Skits shall always have a place in the history of music especially hip hop. Since pioneers De La Soul incorporated skits on their 1989 album 3 Feet High and Rising, they became a trend employed by many hip hop artists from that time till the early 2000s when the world was ushered into the MP3 era. Rappers and labels therefore saw it unnecessary to fill albums with many skits. As Evan Rytlewski, a contributor for Pitchfork.com wrote, ‘skits are one of hip hop’s oddest innovations and most tiresome tradition’. The MP3 revolution aside, skits, according to Mr. Rytlewski ‘gum up otherwise fluid playlists and make for embarrassing moments when they pop-up on shuffle’. The interruption was a killing for fans.
Skits are placed on albums to serve two purposes: to advance the narrative or theme of the album. Concept albums may not be able to put all the stories or messages they want to convey on the songs on their albums adequately, so skits become another tool used. Also, it is placed to keep albums exciting courtesy the humorous/comedic commentary shared. Others use skits to air out some uncomfortable truths on issues (whether personal or otherwise) they feel strongly about.
Albums with incredible skits that comes to mind instantly include DAMN., TPAB, GKMC (Kendrick Lamar), Rather You Than Me (Rick Ross), Wale’s Album About Nothing (AAN). On both ‘’GKMC’’, TBAP’’ and ‘’AAN’’, the skits gave the listener a better perspective on what influenced the album, as well as a better appreciation of the songs on them.
I can’t speak on how predominant skits were on albums by Ghanaian artistes in the past. (Perhaps I am too young to remember). Interestingly, skits are making an appearance on some of the best albums/mixtapes released in recent times. It may not be a comeback for skits but could inspire the trend. As earlier stated, skits advance the tales on the albums and also tickle the listener with good dose of humour. Albums/Mixtape skits that have made an impression on me are those found on EL’s ‘BAR 1’, ‘Fokn Wit Ewe’ by the FOKN Bois and M.anifest’s ‘APAE’ mixtape.
On EL’s ‘BAR I’ mixtape, the skits were intelligently placed at the end of songs to foreshadow the theme of the next track. ‘BAR I’ had four humor-filled skits delivered by DeezyDoThis. After the DJ Juls produced ‘Best Rapper Alive (BAR)’ had run out, the voice of DeezyDoThis popped up with the following words: ‘The thing about winners be say if you no mention dema names them no go bore’. He described those who demand to be mentioned as ‘broke ass niggas’-a criticism to friends who need their personas validated by an artists (for the brags). The skit sounded more like a casual remark made during a conversation than one deliberately laid for the mixtape. He returned once again on the third track, where amidst laughter, left the listener in suspense about an up-coming skit: ‘the skit is coming, along with your girl!’
The skit came on the 8th track, just before ‘Me And Your Girlfriend’; where EL and M.anifest revealed their intentions of ‘stealing’ someone’s girl. The 37 seconds skit is a voicemail of a girl apologizing to her boyfriend after busted for infidelity. Deezy returned at the end of the track to thank ‘niggas who we dey f**k dema girls’, calling them the ‘good samaritans of this generation’-a crudely humorous statement.
Two things strike you listening to the skits on M.anifest’s 2015 ‘Apae’ mixtape. The first are the insight the skits offer about the album: the frustrations of the Ghanaian youth. The second was how the commentary by an inebriated Efo was placed. Truthfulness is found in the bottle as the saying goes and Efo shared a few on ‘’Apae’’, right at the end of the second track ‘Right Here’. Efo put into perspective the numerous definitions or instances the slang ‘’Apae’’ (which means ‘it’s here/or ready’) fit. The slang has different interpretations depending on the context of use. And as Efo pointed out, ‘Apea’ could be a call to binge drinking, promiscuity, corruption, electioneering malpractices (stealing ballot boxes). In the end, Efo left the listener with a thought provoking advice: ‘as you indulge in any of these vices, learn that today might only belong to you. But, luck might elude you next time’. In short, think deeply before you indulge in any act.
Efo appeared two tracks down the album-at the end of the JaySo produced ‘Mind Game’-where M.anifest narrated the story of an unrequited love affair-where money doesn’t get you love but pleasure. The slapping 808s, piano chords and sythns aside, Efo dropped another life gem the phoniness of relationships. With the lifestyle of a sakawa boy as backdrop, he wondered why some ladies would enjoy the largesse but opt out of the relationship with a Sakawa guy under the excuse of wanting to marry a graduate. M.anifest invited Efo once again for a short conversation how one must carry themselves when rich: ‘it’s better to be careless when you are walking in town with money on you since it’s easier to escape the radar of the pick pockets. Being too careful is a sure bet to get robbed by the FBI (Follow Back International)’, according to Efo. This conversation precede ‘Big Sixes’, a song about money and a reference to the independence fighters whose faces adorn most of the Ghana Cedi. (The reference is a metaphor for hard work).
The song also had M.anifest pondering on the nexus between riches and morals. It is often intimated that, rich people are often seen as arrogant and disrespectful with the poor reflecting the opposite. ‘A good name is better than riches’, he echoed this famous dictum. But is quick to remind us that ‘but it’s fatal to be poor’. Before the ultimate song on the album (the Someway Bi re-fix not included), Efo showed up again, this time offering the listener a sad tale of his life- how the pressures of life is compelling him to take certain drastic actions towards becoming rich. Sensing he had no answers for Efo, M.anifest called on Obrafour to share some sage words with Efo. The advice is found on the classic ‘No Shortcut to Heaven’, a song imploring all to bid their time and work hard because we’re ‘confusing our wants with what we need’. The appearance of Efo on ‘Apae’ helped in breaking down the central theme of the album for the listener.
The FOKN Bois took a different approach from EL and M.anifest in introducing listeners to their classic tape ‘’Fokn Wit Ewe’’’. ‘’Fokn Wit Ewe’’ is raw, uncensored and highly provocative. It’s an uncomfortable listen for ‘Christians’ as showcased by the first track ‘SINtro. In the midst of a church service, the Fokn Bois-Wanlov and M3nsa are heard discussing the sexual romp between some church members as well as their own sex fueled fantasies in a sardonic manner. On ‘Famous In China’, the two mock, in what sounds like a kungfu movie sketch, their outrage against payola. The duo are noted for being anti- payola campaigners (paying DJs to play an artiste’s song on radio). The satire continued on ‘Help America’, where a son desperately called his dad to register his intentions of returning back home since Americans ‘are suffering’. (The 2012 recession that hit the US and European countries inspired this song). On the song, they requested countries like ‘Sudan, Somalia Mexico’ to ‘give them (US) something to eat’. The telephone conversation and the accent employed were comedic than even the hook of the song.
The real definition of the album and its title as suggested by the album’s artwork, is found on ‘FOKN Knews’ with Wummi. The ‘news’ item mocked the seemingly absence of pubic lice (scrubs) in this age, which ‘scientists’ attributed to the waxing of public hair for the making of Brazilian hair. But, the ‘news’ item from the ‘Yenditrumu Region’ about an absurd sheep rape incident is the codeine on the album. (‘Yenditrumu’ means ‘no anal sex’ in the Twi language. The title choice is interesting since it feeds into the homophobic attitudes of most Ghanaians. The Fokn Bois are therefore making sarcastic reference to this attitude). The farmer whose sheep was raped narrated in vivid terms (via a phone call) how the rape happened and requested the police to arrest the rapist. As if this disturbing ‘news’ wasn’t enough, the duo continued to discuss the benefits or otherwise of sheep rape on ‘Fokn Eating Sheep’. If you are the kind who doesn’t easily flat out scenes out of your mind, please skip Track 15 on the album.
Skits may be an out of fashion tool which was a common feature on hip hop albums of old. In today’s music culture, it is unthinkable to flood an album with many skits. Artists who wish to place skits on their albums must be artistic and creative about it. That’s, they need to helm skits that fit the narrative of the album. Nobody will take you serious if your skits are tasteless and placed to fill up the album.
Like EL, M.anifest and the Fokn Bois, skits are not a lost art. The brilliance of the skits attest to their creative prowess.