Original Flavor :: Beyond Flavor :: Atlantic Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Yo T, can I get open? (You know it)
Ay Ski, can I get open? (You know it)
Hey y'all, can I get open? (You know it!!)
(You want a fly style Jay's about to show it)

Well, Karl, Kan-I?
It's never a question of how but, when I
Rip it, will I quit it, forget it
Still I'm always on point whenever I hit it
Biting's forbidden, don't do what y'all gonna too late y'all did it
I'm shreddin the track, I'm burnin your back back like Backdraft
Brothers who haul at track they all stutter, that-that nigga's fast"

So fast in fact that it's a little tough to discern what Jay-Z is saying on Original Flavor's "Can I Get Open." Wait a second - Jigga Jay-Z? Flash you must be crazy. No I'm not. After Jay made his less than stellar debut rolling with The Jaz on joints like "Hawaiian Sophie" he dug into the New York underground rap scene hard and could be heard dropping cameos on records like "Show and Prove" by Big Daddy Kane and "Da Graveyard" by Big L. Those rhymes came in 1994 and '95 though when Jay had slowed down a little vocally and was getting closer to perfecting the rap style that would make "Reasonable Doubt" a hip-hop classic. Before that speed was his need as Jay tried to set himself apart from a lackluster identity as Jaz-O's hypeman, and associating with Original Flavor gave him that opportunity in '93.

Now you won't see Jay on the cover of "Beyond Flavor" (that's if you can even find this obscure album) but there's no question it's him. Read the liner notes and you'll see S. Carter credited on both "Can I Get Open" and "Many Styles." More importantly the entire Original Flavor album was produced by Ski, who may best be remembered not for "Beyond Flavor" but for contributing beats to a sizeable chunk of the aforementioned "Reasonable Doubt." If you can hear "Feelin' It" or "Politics as Usual" in your head right now, that's Ski you're hearing.

Production is what "Beyond Flavor" is all about. I mean no disrespect to T-Strong or the DJ Chubby Chub but they don't mean shit to this record and Ski's questionable rap style adds little. While Ski gets props for being as energetic as his banging piano beat on "Can I Get Open" that doesn't make up for using "lions, tigers, bears, OH MY" as a punchline. T-Strong is even less memorable - he's just your run of the mill underground rapper who wound up in a crew that got signed to a deal. If you remember one thing from "Beyond Flavor" now or later it's going to be the beats of Ski. Horny horns reverberate and echo off the studio walls on "Whatchawant." Stone Alliance's "Sweetie Pie" is sampled effectively on "Blowin' Up Da Spot," and makes even these mediocre raps sound hot. "All That" could actually make you think Original Flavor are, thanks to crispy fresh drums and a beautifully tinkling backdrop melody looped from "Cymbaline." A personal favorite is "Here We Go (Fuck it Up)," a rap attack stripped down to a plucky bass that sounds like the early days of Showbiz & A.G. This record is early 90's New York beats at their finest.

"Beyond Flavor" turns out to be a somewhat perverse title for Original Flavor's sophomore record. Yes - this was Ski's SECOND attempt at putting together a rap crew flowing to his grooves, and the first one fell apart when Suave Lover got kicked to the curb (Ski makes no apologies for "cut(ting) that other nigga off" on the album's intro). Neither version of the group turned out to be much beyond anything other than a late night radio show that was probably hosted by Bobbito the Barber. They were hot in New York for a minute and that's about it, but their lasting contribution to hip-hop will be helping Jay-Z relaunch his career and Ski's close association with Jay afterwards resulting in some of rap's all-time classic material. This album's beats are far and beyond what a lot of their competitors then (and a lot of producers now) can do, but they never had enough rap flair to stand out OVER such hot beats. This album would have been doper as an instrumental showcase with a couple of Jigga freestyles.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10

Originally posted: March 24, 2009
source: www.RapReviews.com