Trying to trace it back historically, you start to hear it coming through with acts like Confunkshun and Hamilton Bohannon (worthy of a post in himself), taking over with Slave and Steve Arrington solo, but also with one-hit disco-funk wonders like Yarborough & People’s, with pre-codpiece Cameo and countless others...
I thought maybe I was imagining this or misremembering it, but when looking up info on the Gap Band -- and in this age of archival overload, there's still areas that are underdocumented and barely analysed, amazingly -- I found this entry on Gap Band's 1980 album III:
"This record signalled a seismic change in the funk landscape: Parliament-Funkadelic, Ohio Players, Rufus and Tower of Power had split up; War and even Earth Wind & Fire were losing steam; Kool & the Gang had gone pop; James Brown and Sly Stone were approaching self-parody. Disco, often unduly blamed for the death of funk, was fading away. The Gappers came up with a new electrofunk approach on the single "Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Treat Me Bad)": crunching Moog bass line, crashing programmed snare, no horns, and a tortured, pleading vocal straight out of Stax - it was their first R&B #1. Together with Dazz Band's similar "Let It Whip" and maybe George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," it's practically a subgenre unto itself - though in fact a bigger influence on Prince's early 80s sound than the more frequently cited Rick James. "
Dude also mentions "Atomic Dog", where the downstroke is so imposing and prominent as it slices scrunchily across the sound space. (Apparently that's an effect caused by playing the drum track backwards).
Dude also mentioned Dazz Band, "Let It Whip", another song I hear often on oldies radio here. The snare-thwack is present but a little muted.
As we get further into the Eighties, postdisco/boogie/electrofunk takes over and it's a less band-oriented sound (Gap Band, Dazz Band), it's more about producers + a mix of players and machinery. The thwack-snare fades out, the Linn and the Synclavier come in; the drums get into that busy hyperactive Swiss Watch feel rather than the suspended trance-like groove of "More Bounce"/"Atomic Dog" . It's the start of that period when black club records sound like Cupid & Psyche and Jam & Lewis.