I’ve been on a Cameo kick lately.
It started with their Seventies stuff. If you’re a casual R&B fan (or just too young to be terribly familiar with their work,) your impression of them probably boils down to “Word Up!” and Larry Blackmon‘s flat-top (oh, that red codpiece he wore might also come to mind.) However, Cameo might have been one of the most versatile of the big funk bands that surfaced in the ’70s. They could do hard funk, they could do more disco-oriented material, they were successful at fusing new wave and hard rock elements into their music, and they could also write a pretty sweet ballad.
“Skin I’m In” was released in 1988. It was featured on the album Machismo, which found Larry and his partners Tomi Jenkins and Nathan Leftenant relying maybe a little too hard on the formula that made Word Up and its title track such big crossover hits. “Skin” wound up being a top 5 R&B hit, but was probably a little too pointed from a lyrical tip for pop radio. Well, let’s correct that slightly: the lyrics themselves weren’t particularly militant, but it can certainly be argued that such sentiments were not as digestible from someone that looked like Larry Blackmon as they were from artists like U2, Janet Jackson or Tracy Chapman.
“Skin I’m In” also had the misfortune of hitting just as New Jack Swing took over urban contemporary radio. As such, it was the band’s last major R&B hit. It still hits hard 25 years later, though…