The Original Flavor Unit
Tuesday January 17th 2006,
Filed under: Flavor Unit Special,Steady Bootleggin'
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Though in recent years the name Flavor Unit has been seen only as Queen Latifah‘s production and management company, it’s origins can be traced back to 1987, when a young New Jersey-based rapper named Latee teamed-up with local DJ, Mark The 45 King to kick some lyrics over a dope Fatback Band loop. Dubbing the track “This Cut’s Got Flavor”, it became a staple on Red Alert‘s Kiss-FM show, and was eventually released as a single on Wild Pitch records. This lead to the formation of the Flavor Unit, a crew which has seen three very different incarnations over the years.

Very few of the original squad, who I’ll be focusing on in this series, were still part of the team by the time Roll Wit The Flava dropped in 1994. Only Queen Latifah, Latee and Apache made it through to the second round (Naughty By Nature, Nikki D, Freddie Foxxx and D-Nice were some of with the new additions) and by the time Latifah assembled a third set of rappers to hold down the “Unit” title, she was the only remaining connection to the name.

Pinning down exactly who made up the first (and easily the best) version of the Unit is also difficult. The core members were Latee, Apache, Lakim Shabazz, Double J, Lord Alibaski, Chill Rob G and Queen Latifah. Markey Fresh, Ron Delite and Jamose were also closely affiliated with the 45 King and Louis Vega, but weren’t officially in the crew.

Taken from the The Flavor Unit album, which is pretty dope despite it’s corny “fruit-flavored” cover artwork, “Flavor Unit Assassination Squad” features most of the original clique, and also contains one of Latifah’s best verses ever, serving as a reminder of her formidable mic skills before she moved on to conquer Hollywood. The fellas rep the signature deep-voiced, “macho” delivery that let the comp know that this was some serious shit right here, and Double J makes his final appearence with the crew before he broke out to record his solo album without the 45 King. Speaking of DJ Mark, for this piece he orchestrates another masterful combination of gritty horn stabs and JB grunts over a driving guitar riff for the crew to flex on, solidifying his spot as one of the greatest rap producers of all time.

Without the 45 King’s involvement, the second Flavor Unit album was far less effective, cluttered with Naught By Nature and their various weed carriers (Rottin Razkels, anyone?). Thanks to contributions from new members Freddie Foxxx and D-Nice, as well as new material from Apache and his brother Latee, this project wasn’t a complete waste of time. It also featured that “Hey Mr DJ” song which was a huge hit forJhane/Zhane. The title track, “Roll Wit The Flava”, assembled most of the cast from the album in addition to a few ringers such as Black Sheep and the Fu-Schnickens. D-Nice handles production, and Freddie Foxxx steals the show when he announces that he’s sporting “burn marks on my hips from my twin glocks”.

As for The Unit, I steered well clear of that train wreck, so I can’t really add much, although the cover pretty much sums it up.

The Flavor Unit featuring Queen Latifah, Lakim Shabazz, Lord Alibaski, Apache and Double J - Flavor Unit Assassination Squad (The 45 King Presents The Flavor Unit, Tuff City, 1990)

The Flavor Unit MCs -
Roll Wit The Flava [Roll Wit The Flava, Epic, 1993]

Note: The first Flavor Unit album was re-released as Queen Latifah Present The Original Flavor Unit, with a different cover, adjusted tracklisting and a remix of the “Assassination Squad” song. Oh Word! review.

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20 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You don’t know how long I have been looking for the original version of Flavor Unit Assassination Squad

You have made my year!!!…I have always loved the Flava Unit but they didn’t really push it and where the hell is Lakim, Chill Rob, Apache, Double J, Lord Alibaski and Jamose these days?.

peace

Jaz

cocaineblunts.com

Comment by Jaz 01.18.06 @

No disrespect to Dana, but who gave her permission to co-opt the name in the first place? And I could never figure out why the original cats broke out by the time of the “Roll wit the Flava” lp. The Ambersunshower joint was dope, though.
Check for “The Mack of Rap” by Markee Fresh and the King if you haven’t previously. The King and Latee also released a dope side with Rocafella during the whole “Hard Knock Life” season, by the title “Latee’s Bells”. Holla.

Comment by Fosterakahunter 01.18.06 @

Chill Rob G was the best lyricst in the Flava Unit in my opinion. “Ride the Rythm” is pure classic!! Raw Lyrical skills with Mark’s ill production. “I’m the future Shock”!!

Comment by Marc Davis 01.18.06 @

Markey Fresh, Chill Rob and everyone else down with the crew will be getting covered here over the next few weeks.

Comment by Robbie 01.18.06 @

Chill Rob had a 2nd album, “BLACK GOLD” from 2000. He had a few good singles around the late ’90s which are on this disc. The rest of it is kind of forgettable.

Comment by finally 01.18.06 @

Dope post — the new Latifah movie was just reminding me of the early Flavor Unit days. Hope you have a chance to give some more love to Lakim Shabazz — I always thought his first album was one of the strongest records out at the time. And is there any backstory about that guy Shakim, who I think is still with Latifah?

Comment by DJ Knowledge 01.18.06 @

Can we have something on Top Priority / Ron Delite?

Comment by rade259 01.19.06 @

^ Yep. Ron Delite will be featured shortly.

Comment by Robbie 01.19.06 @

Lakim Shabazz has 2 good new tracks on that 45 King “cat jams” maxi-ep doodad that came out a few months back.

“Top gun” by Lord Alabaski is one of my personal favorite Flavor Unit joints.

Crates sez that Markey Fresh is now one of Funk Flex’s security peeps/weed carriers.

Comment by Brian Beck From Wisconsin 01.19.06 @

I never even heard that first track before.
Dope.
I half remember a Alibaski track-all praise is due
Now that was a banger.
post that and i’ll stop cheating on my lady.

Comment by Mr Jackson 01.19.06 @

cho.

respect is due.

do somebody know the title of the double j album

and is cannibal town included?

fanx anyway.

peace

Comment by zardoz 74 01.21.06 @

I was the biggest Lakim Shabazz fan, since the 45 King “Master of the Game” album. Then I heard “Black Is Back”, it was on! Growing in North Fl though, it was hard tracking down Tuff City releases in the late 80’s. I miss the days of low budget videos with classic songs!

Comment by Elphonics 01.21.06 @

Double J’s album is called “The Hitman”. “Cannibal Town”, “Def Style” and “Bless The Funk” were all left off it.

Comment by Robbie 01.21.06 @

The Flavor Unit comp with ‘Assassination Squad’ is pretty easy to cop, and doesn’t have a dull moment on it.

Comment by Drew Huge 01.23.06 @

i used to see alot of the original flava unit members around jersey city back in the day where most of them lived…

Comment by T.S. 01.24.06 @

ah.. the memories
what happened to Lakim Shabazz?

Comment by Brother Omi 01.27.06 @

LAKIM SHABAZZ has a new song out…i ant heard it yet but its out there…….

Comment by T.S. 01.28.06 @

Lakim Shabazz has 2 new songs on that 45 King “cat jams” ep on Tuff City from a few months ago, “flow motion” and “really don’t want it”.

Both are real good.

Comment by Brian Beck From Wisconsin 01.30.06 @

I always preferred Lakim Shabazz over the others.
His First LP with 45 KING is still CLASSIC !!!
OH, i’m more and more convinced that Latifah didn’t write non of the verses later in her career as she was more focused on Hollywood.
WORD !!!!!

Comment by D'amazin 03.07.06 @



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