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Original Flavor: Beyond Flavor *

Album Notes

Original Flavor: Ski, T-Strong (raps); Chubby Chubb (rap, scratches).

Additional personnel: Michelle Mitchell (vocals).

Recorded at Power Play Studios, Queens, New York.

Veteran jazz drummer Max Roach has often compared rap to bebop, and for all the differences between jazz and rap, there are, in fact, some parallels -- especially on the East Coast. Like the beboppers of the 1940s and 1950s, many New York, Philadelphia, and Boston rappers have been obsessed with technique. Anyone who has attended a hip-hop competition in any of those cities knows how technique-obsessed East Coast MCs can be; like bop icon Sonny Stitt, they view music as a form of sportsmanship and want to make sure you know how impressive their chops are. That obsession with technique is impossible to miss on 1993's Beyond Flavor, the second album by Original Flavor. This New York group is about flow, flow, and more flow, which is a different mindset from the gangsta rap mindset of many West Coast rappers. If, in 1993, you asked a hip-hop expert what the main differences between East Coast and West Coast rappers were, he/she would have responded that while the West Coast was about beats, hooks, and storytelling, the East Coast was about rhyming technique. There were many exceptions to that generalization, but Beyond Flavor does fit that stereotypical view of New York rap; Original Flavor and its allies (including a young, pre-solo career Jay-Z) spend most of this CD bragging about their rapping skills and showing off their considerable technique. When MCs have this much technique, the flow-for-the-sake-of-flow approach can be exhilarating -- even if it does wear thin after awhile. Listening to Beyond Flavor is a lot of like hearing a group of East Coast hard boppers showing you how fast they can play standards; although chops for the sake of chops has its limitations, you still find yourself admiring and enjoying the display of virtuosity. ~ Alex Henderson


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