“Is he nuts? No… he’s insane!”
I’m not going to pull punches on this one. If there’s any chance you know who The Skinny Boys are, it’s because of the Comedy Central series Workaholics and its usage of “Jockbox” as their theme song. If you don’t know who they are, that’s because they’re a very obvious parody of the much more successful and popular Fat Boys, icons of rap music throughout the 1980’s. Their lineup on “Weightless” is modeled after FB — two emcees (Shockin’ Shawn and Superman Jay) and one beatboxer (The Human Jock Box). Despite how obviously lame the idea of replacing “fat” boys with “skinny” boys is, they try their best to claim “Unity” in the rap scene and give them a shoutout.
Actually that shoutout is an afterthought, because the actual point of the song is a “Stop the Violence” plea, and the salute to the Fat Boys is tucked into a long line of toasts to Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, and anybody else who was popular in 1985 or ’86. It could even be called sucking up, which is all you can do when you’re a record label executive’s lame idea to cash in on someone else’s popularity. Despite that I have to give Jock Box (Jacque D. Lloyd) the credit he deserves. The art of beatboxing has become devalued over the years, but at its peak on tracks like “Get Funky” it was better than any sampled percussion or programmed drum machine.
That doesn’t mean the Skinny Boys are completely averse to those things though. In fact the Jock Box takes a backseat (ironically enough) on “Feed Us the Beat,” a song whose guitar riffs and scratches sound like a near perfect rip off of the aforementioned Run-D.M.C. If there’s one thing that never changes about rap music, it’s that once anybody becomes a success, a legion of imitators spring up blatantly copying what they did hoping to be a success too. It makes it odd to hear them call themselves “originators” on the track when there’s nothing original about it.
You might have deduced by this point that I don’t have much respect for how blatantly The Skinny Boys crab from other 80’s rap acts on “Weightless.” You’d be right… but that doesn’t make this album entirely bad. It is unintentionally humorous how blatantly they bite their every beat, rhyme and idea, but a record like “Awesome” that unabashedly rips off the sound and style of Schoolly D’s “P.S.K.” accidentally becomes fresh. Here’s the best way I can explain it — if The Skinny Boys came along today, they’d be trying and failing to recreate a rap sound that’s 35+ years old. By virtue of doing it at the time it was dominant and prominent, it actually has the authentic sound of the 80’s, even if there was nothing authentic about them. They simply lucked into being contemporaries of much better artists.
There is nothing essential about “Weightless” — it’s a forgotten album and rightfully so. At only 37 minutes long spread over nine tracks though, it matches the description for Earth in the Hitchhiker’s Guide – “mostly harmless.” There must have been a resurgence in interest in the group in the mid 2000’s, because this album got reissued on CD right around the 20th anniversary of their debut. That’s probably going to be hard to find today though so if you’re interested I recommend buying it in MP3 form. What these Skinny Boys lack in creativity they make up for with enthusiasm in their attempt to rip off everybody else.