In the early days of hip-hop, DJs would often be the center piece of the party. They would battle other DJs based not just on how well they could rock the crowd, but also based on the obscurity of their record collection. As time went on, as digital sampling came about, DJs became producers and started making beats for people to rap over, often using these obscure records. Why am I bringing this up? Because without hip-hop, once forgotten gems such as the record I’m gonna talk about today, often get a second chance to shine. But also thanks to hip hop, after an obscure record gets sampled and someone (usually a record dealer) finds out about it, the price usually gets artificially inflated. Even reissues, after awhile if they go out of print, become pricy as well. So this got me thinking: are records made famous by hip-hop producers really worth the all the money they go for?
Enter Skull Snaps: the one and only album released by a group of struggling but talented session musicians who disappeared shortly after the release of the album. It’s a solid, above average funk album with one huge stand out point: the drums. Chunky, warm, thick, hard drums. The drums on this album are what hip-hop producers dreams are made of. Case in point; tracks like It’s A New Day and I Turn My Back On Love have wide-open drum breaks that just scream “sample me!”. But unless you’re an enormous hip-hop head and a sample-junkie with an unquenchable thirst for samples that have already been used (i.e. me), this doesn’t mean a thing to you. So, where does this leave us? Back to where we started; a very solid funk album.
Aside from the previously mentioned drums, the instrumentation on the album stands out as well. The first track on the album, My Hang Up Is You, with it’s driving drums, is punctuated with some fantastic horn, piano, harp, string, and vocal work. This song does a great job of setting the frame work for the rest of the album and pretty much all of these elements make their way into every track on the rest of the album. From here, the one slow ballad-y song, Having You Around, on here plays out on here and it’s probably the weakest track. Not bad but it kind of destroys the momentum of the rest of the album. The rest of the album is made up of mid-to-high tempo funk tracks that generally all contain the the same elements heard on the first song (highlights include Didn’t I Do It To You, All Of A Sudden, and Trespassin’). But despite this, it still feels like a by-the-numbers funk record. A pretty good by-the-numbers funk record but still by-the-numbers none the less.
Is it worth listening to though? Absolutely! I still listen to this record on a regular basis and enjoy the hell out of it. The main question is: is it worth paying full price for an original copy of the record? Only if you are completely devoted to record collecting and the thought of the word “reissue” makes you gag. A quick glance on discogs.com revealed that an original pressing of this album goes for over $200, and for me at least, the content of the album just isn’t that compelling to warrant that price tag. You should definitely listen to it on Youtube at the very least but if the idea of owning a piece of funk/hip-hop history isn’t that compelling to you, there’s no reason to spend that much money on this record.
But let me hear what you have to say. Did you listen to the album or at least any of the song links? If so, what did you think? I’m always interested to hear what you guys have to say so please leave me comment if you have anything to say. Thanks again for reading.
1) My Hang Up Is You
2) Having You Around
3) Didn’t I Do It To You
4) All Of A Sudden
5) It’s A New Day
6) I’m Your Pimp
7) I Turn My Back On Love
9) I’m Falling Out Of Love