By 1993 Queen Latifah and her Flavor Unit crew were a force to be reckoned with. The Queen herself already had two respected albums under her belt, while her fellow New Jersey brethren and Flavor Unit members, Naughty By Nature, were quickly on their way to their second consecutive platinum selling album. Add that to the relationships they begin to form with established artists (like Heavy D and D-Nice) and up and coming artists(like Dres from Black Sheep and Apache), the Queen and the King (Latifah’s long time business partner, Sha-Kim) of the Flavor Unit decided it would be a good idea to release a compilation album that would showcase some of the artists listed above and give exposure to some of their extended Flavor Unit family members that otherwise might not get a chance to show their skills on a global platform. And Roll Wit Tha Flava was conceived.
Roll Wit Tha Flava would be released on the vanity Flavor Unit label (under the Epic Records umbrella), and surprising to no one (including the Flavor Unit), the album didn’t sell a ton of units, but it did help spark one group that would go on to achieve mild success in the industry (more on that later).
Side note: If you spell the crew name Flavor Unit, why change the “Flavor” to “Flava” in the album title? It’s not like it earned them any street cred. Secondly, if you’re going to have a picture of all the artists featured on the compilation, have a picture of ALL the artists featured on the compilation (why the hell is Apache’s name listed on the pic panel but his pic is completely missing? And where the hell was Treach during the photo shoot?).
But I digress…
Bring The Flavor, La – It’s only right that the Queen of the crew gets the first spot on this compilation. Over a moderately funky Tony Dofat instrumental, Latifah warms the mic up for the rest of her squad. This song would also be included on Latifah’s Black Reign album, released later the same year (but with out the “La” in the song title).
Roll Wit The Flava – This title track was the lead (and I believe only) single released from Roll Wit Tha Flava. Over a jazzy D-Nice produced backdrop, Treach, Chip-Fu (from the Fu-Schnickens), Freddie Foxxx, Latifah, Heavy D, D-Nice and Dres all contribute a verse to this Flavor Unit cipher joint (even though Chip-Fu, Heavy D and Dres aren’t official members of the crew, they were still invited to roll with the Flavor, or “Flava”).
Uuh – This is D-Nice’s self-produced solo joint. D-Nice has never been a great lyricist but he’s decent on this one, and his instrumental is pretty nice too. The hook is garbage, but two out three aint’ bad.
Sounds Of Fattness – The female emcee group, Bigga Sistas make their world debut on this one, and unfortunately, it doesn’t fare well for the trio. The Algebra and Bosco produced instrumental is the audio equivalent of faucet water. And the ladies (the emcee on the second verse sounds a lot like the once kid sensation Wu-Tang affiliate Shyheim) end up being all bark no bite as their content doesn’t match their energy (and even their energy sounds synthetic).
Badd Boyz -The Almighty RSO (which depending on what day of the week you ask them, is an acronym for “Rock Shit On” or “Real Strong Organization”) was the Boston outfit consisting of DJ Deff Jeff (not the west coast Def Jef, who was actually a part of the Flavor Unit for a quick minute as well), E Devious, Tony Rhome and Ray Dogg, better know as Benzio (who played a big role in ruining the credibility of The Source, and more recently, was a part of the embarrassingly cheesy reality TV show Love & Hip-Hop). The Ray Dogg/DJ Deff Jeff concocted instrumental infuses samples from Tom Tom Club’s “Genius Of Love” and somebody’s version of “Misdemeanor”, and the results are not good, much like the verses contributed by The Almighty RSO.
Gimme Head – Female emcee Leshaun invites Cee (of, or as the liner notes spell it “uv” Da Blakmarket) to join her on this duet, as they take turns dissing each other and both demanding the other give oral pleasures (the hook is literally just Leshaun screaming “Gimme Head”). Think of Apache’s “Who Freaked Who”, only will less polished emcees. The E. Menal (also a part of Da Blakmarket) backdrop is weak and the song falls flat as well.
On The Bone Again – And we have our first worst song of the year candidate. The 4 man crew (maybe five?) going by The Brooklyn Assault Team take turns discussing their unsuccessful attempts at getting booty while going through a horny spell (listen to the blunt ways they ask the ladies and it’s no surprise none of them obliged). It’s bad enough that their content is juvenile but their rhyme schemes are elementary as well. And the dude singing the hook (which is a corny play off of Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”) sounds worst than TJ Swan, if that is even possible. The Eric Black produced instrumental isn’t terrible but it’s not good enough to even make the song sound decent. Hell, forget the year, this may be the worst song ever recorded, period.
Rough Enough – Freddie Foxxx is an emcee’s emcee who may have never received the exposure he should have, but still has the ability to spit fire. His verses on this song are pretty nice, but his trash self-produced instrumental and garbage hook derail this train from the track, quickly.
Let Yourself Go – Latee (who we last heard make a cameo on Apache’s “Woodchuck”) is one of the original members of the Flavor Unit, and though he never released an album, he does get a solo joint on Roll Wit Tha Flava. C. Bacon hooks up a decent backdrop for Latee, who proves he can spit a little taste.
Freak Out – This one opens with Nikki D’s man questioning where she was the previous night, before her voicemail comes on with a message from a male voice that her man quickly assumes she’s creeping with and follows up the accusation with a smack to her face. Nikki then threatens to kill him (and sounds very convincing) and spends the rest of the song throwing her dirt in his face and rubbing his nose in it. Nikki sounds okay on her verses, but the hook it butt and S.I.D.’s instrumental is pretty weak as well.
Enough Is Enough – Rottin Razkals’ joint. Need I say more? I was hoping that at least Kay Gee’s instrumental would be dope, but that was a hot mess too.
Keep It Real – S.I.D. finally shows up for this Flavor Unit party, as he provides the music for this Apache solo joint. Neither S.I.D.’s instrumental or Apache are all that impressive, but they sound like Premo and Rakim compared to most of the other songs on this compilation.
Since You Asked – Based on the picture in the liner notes I’m assuming that Groove Garden is a duo, with the female being the emcee and the dude the deejay/producer. The nameless female emcee has a dope rapping voice and nice flow but her content is a bit too abstract for my liking. The instrumental is decent, though.
Bring It On – Naughty By Nature drops in fashionably late. Kay Gee redeems himself from the hot mess he gave the Rottin Razkals a few songs prior, and hooks up a solid up-tempo backdrop that Treach freaks nicely with minimal assistance from Vinnie.
Roll Wit’ The Flava (Extended Version) – The instrumental and verses are pretty much the same as the original (the last few bars of Dres’ verse are cut short), with a few additional verses from Bigga Sistas and Leshaun and Cee added on.
Hey Mr. DJ – This would later be the first single released from the female singing duo Zhane’s debut album, Pronounced Jah-Nay, and would go on to be a decent hit and spark a mildly successful career for them. The ladies smooth harmonies over Kay Gee’s soulful instrumental never gets old. Easily the best song on Roll Wit Tha Flava.
When the Flavor Unit starters pop up on Roll Wit Tha Flava, things tend to sound pretty good. The problem is the majority of the album spotlights B and C tier Flavor Unit associates, and none of them fair well (hell, some of the more polished emcees don’t even fair well). Maybe the results would have been slightly better if Latifah and Sha-Kim recruited Kay Gee to handle the production for the entire album (he produced three songs on the album, and two of the three are the stronger songs on the project), but if the Queen had balls she’d be King. As is, Roll Wit Tha Flava is a hot mess and a poor representation of the once respected Flavor Unit name.
And that concludes this special Flavor Unit segment. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.