Filed under: Flavor Unit Special,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Despite the fact that his classic debut single served as the inspiration for the name of his crew, Latee remains as one of the more enigmatic members of the New Jersey collective. Anyone who used to catch Kool DJ Red Alert‘s show on KISS-FM would instantly recognise the block-rocking Fatback riff and earth-shattering kick drum combo of “This Cut’s Got Flavor”, as it was a fixture of Red’s “45 King Specials” for a year before it even made it onto vinyl. The first time I heard the song on tape, it was tragically cut short – after the intro’s wailing sax – only one bar into La’s verse:
“Now for those who like sniffing, riffin’ and beefing – I’ll add the flavor, so you can sink your teeth in / Weak beats are bitter, that’s why I got ridda some crews, but that’s old news, now I’m with a…”
I lost track of how many time I rewinded that tape. 45 King’s jaw-dropping beat has to take much of the credit, but Latee’s voice was ill. Although this particular tape featured now-classic new songs from Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions and Just-Ice, it was this elusive snippet that had me fiendin’. It would be another couple of years before I actually got my hands on this record, and while the copy I found was pretty beat-up (complete with marker scribbled all over the label), it remains as one of the most prized pieces in my collection.
“No Tricks” was Latee’s second and final Wild Pitch release, driven by a JB’s guitar loop and another strong vocal performance. (Gangstarr fans will notice that the hook from “Positivity” was sourced from the accapella), while the slower “Wake Up” might sound a little dated musically, but La still delivers in the booth, covering everything from describing his dancers’ moves to how he and the crew “get [in]do’ed up, becuase the cess to me’s a relief, because we smoke the cess out the fronta leaf”, which was an unusual pro-weed stance during a time when anti-drug records were rampant (although most of them were about crack).
It would be five long years before Latee would release another song to the masses (’92’s “Brainstorm” was promo-only), this time without the help of the King, on the Roll Wit The Flava album. But stuck with an unispiring S.I.D. track and typical ’93 chant chorus, “Let Yourself Go” didn’t make much of an impression during Naughty By Nature‘s heyday.
Fast-forward another five years or so, and we’re blessed with another 45 King/Latee winner in the form of the xylophone-driven “Latee Rocks The Bells”. Originally recorded for the bootleg only Put The Funk Out There album (which mysteriously features fake Rocafella and Def Jam logos on the label), the song was later issued in a stripped-down alternative mix on 12″ by Blazin’ around 2002. To confuse matter further, La mentions “’94” before he rocks the second verse, so this was most likely recorded back then. Either way, it’s a quality cut.
Other than his music, there’s no much else I can tell you about this guy, other than the fact that he’s “about 5′ 10″, slim, never somethin’ I’m not” and he liked to sport “big blue sweatsuits”. Not much help really, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s still making music somewhere.
Latee - Let Yourself Go [Roll Wit The Flava, Epic, 1993]
45 King featuring Latee - Latee Rocks The Bells (LP Version) [Put The Funk Out There, white label, 1998?]
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