Circa: 1993
Producer: Ski

If you were to make a movie about the Roc-A-Fella era, “Can I Get Open” from Original Flavor’s ‘93 album Beyond Flavor would probably be the soundtrack to your opening credits. The track marked the start of Jay's partnership with Dame Dash, who managed Original Flavor, as well as with other key players from the ROC's early days, like producer Ski (who made all of Original Flavor’s beats as well as being its lead MC), Tone Hooker (the Original Flavor-MC-turned-Roc-A&R is credited with naming the label), and the group's DJ, Chubby Chub, whose mixtapes would play a key role in pushing Jay’s music to the streets in those days.

On “Can I Get Open,” however, Jay was still a rapid-fire specialist rhyming too fast for us to feel him 20 years later. While it’s easy to dismiss Jay’s verse on the song as straight cornballism (He starts his verse asking “Hey Karl, Kan-I?” for one thing), remember that Ready to Die and Illmatic were still a year away at the time, and high-energy, uptempo songs like this were the order of the day for East Coast rap. More than any of his other cameos in the pre-Reasonable Doubt days, Jay’s performance on “Can I Get Open” had heads taking notice, thanks to his crafty timing and quickly switched-up flows.