[Melody Maker, 1996]
WELL, IT'S BEEN long enough coming.
Half an hour of black music every week on TV is half an hour more than we used to have. For “black music”, read “anything which might get playlisted on Kiss in the daytime.” You're not going to see Eddie “Flashing” Fowlkes on Flava, or any deep underground drum'n'bass, which is only to be expected. Finally, it seems that programmers have got to grips with the idea that “minority” viewers like mainstream entertainment as much as anyone else. If Channel 4 had made this program a few years ago, it would probably have consisted of Youssou N'Dour, a few gospel choirs and the African finger-piano players who now have to turn to white dance acts for employment.
Flava plays videos. That's it. Blessed be whoever it was took the (probably financial) decision not to hire the smarmy Lisa I'Anson, or indeed anyone else, to present it. The only breaks are program IDs recorded by the bands themselves, so Flava is going to be exactly as good as the clips it screens.
The pilot maintains a pretty fair standard, mixing up genres with care but little boldness, and balancing UK chart hits with stuff that even American MTV plays all the time, but can't be picked up over here by any receiver smaller than the house it stands on. In this episode we get a very funny, much-aired Skee-Lo video; the soon to be ubiquitous Truce, a cloned female R&B trio bent on pushing the envelope back in; Rampage running off on a silly drum'n'bass stomp though the Monkees theme; the mind-buggering Busta Rhymes guesting on a fresh version of Craig Mack's now well-worn Flava In Ya Ear; a clip from Buju Banton to dazzle anybody who thinks of him only as the author of Boom Bye Bye; and a cover of Pull Up To The Bumper by dancehall queen Patra, the video for which is more exuberantly and efficiently filthy than anything her male counterparts have managed to smuggle onto television.
Perfect? No. But complaining would be like spurning water in the desert because it's not your favourite brand. Plus the theme is Mark Morrison's Crazy. This'll do.
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