By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
They're an all-male, crossover-ready quartet of twentysomethings from Kingston, Jamaica. They harmonize, perform semi-synchronized dance moves, and sport coordinating getups (often courtesy of Puma). Teenage girls scream their names. But before relegating T.O.K. to the unsavory domain of boybands, consider their stellar sophomore CD, Unknown Language.
Yes, you'll hear lead crooner Flexx try his hand at falsetto à la Timberlakeespecially on the boisterous club jam "Hey Ladies," or the tuneful tearjerker "Footprints"but nary a boyband serves up a voice like that of Bay-C, Flexx's counterpart. Where Flexx is sweet, Bay-C is sonorous, riding the riddim rapid-fire, licking shots and DJ'ing about subjects *NSync wouldn't touch: high-grade, how to "make she moan and groan," the "innocent a dead" back in Yard.
And name the Backstreet Boys album with beats as blazing as these, over which T.O.K.chatting and harmonizing with fervorcan do no wrong: producer Donovan Bennett's frenetic "Jonkanoo" riddim, Fire Linx's soca-style "Mad Guitar," the military might of the Renaissance Crew's "Stepz." As members of a generation that barely knew a time when BET wasn't on Jamaican TV screens, T.O.K.raised evenly on hip-hop, r&b, and dancehallare bigger than a boyband: They're a dynamic round in the long-running Ping-Pong match between Afro-American and Afro- Caribbean music.