Rap music’s greatest gift to popular culture was undoubtedly its potential as a comedy song. Previously you had to be funny while singing a tune. Now you just had to speak the jokes.
As the 1980s arrived, the floodgates opened. For a proper comedy rap song, you had to call your track The [insert word] Rap, or better still, just [insert word] Rap. They ideally had to involve a bit of comedy crosstalk, some outrageous samples, lyrical content utterly at odds with US East Coast gang warfare, and best of all a celebrity, either as themselves or in character.
When it came to street culture, TV Cream always knew on which side of the road it preferred to walk. The pavement that went past Rumbelows. Here’s our pick of eight genre-defining comedy rap hits.
1. Holiday Rap
MC MIKER G AND DJ SVEN
Brightly-coloured baggy cardigans and pencil moustaches ahoy! Here’s a pointed tale of busting out of class and hitting the likes of New York Ci-teh, but more importantly it’s a masterclass in 80s novelty rapping. All the essentials are present: some primitive vocal beatboxing, lots of explanation about what their respective names mean, some Shadows-esque footwork, an exhortation to put your hands in the air, and a meaningless line for viewers to chant at each other in the school the following morning (“We’re gonna ring-ranga-don for a holiday”). “It’s going to be a big hit here as well,” quoth Gary Davies.
2. Romford Rap
CHAS’N’DAVE AND THE MATCHROOM MOB
“Come on everybody, all pin back your lugs”. Now while the verses of this effort tick all the boogaloo boxes, the chorus just sounds like any other Chas and Dave oompah track, hence somewhat undercutting the song’s rap credentials. It does, however, boast a plea for world tolerance (“whether you’re a yellow, green, brown, blue, pink or black”) which would undoubtedly have pleased Fab Five Freddy. This YouTube version doesn’t do the song justice, thanks to it having been stupidly sped up.
3. Snot Rap
This is more like it. A really ace, bubbly funky arrangement, co-starring Cupid Stunt (or, as the BBC always said, “Cupid”), co-written by Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, and featuring that “all in good taste” bit which pretty quickly turned up as the closing signature tune for the telly show. The highlights have to be the cross-talking: “How do you think this record is going?” “Well, it’s going round, isn’t it?” “Do you think we’ll get on Top of the Pops?” “Why not? You’ve been on top of everything else!” The version on YouTube has once again been sped up, so here’s the Snot Rap part 2, which includes the revelation that John Travolta “wears his trousers out from the inside”, a guest appearance from Marcel “your favourite frog”, and an ending with all the characters talking over each other and having an argument.
4. To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)
“And so I said to Martin Boorman, I said ‘Hey Marty/Why don’t we throw a little Nazi party?'” A wonderful slice of typically tuneful tastelessness from Mr Brooks. Against a textbook 1980s pop video set – giant chessboard and columns floating in a black nothinginess – a distinctly non-Aryan line-up of dancing girls bids you “Sieg heil!” while some blokes goosestep around half naked and Mel gives you a potted history of the rise and fall of the Third Reich, breaking off for a bit of floorspinning and pre-cognitive U2 namechecking (“I said achtung baby, I got me a plan!”). Note how Mel clearly couldn’t be bothered memorising the lines, reading the verses of idiot boards to the far right (appropriately) of the camera.
5. Stutter Rap (No Sleep ‘Til Bedtime)
MORRIS MINOR AND THE MAJORS
“Neigh-bours!” On the old TV Cream mailing list, someone once tried to argue that this song was responsible for the rise of fascist political parties in mainland Europe during the late 80s and early 90s. Erm, surely it’s just a (rather good) pisstake of The Beastie Boys? The best bit of what is a generally fantastic promotional video is surely the bunch of “real people” standing in the background during the scenes set in the rainy market place, including one old bloke nonchalantly strumming a ukelele. Note also the Chaka Khan/”chuck a can” gag, which briefly became another novelty rap motif.
6. Anfield Rap (Red Machine in Full Effect)
Not being the most football-savyy of TV Cream staffers, this writer finds said song a bit bemusing. Is doing You’ll Never Walk Alone in a Vic Reeves nightclub singer style really honouring the memory of Anfield’s finest? Ah well; John Barn-es does a shout out to Arse-en-hell, someone makes a few brave stabs at robotics, Bruce Grobbelaar wears some giant Everett-sized hands presumably to take all those massive bungs (SATIRE), and there’s a shedload of harmless back projection. Oh, and the riff from Twist and Shout comes in at the end, and that enduring Chaka Khan gag (see above) here becomes “Macca can”. But who’s doing the commentator bit? Is that Ooh Barry Davies?
7. Rat Rapping
ROLAND RAT SUPERSTAR
You know you’re on to a good thing when the comedy crosstalk starts barely seconds into the song. Another musically superior offering, the lyrics mostly involve Roland Rat Superstar attempting to tutor Kevin the Gerbil about the right way to scratch a flea. There’s a brief diversion into why rats are “marvellous” and live a life full of “lots of talk and lots of action”. We’re also cautioned not to forget those “pretty young guinea pigs, playing it cool”. When this was released, Roland was one of the most famous faces in the British Isles.
8. Geordie Boys (Gazza Rap)
One minute and 54 seconds of footage that won’t have been included on the Gazza obituary packages. The best you can say is that at least they don’t try to hide the fact it was done on the cheap. Paul seems to spend the majority of the video singing to himself in the back of a taxi. Elsewhere we see glum shots of the titular males walking glumly through glum shopping centres, before some posing that is more suited for a gay chatline TV ad. “I’ll tell you something” says the TOTP host at the end, tantalisingly.