Do Remember: Original Flavor & Jay Z’s Can I Get Open? (Video)
In the story of Roc-A-Fella Records, there is often an under-played element in the story: Ski Beatz.
A Greensboro, North Carolina native, Ski (as he was known for more than a decade) hailed from the group Original Flavor. Previously, he was in The Bizzie Boys. Joined by Suave Lover, the duo was among the first groups managed by Harlem’s Damon Dash—more than five years before Dame would become a household name, and executive-turned-star. Dash delivered the group to veteran DJ/record executive DJ Clark Kent, who signed Original Flavor to Big Beat/Atlantic Records in the early 1990s.
Following Original Flavor’s This Is How It Is March ’92 debut, the group—now based in New York City, under-went a facelift. Suave departed, making way for New Yorkers T-Strong (later known as Tone Hooker) and DJ Chubby Chub. Like groups of the era (Naughty By Nature, Mobb Deep, Main Source), Original Flavor changed their sound drastically between the first and sophomore album.
Heads received those changes well, as July, 1994’s Beyond Flavor yielded chart success for Ski and his cohorts. The single, “Can I Get Open” cracked the Top 50 on Billboard Maxi-Singles. That song featured a then-unsigned artist, known as Jay Z, who had been kicking around the industry for nearly five years following Jaz-O’s “Hawaiian Sophie.”
Tone, Ski, and kid from Marcy Projects with the Fu-Schnick-like flow shined for the moment, as captured in the video.
Ironically, the Original Flavor appearance (albeit a single) is omitted from Jay Z’s Discography on Wikipedia. Original Flavor would dissolve by the end of 1994. However, the track’s impact would far extended the moment. Like Jay’s sophomore Jaz video appearance, 1990’s “The Originators,” the third high-profile look in the would-be superstar’s career showcased his nimble flow, deadpan wit, and ability to seamlessly switch speeds in his delivery.
Shortly after “Can I Get Open,” Jay Z would begin his own album, Reasonable Doubt. Ski, who had produced all of the Original Flavor material, would tackle four of the platinum album’s 14 tracks, including opening 12″ single “Dead Presidents I” and fourth break-out, “Feelin’ It.”
Ski would find his greatest success as a producer. Working closely with Camp Lo (as he still does today), Ski is gifted in sample and sample-free Hip-Hop. The DJ/producer would start his own label, Roc-A-Blok, an offshoot of Roc-A-Fella, in the late ’90s, working with The Outsidaz camp that would also help spawn the careers of Rah Digga and Eminem. In the 2000s, Ski has maintained his bond with Dame Dash, working extensively as an artist and producer with BluRoc and DD172, producing full-length LPs for Curren$y, Murs, and even Locksmith.
Do Remember “Can I Get Open,” a moment not unlike “Live At The BBQ,” that would suggest impact for two decades to come.
#BonusBeat: The “Can I Get Open (Remix)” is dope too: