While I was staying in New Jersey mid 2013, I attempted to shoot some footage of the original Flavor Unit crew. As it happened, I only managed to get Chill Rob G on film, and after watching the video back I’ve decided that this plays better as a written piece. While some of the same stuff from our 2006 conversation is covered, Rob also went into a lot more detail on some topics, making it a worthwhile piece on it’s own. Not to mention that Ride The Rhythm still stands as one of the strongest and most original releases of 1989.
Robbie: You mentioned that you went through a few different names when you were younger?
Chill Rob G: When I first started I had an identity crisis, I had a bunch of different names. It was Jazzy B, it was Bobby G, it was Killer B – cos my name was Robert. I was down with a couple of different crews too. I was down with The World Rap Crew and I was down with the Dignified Almighty Magnificent MC’s – Those D.A.M. MC’s. When all of that fell apart I just kept rapping on my own. I used to practice with my man Michael Ali, be up at his house every single day, making tapes. When I said that on the record it was true!
Were these beats that he’d made?
He tried to make beats but they was [blows raspberry]. I would just rap over popular rap records. He would try to cut the break. He wasn’t really that good a DJ either – but that was my man back then. [laughs] We would make tapes and try to get it out to the drug dealers, cos they’d be out all night. They would play that music and people would get a chance to hear me rap. (more…)
Latee dropping his verses from “Wake Up”, “Puttin’ On The Hits” and “This Cut’s Got Flavor” while 45 King flips a break beat on Tim Westwood‘s show? Count me in. Thanks to Palmer Stallings for finding digging this out of the tape stash.
Concluding my discussion with Lakim Shabazz, he talks about leaving Tuff City, remembering his friend Apache, Queen Latifah incorporating the Flavor Unit name and plans for his final album.
Robbie: So how long after the second album did you get off Tuff City?
Lakim Shabazz: I was being managed by Dave Funkenklein. At one point in time, if you wasn’t managed by Red Alert or somebody like that, then you was under Dave Funkenklein. He had me, he had Ultramagnetic – he took us to Paris. I went to Japan through Funkenklein – me, Latifah, Chill Rob G and Latee. Other companies were interested in me, they had tried to buy my contract from Tuff City. The first offer that was presented to Aaron Fuchs was $150,000. You’re talking 1990, ‘91. I think Epic Records had offered him $300,000 to let me up outta my contract, and he just would not do it. So part of me recording all of those extra little songs on those breakbeat albums 45 King was putting out was to fulfill obligatory responsibilities I had on the contract. I did that for two or three years and eventually got smart and got my own entertainment lawyer and managed to get off Tuff City without having to pay no funds or anything, and at this point we’re fighting to get back money from them, so actually it worked in my favor. I don’t have any sour taste in my mouth toward Aaron Fuchs. I was a young guy, I wanted to hear myself on the radio and I was able to achieve that. (more…)
With the exception of Queen Latifah, Lakim Shabazz proved to be the most prolific of the original Flavor Unit line-up, releasing two albums and a long list of guest spots on 45 King projects during his time at Tuff City. Despite his diminutive frame, Lakim wielded “the voice of power” with authority, as he combined the teaching of the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths with Brag Rap with a previously unseen finesse over some of the best beats of the era.
Robbie: Where did it all start for you?
Lakim Shabazz: I was always interested in music since I was a little kid. I used to always listen to my mother’s albums and things of that nature. I’m from Newark, New Jersey, and out here spinning club music was a big thing as I was growing up. I started out deejaying, spinning club music, and that’s how I got introduced to hip hop. I met a couple a few DJ’s, and when I first saw somebody spinning the wax back and forth, scratching records, that intrigued me.
When did you start writing rhymes?
I met my DJ, Cee Just, when I was in ninth grade. I was still deejaying, and he convinced me to write my first rhyme. There were a couple of other guys that used to come over to his house and they’d be rhyming. I never even thought about picking up a mic, and he asked me to write a rhyme. I credit my man Cee Just and my brother Lamel Born for that. They inspired me to write my first rhyme and I’ve been rhyming ever since. (more…)
Got a major Flavor Unit interview ready to drop soon, so I’m going in extra deep (pause) on their extensive catalog. Here are ten of sure shots from the greatest collection of MC’s that New Jersey ever produced.
“Latee is one of those rappers with a limited, but impressive back catalogue. These tracks were recorded around 1992-93 for Latee’s debut album but have remained unearthed – until now!This EP contains 4 previously unreleased full-length vocal tracks, as well as 6 interlude beats. All direct DWG orders will receive an exclusive press photo!
There are 275 hand-numbered copies available in total. There are currently only 75 copies left: get in quick!
Just noticed this comment from Mark James sitting in the ‘Moderation’ section:
Hey Dudes, I know i’m not the right person the do interviews ,so somewhere down the line double j might take over, there mistakes in all of the shows,i’m getting better with each show. and a lot of people said diamond show was awkward .they all are lol. dudes i’m just havin fun ! it’s a you tube video. but me and Diamond doing show pt.3 and skipping pt.2. plus Diamond had someone picking him up , so maybe that why he looked at his watch.there’s another time when I forgot what the say next, i do that a lot ,and i put a station ID vocal or something, OH yeah, i wish a didn’t put sample things at the beginning when Diamond started to talk, My bad . the live and you learn, let’s see what else .the music is too high,the mic in his face.I smoke weed but i don’t remember being too high to do a talk show. and Diamond been to my house more than anybody just about,so he was just chillin , and i can’t remember the last time i had a beer , sorry dudes people are seeing stuff that’s not there, People I edited the show,if I thought it looked like we was drunk and weeded up I wouldn’t put it on you tube. well i guess we do pt 3 in March Thank for all comment good and bad
Good Luck with your upcoming projects! 45 king
Comment by 45 king 02.13.12
Don’t change a thing, we need more episodes!
(OK, maybe cut down on the sound effects…)
Mark has been making these for awhile, but I only just caught on. This may be the 14 most awkward minutes of video I’ve ever seen, which is all the more amusing for the fact that 45 King and Diamond have known each other for a long time. I’m not sure if they both smoked some killer weed or are really hung-over from a night of drinking hard booze. Or maybe it’s just the ‘zany’ sound effects…
Let’s be honest – it’s all about the ‘Best Kept Secret’ remix. That shit is a monster! That being said, I’ve always had a lot of time for the ‘Knock ‘Em Out Sugar Ray’ remix as well. The ‘Posse Is Large’ remix is included simply as a reminder of the lost art of conga loops… (more…)
From his independent heater ‘Cannibal Town’, through to his The Hitman album and his work as a member of the Maniac Mob on The D&D Project, founding Flavor Unit soldier Double J has been doing his thing to rep Jersey City over the years without getting caught out by the music game.
Robbie: When did you start working with 45 King?
Double J: Meeting with Mark in ‘86, I hear everybody speaking of ‘the basement’, but when I started out we were in the attic in East Orange. Everybody talking about the basement – they should know about the attic. Mark had the microphones screwed into the wall, like four mics lined up, and everybody used to come up there, rhymin’. We started to make so much noise he had to leave there. Then we went down to the basement where we continued making the noise. Before all of that, I was more into the street life rather than the music at that time. I wasn’t really into writing rhymes and this and that, ‘cos I had just had a kid, and I’m trying to raise a kid real early. When the music wasn’t giving me no checks, I’ve still got to put milk on the table and pampers. So I had to keep living the street life and rhyme every chance I could. So when I met up with Mark and ‘em we go and make tapes and everything – we just had a lot of fun and just rocked. We made a lotta video tapes of us passing the mic too. Me, Apache and Latee – we went to school together. Me and Latee was in the same 3rd grade class. At the beginning of the Flavor Unit, we’d be all in the basement and we was wondering what should we call it. Should we call it the ‘Flavor Posse’ because it was already the Juice Crew so we couldn’t use the Flavor Crew. I think it was Lakim Shabazz that said, ‘Let’s call it the Flavor Unit’, and ever since then that’s what we rolled with. The word ‘Flavor’ was Latee from ‘This Cut’s Got Flavor’, ‘cos that was the first record outta the crew that was poppin’ on the radio. (more…)
You might remember Markey Fresh from the classic 45 King joint ‘The King Is Here’, or his solo single on Jive called ‘The Mack of Rap’. As it turns out, he was technically the first MC to ever work with The 45 King in his famous basement in New Jersey…
Robbie: How did you meet The 45 King?
Markey Fresh: I was born and raised in The Bronx. I used to live in the Bronxdale projects, and Afrika Bambatta used to come through there all the time, playing his music outside on the basketball court, and I just got consumed by that. I just started at a young age – say fourteen – writing rhymes. We moved to New Jersey when I was about sixteen. When we came to New Jersey it was just straight House music until I went to school one day and this guy brung a tape in. I was like, ‘Man, where’d you get that from?’ And he said, ‘From this guy named Mark. He lives around the corner from the school’. I went straight over there into the basement, and I was there every day after that, because he was the only one in New Jersey playing hip-hop – everyone else was into House. I was the first one down in that basement, and after three years that’s when everybody else came along, out of the woodwork, because Mark started becoming known. So all of these people I’d never heard of – or seen – just popped-up, all at once. A lot of the times they do these interviews with the so-called original members, and my name is not on there? Wow. (more…)
Apache, a founding member of the original Flavor Unit and cousin of Latee has passed away after years of poor health. Lord Ali Ba-Skidiscussed his unfortunate condition a couple of years ago:
‘Apache is on permanent disability now. He has a bruised heart. He got his bruised heart from when he was with that label [Tommy Boy] and making all that good money, ‘cos Apache got the biggest shine – not including Naughty By Nature and Latifah and all the rest of ‘em – but as far as the original Flavor Unit cats? He got the biggest shine outta all of us, as far as money. I mean he had a $250,000 budget with his label, see. And Apache did show after show after show. He was getting triple what Chill Rob was getting for a show. He used to get anywhere from 7 G’s to 20 G’s a show! He went through some money. This guy used to get so high and drunk – his whole thing was a big ‘ol party. Then he bloated all the way up to 300 and something pounds, and mind you he’s like only 5′9″, 5′10″. He blew up to 300 pounds and the guys almost bed-ridden from getting so big, and then he went up and down.’
Another sad loss for the hip-hop community… (more…)