In an era, when “herbalization” was at it’s highest peak, along came yet another crew riding the coat tails of “weeded” predecessors like Cypress Hill. Practically all of Total Devastation’s “Legalize It” was dedicated to fables of greenery, which at the time, may have been somewhat acceptable if the lyrics were clever or even if the delivery and beats were bearable. But with “Legalize It” you got none of what you may have been hoping for.
The first (and only, to my knowledge) single from the album, “Many Clouds Of Smoke” was the album’s strongest (with very little emphasis on “strongest“) cut, mainly due to the fact that A Tribe Called Quest popularized the beat years prior with their smash, “Luck Of Lucien”. The remix of “Many Clouds”, which radio stations all over the country played waaaaay too much, did have it’s moments, but you couldn’t even help from subconsciously uttering the lyrics, “Lucien, Lucien, Lucien, Lucien, you should know”. On the track “Zooted”, which isn’t that bad either, the San Fransisco trio of Rasta Red Eye, Soopa Dupa and DJ Tuf Cut Tim (don’t laugh, this was ’94 ‘mind you!!) spit: “I’m feelin’ kinda’ twisted/I just missed it/F*ck that sample sh*t/I just dissed it”. Hmmm, that’s strange, because I could have sworn that Total Devastation sampled an ENTIRE line from the Pharcyde’s “Otha’ Fish”? Oh, I get it, maybe WE just missed it! Maan, these cats were Afro-man, before Afro-man!!
In the end, Total Devastation’s ummm….flow (?) is often rushed, and their lyrics, which they didn’t hesitate to describe as “abstract”, were basically nonsense (I mean, and I LOVED Das Efx!!). The one redeeming fact of “Legalize It” was that it always reminds me of what can happen to your mind when you: “Smoke two joints/And then you smoke two joints/And then you smoke two more”….a wack-ass album. However, THIS (scroll down to see the description is MAAAAD funny!!), to each his own I guess?
Purchase “Beyond Flavor” at Amazon (fairly steep, even for a used joint though!)
Formed in the Mecca of Hip Hop, New York, in 1991, Original Flavor set out to compete with the best of ‘em on their sophomore effort. However, after listening to “Beyond Flavor”, the crew’s follow-up to 1992′s “This Is How It Is”, you are left with the feeling that the missing key that Original Flavor lacked on this album was complexity, which may have kept the beats and rhymes locked together tightly. Most of the album, which at times flowed as smoothly as the Pharcyde’s debut over hard, “Bacdafucup-like” production, featured braggadocio lyrics that only reiterated Original Flavor’s supposed “originality”…but, it’s nothing that you haven’t heard before, allow me to expound..
“Beyond Flavor” wasn’t completely wack though. The production and melodies on cuts like “Hit”, “Blowin’ Up Da Spot” and the title cut really had the potential to move assess by the masses. The infamous Ski (yeah, the “Dead Presidents”, Camp Lo producin’ SKI) and DJ Chubby Chubb blended piano loops and femme vocals that all possessed grooves that hit hard enough to curve your spine. “All That’s” silky, anti-ego chorus has always been one of my favorite tracks from “Beyond Flavor”, it’s just too bad that most of the other tracks on the album didn’t quite hit as hard in the head or the feet.
One of the album’s highlights was the addition of the crew’s newest member for “Beyond Flavor”, T-Strong. I gotta’ admit the dude could flip a lofty rhyme between his teeth better than most during this album’s heyday. The main beef I had with “Beyond Flavor” was that while the rhymes were far from average, “Beyond Flavor” wasn’t necessarily comprised of complete songs, and while Original Flavor did have all the skills (as a group) to take it to the next level (Ski already has) “Beyond Flavor” would be the last we’d hear from Original Flavor as a trio.
Once again, Staten Island was in the house with the release of UMC’s second spot “Unleashed”. And while numero dos, the follow up to Hass G and NYOil….err…Kool Kim’s highly regarded debut “Fruits Of Nature”, has taken it’s fair share of lumps over the years, I have always considered “Unleashed” to be even more cohesive than “Fruits..”, even if they (like much of Hip Hop in ’94) donned their Triple 5 Soul hoodies and 40 below Timbos for this ‘go round, while leaving the “Blue Cheese” in the dumpster.
I can’t speak enough about the production featured on this album (hell, I’m fairly certain that Hass and Kool Kim handled all the production on the album too!), cuts like “Hit The Track”, “Some Speak Ill Thoughts” and “How It Gotta’ Be” demonstrate the world class beats that fueled “Blue Cheese” and “One To Grow On” (from “Fruits Of Nature”) to their top spot on numerous Hip Hop charts. The mood of “Unleashed” was definitely more street than the previous album, but it was a smooth and appropriate sounding adjustment that kept it from slipping into some contrived, phony attempt at being hardcore.
For me, the most memorable points of “Unleashed” came on cuts where Hass and Kim focused on their storytelling skills, like “Pleasure In The Dark” and “Can You Feel It”, which, combined with their crisp and complimentary rap styles, made for some wicked grooves that bended the imagination. The production is not only well-looped, but bouncy in spite of the fact that a few of the samples may have been beaten into the ground by other notable tracksmiths. The catchy hooks crossed over into mindlessness on occasion, but for the most part the album is extremely tight, even if they did a total 180 from their debut..don’t sleep!!