, even if you wouldn’t necessarily think of them the same way you would if it was on an album. As parody concepts and higher concept narrative structures carve out a larger and larger space next to the “rap video stereotypes” of champagne and gold chains, the rap skit is slowly worming its way back into the public consciousness.
I’ll leave you with this: whatever your opinion on Lil Dicky is, “Professional Rapper feat. Snoop Dogg” has 68 million views on YouTube and that song has like two different skits built into it. Something about that is working, and it’s working well.
SO BRING IT BACK