Depending on how much of a ska purist you may or may not be, the late 80's U.K. acid ska (or skacid) phenomenon was either 1) a highly danceable ska resurgence which gave the remnants of the 2-Tone scene one last chance to shine or 2) an incredibly annoying and vapid fad that sullied ska and 2-Tone's reputation to no end (I'm in the former camp - I've always loved acid ska). Whatever your position, acid ska had its short moment in the sun in 1988 and 1989 when cheap ecstasy and rave parties were all the rage in the U.K. and house music producers saw a chance to put a twist on acid music (house music in the U.S.).
For the uninitiated, acid ska features the signature characteristics of house and techno, namely a Roland TR-909 drum machine, a Roland TB-303 bassline synth and an MC vocalist/toaster. Where acid ska was different than straight techno and house music was that it replaced the classic breakbeat sample with a ska or pitched-up reggae rhythm guitar sample. The most sophisticated of acid ska tracks had melodic horn sections in the same arrangement that a typical ska song would include them. Historically, acid ska is the predecessor to jungle, dub step and other reggae hybrids that have proliferated in the U.K. in the last 20 years.
Longsy D, a UK-based producer, is widely acknowledged as the very first acid ska artist and his track 'This Is Ska' (particularly his remix featuring Buster Bloodvessel from Bad Manners) remains the best and brightest of the batch of songs that suddenly sprouted up following its release. The name acid ska/skacid most likely originates from Longsy D's earlier release 'Mental Ska' in 1988, where the lyrics repeat the word skacid in the second verse when he raps about his new style of 'hiphop-reggae'.
Other notable acid ska tracks that were released in 1989 include Ranking Roger and Lynval Golding's collaboration 'We Play Ska' with The Children Of The Night further cementing acid ska as a short term refuge for 2-Tone era musicians looking for safe harbor for a bit while ska in the U.K. was transitioning to bands like The Loafers and Maroon Town. One of the best and most overlooked acid ska tracks is Double Trouble and the Rebel MC's 'Just Keep Rockin' which features a sample of 'I'll Take You There' by The Staple Singers and the bass intro from "Mr. Big Stuff" by Stax label artist Jean Knight which is sampled and pitched/sped up.
Below are videos of some the best know acid ska tracks including 'Mental Ska', 'We Play Ska' 'Rock To Dis' Just 'Keep on Rockin and 'Musical Scorcha'.
Here is the track listing and download link:
Longsy D - Mental Ska (The Rap)
Double Trouble & The Rebel M.C. - Just Keep Rockin' (House Mix)
Roughneck - Force Ten From Navarone
Rackit Allstar - Musical Scorcha (Kung Fu Mix)
Maroon Town - Resolution '99
Jamaica Meantime - Rock To Dis (House Mix)
Children Of The Night (feat Ranking Roger) - We Play Ska (The Trojan Horse Mix)
Longsy D (feat Buster Bloodvessel) - This Is Ska (Buster's Original Ska Mix)
Ministry Of Ska - Skanking With The Toreadors
The Rude Boys - The Rude Boy Shuffle
Flowers Ltd & BMG - The Swingin' Thing (Swing To Dis Mix)
Ska Beats 1 - Street Sound Of Freestyle Ska
Believe or not, but there has been a very minor resurgence in acid ska (I know I was incredulous when I discovered it). Nevertheless, the Swedish electronica duo REVL9N (pronounced Revlon Nine), shared a copy of their song 'Waiting For Desire' in 2008 with their favorite re-mixers, asking them to remix the song in the acid ska style. According to the band's Facebook page, some of the producers didn't know what acid ska was. To make it simpler, REVL9N attached Longsy D's "This Is Ska" as an inspiration and recommended them to play around with their original files.
According to the REVL9N, "The results were a revelation. REVL9N were hit with a set of remixes far beyond their imagination and expectations. Some of them managed to put REVL9N in a time machine – all the way back to London, 1989 – and some took a more futuristic approach. Others fused nostalgia with modern technology."
Below is the download to the nine mixes. Some include classic elements of 80's acid ska, others the barest hint. Have a listen for your self...