One of the unsung heroes of the original Flavor Unit was Lord Ali Ba-Ski (aka The Human Body Chart), who wrecked shit something terrible on the 45 King Presents…The Flavor Unit album. I always wondered why he didn’t drop any other records after that album, and after I did a post about him as part of 2006’s Flavor Unit Special, the big man himself blessed the comment section. It goes without saying that I followed-up with an interview request, and as is often the case it took over a year before we finally got a chance to build – but it was well worth the wait.
What better way to mark the 350th post on Unkut Dot Com than an exclusive with this Flavor Unit originator?
Robbie: So you’re 6’8″ and you used to play ball?
Ali Ba-Ski: I went to junior school in Kentucky, then I transferred to a four-year in Alabama – Sanford University. I left there after the first year. We used to run them bleaches around the whole stadium, and then I got diagnosed with something called Osgood’s Slaughter. That’s when you real tall and the bone beneath your knee-cap slips from under there – you get mad tendonitis. After that happened, I was still able to play but I just lost my drive for it. They had me projected to play overseas professionally and everything! I was the number two player in the State of Kentucky as a freshman, and then I was the number one player in my sophomore year, before I got all the offers and everything. I was out there handling my business. While all that was going on, I wasn’t even thinking of rap.
Apache and Latee, they my first cousins. They pretty much pulled me in the game. They was goin’ over to East Orange, New Jersey – to Mark house – and they asked me did I want to go one day, so I went over there with ‘em. They used to be over there – Apache, Latee, Chill Rob, Lakim Shabazz – they used to be in there freestyling, and Taheed used to be there too. He used to be down with Apache, they used to have their little group, there was two of ‘em. I used to be in there, sipping on my 40’s while they was doin’ their thing, and then just outta the blue one day I shocked all of ‘em and just said something that I had written, and they was all on the ground rollin’ and laughin’ and cracking up! After that it was one verse after the other, it never stopped. All it did was get better. (more…)
What’s worse? Rap made for chicks, or broads rapping? It’s been so long since a skirt has made a decent rap song, it’s not even funny. What’s even less amusing is hip-hop made specifically for dames. It was bad enough when Heavy D was dancing around in transparent rain-coats and Ja Rule was making like Stewart Little with his shirt off. Now we’ve got douche-bags like the Gym Class Heroes churning-out Wuss Rap that make Snow Patrol and Maroon 5 sound hardcore. (more…)
As one of the most influential beat-makers of the late 80’s, The 45 King brought horns up front like no one had thought to do before him, setting the stage for Pete Rock to flip them for his own signature style during his ’93-’94 takeover. But where he really made his mark was on full-length projects, as Mark constructed masterful albums with Lakim Shabazz and Chill Rob G, as well as being the dominant force behind Queen Latifah‘s first step into showbiz. But his reach didn’t end there, as he’s provided some more recent hits for Jay-Z (“Hard Knock Life”) and Eminem (“Stan”), and is currently recording new material with Chill Rob and Lakim.
When I spoke to Mark early one morning, he excused himself to go take a nap or something so I never got the chance to ask him about his superior rhyme skills and a bunch of other shit. I was meant to call him the next day but it never happened. Hopefully I’ll do a part two eventually but this will have to do for now. All I need now is a Latifah post and the Flavor Unit Special is just about a wrap!
The 45 King: My question…what do you think my stage name is?
Robbie: Your stage name? Umm…I guess on the early records it was DJ Mark The 45 King…but nowadays you call yourself The 45 King.
Thank-you…thank-you. Thank-you very much.
A lotta people get that mixed up?
Yeah. Then they cut it Mark 45 King. That’s incorrect. It’s not like I’m Jazzy Jeff or anybody – so me correcting myself – “he got some nerve!” (more…)
If, for some ungodly reason, you’re not familiar with the work of Chill Rob G then you might want to check this before you read this interview I did with Rob a couple of months ago.
Robbie: In the early days of the Flavor Unit, was it tough for you guys to get accepted in New York, being that you’re from New Jersey?
Chill Rob G: In the very beginning I think we did have a bit of a problem, because at that time just about every MC who had a deal was from New York. I was one of the later members to come along, from the original Flavor Unit members, it was like Latifah, Apache and Latee – it was just those three. Then when I came along, Red Alert would play Mark’s beats but he wouldn’t play the MC’s – he wouldn’t play anything with the rappers on it. So I think one of my records, something that me and Mark did, was one of the first things he played with somebody rhyming on it. Then after that the door was kinda open.
So he’d only play stuff like “The 900 Number” before that?
“900 Number” came along later. Mark used to give Red Alert just beats for maybe a year before I even met him, and Red Alert would just play the beat on the show when he would interview people, or just talk over the beat, stuff like that. He had a little drop in the radio station, and it would go “45 King special-special!” and he would play the beat – but nobody would rhyme to it! (more…)
In terms of being low profile, Lord Alibaski would have to be the most elusive Flavor Unit member/affiliate. I’ve never read so much as a paragraph about him in a magazine, seen a picture of him – nothing! All I can tell you is that he featured heavily on original issue of The 45 King Presents The Flavor Unit LP, contributing four solo shots and a verse on the posse cut. When the album was repackaged as Queen Latifah and the Original Flavor Unit in 1996, three of Alibaski’s songs were removed for some reason. 45 King has previously stated that most of the songs off this album were old demos – and it’s that raw, basement flavor sound that makes these songs so great. No over-produced dramatics here, just dope loops and drum breaks. Alibaski flexes the trademark Flavor U style – combining a dominant, deep-voiced delivery with a variety of flow patterns and an accomplished braggadocio technique. (more…)
In terms of vocab, concepts, flow and style, Chill Rob G was the top dog in the Flavor Unit wolf pack. His first record remains as one of the finest selections in the impressive Wild Pitch catalog, as all three songs hit equally hard. “Chillin” didn’t end up making the album, but provides a perfect example of Rob’s technique, as he informs us that “it’s hard to find a rapper with my dedication/intelect, sense of humor – plus imagination” while “jumping from one subject to the next” in a superb display of lyrical prowess that manages to combine a stream-of-consciousness feel while still keeping it in the pocket over a rolling break. (more…)
I can’t confirm that Priority One were official Flavor Unit (actually I’m pretty sure they weren’t), but Louie Louie was 45 King‘s right-hand man for a while, so his work deserves a mention here. His first record was with his crew Priority One, who dropped “I Can’t Go For That”/”Showin’ My Stuff” on Tuff City in 1988. At this stage the group consisted of MC Ron Delite, Naikwan, DJ Smitty B, Louie Louie and JV-1.
Five Things You Need To Know About Ron Delite:
1. He’s a solo poet (that means he rocks alone).
2. He’s a South Bronx resident (that’s quite evident).
3. He’s been rockin’ rhymes ever since he was ten (but that was ten years ago)1
4. If Ron Delite was spaghetti, Smitty B would be sauce.
5. He’s clean, crisp and clearer (like 7UP). (more…)
One of the early members of the Flavor Unit, Double J doesn’t feature on much of their output other than his spot on “The Flavor Unit Assination Squad” and a couple of 12″s. He mentions how it all started in an old Hip Hop Connection piece:
“We used to do block parties in Jersey City where I was born and raised. Me, Latee and Zeke met up with DJ Mark in 1988 and he introduced us to this other rapper named Apache and the rest of the Flavor Unit.”
He also explains how he got his deal with Island Records on the strength of his appearence in a homemade video of the crew that Fab Five Freddy had shot. (more…)
Without a doubt, Lakim Shabazz was the busiest member of the Flavor Unit during their peak period, with two solo long-players to his credit and guest shots on every 45 King album that featured vocals. This little guy with the voice of a giant was also staunch representative of the 5% Nation of Islam, which he repped in every aspect – from his traditional Muslim clothes to entire songs featuring “Supreme Mathematic” lessons. He even flew to Egypt to shoot the cover to his second album! These days, of course, such a strong Islamic image would ensure that your album would never even get pressed in the US, given the current political climate, but in 1988 a large section of the hip-hop community were spreading the word of Allah, warning us about “the devil’s tricknology” and insisting that we take the pork off our fork. Can you imagine a popular underground group (like Brand Nubian were at the time) releasing a song called “Allah U Akbar” in 2006? (more…)
As one of the least prolific members of the original Flavor Unit, Markey Fresh still made quite an impression based upon his performance on “The King Is Here” alone. A brilliant slice of lo-fi theme music declaring the superiority of New Jersey’s king of the beats, this staple of Red Alert‘s Kiss-FM show exists in two incarnations. The jeep-beat ready 12″ version (complete with crafty “It’s Just Begun” horn chops) is far more commanding than the stripped down mix found on the King’s Master of the Game LP, but Markey’s lyrical dedication to the 45 rings true in both instances. (more…)
This is a strange one. While the logos on the label would have us believe that DJ Mark The 45 King recorded an album for Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam following the hit he gave Jay-Z (“Hard Knock Life”) in 1998, there’s really no reason to think this is anything but a bootlegger scam (the whole “Mark 45 King” thing doesn’t help either!). I can’t for the life of me picture Def Jam putting money up for a project that mainly features local unknowns’ Big Pooh and Lady Champain over a selection of well-known loops that would have cost a fortune to clear. (more…)
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. (more…)
Not content with serving-up killer beats for the Flavor Unit crew, DJ Mark The 45 King also blessed us with several examples of his impressive mic skills, a tradition that’s since been carried on by Kid Capri, Doo-Wop and Tony Touch. Forget that “best producer on the mic” talk, DJ’s that rap are where it’s at, and 45 King puts it down like a pro whenever he steps to the booth. (more…)
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. (more…)