Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Essential Onyx - A Guide By Mark 563

What's good chaps? Here's an article I wrote for - check the link or read below.


Mark 563

The Essential Onyx - A Guide By Mark 563

Anyone who has seen or heard me DJ out over the years will know that I’m a mad Onyx fan. As a part of my play-out set, I regularly dedicate a section to the bald-headed crew from Queens, opening with their jump-up anthem, Slam, blending into the grimy Shifftee and closing the section with their call-to-arms, Throw Ya Gunz. All three cuts have received ridiculous spins at my hands and are guaranteed to get a party open, and all three tracks have remained firm favourites of mine since the day they dropped.

With Onyx embarking on their first ever Australian tour, we at saw fit to offer you a refresher course in all things Onyx.

As a trio consisting of Fredro Star, SuavĂ© and Big DS, Onyx got their start way back in 1990 with the release of the scarcely remembered 12” single Ah, And We Do It Like This on Profile Records. There’s a good reason why the record is little known, and that is simply because it really isn’t that good. It sounds nothing like the Onyx you’d expect and is only really worth peeping as an obscurity, or for tone-deaf completists.

The group linked with Run DMC’s, sadly now deceased, DJ, Jam Master Jay and signed to his JMJ Records, adding Fredro’s cousin, Sticky Fingaz to the mix along the way. They dropped the incredible Throw Ya Gunz 12” in late ’92 and blew up. The track was the first display of the groups new hardcore style, a mix of automatic weapons, army fatigues, bald heads and raspy-rasp vocals, and set the template for their following releases.

Onyx Throw Ya Gunz

They soon followed in 1993 with their full-length debut, the subtly titled Bacdafup. The album was a package of no nonsense grimy, hardcore joints with some of the rap-worlds most questionably spelled titles. Track titles such as Atak Of Da Bal-Hedz, Da Nex Niguz and Getdafucout kick-started a trend of terrible phonetic spelling that would plague the Hip Hop scene for years to come. Illiteracy aside, tracks such as Blac Vagina Finda and Bichasbootleguz left nothing to the imagination, but banged super hard and ensured that the LP was a success.

A few 12”s were released after the long-player and are certainly worth investigating. Slam was an absolute monster smash for the group and is essential in any Hip Hop heads’ collection, as is the equally incredible Shifftee. Of lesser importance are the group’s ventures into the Rock/Rap crossover genre. Slam got treated to a slew of unnecessary, unlistenable remixes including a re-recording of the song with Biohazard, who they would team-up with again for the title track to the movie Judgement Night.

Onyx Shifftee

Between recording Bacdafucup and their sophomore LP, Big DS left the group amid claims that he wasn’t getting enough mic time, which was a fair call, considering I couldn’t recollect a single contribution he made to the record and always wondered what his role was in the group. His solo career never materialized and sadly, in 2003 Big DS passed away after a battle with cancer.

Slimmed down to a trio, and with SuavĂ© changing his name to Sonee Seeza, in 1995 Onyx dropped the cut, Live!!! on the soundtrack to Russell Simmons’ movie, The Show, before returning with another cracking album, All We Got Iz Us. Far less testosterone fueled and much darker than its’ predecessor, the album was more mature and more convincing as a window into life in the United States Ghetto. A fan favourite, the album spawned a couple of singles, Last Dayz backed with album highlight All We Got Iz Us (Evil Streets) and Walk In New York, which dropped on the B-side of the aforementioned Live!!! (renamed for the album, Live Niguz) 12”.

Onyx All We Got Iz Us (Evil Streets)

Around this time Fredro Star and Sticky Fingaz began to concentrate on their acting careers. Fredro starred in basketball movie, Sunset Park (1996), with Onyx providing an impressive soundtrack cut, Thangz Changed. Both Sticky and Fredro featured in the Spike Lee classic Clockers (1995) and the instantly forgettable, Ride (1998). More memorable than the movie itself was the track they delivered on the films soundtrack, The Worst,a banging collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Method Man and Killarmy’s Killa Sin. Sticky appeared in numerous roles on in TV and film, while Fredro bizarrely found success as a regular on R&B singer Brandy’s sitcom, Moesha.

Onyx & The Wu-Tang Clan The Worst

In 1998, Onyx returned with their 3rd album, Shut ‘Em Down. The album was a decent offering, but relied heavily on featured artists, with the likes of DMX, Big Pun, Norega, Lost Boyz and All City all passing through to lend vocals. The previously released Onyx/Wu link up, The Worst, was featured here, as was the single, React, most notable for featuring a fresh-faced 50 Cent.

Later releases, Bacdafucup Part II (2002) and Triggernometry (2003) are far from essential. The former claiming, in name at least, to be a sequel to their debut, but all comparisons should end there. Single, Slam Harder, bares no resemblance whatsoever to their 1993 smash 12” of a similar title, but does feature an enjoyable re-working of the ‘70s sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter, theme tune courtesy of producer DR Period. Still, Slam it most certainly aint.

On a solo tip, Sticky Fingaz has been the most successful of the group, with his acclaimed Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, while Fredro Star dropped Firestarr on Koch. Both have other records out, but they really aren’t worth bothering with.

As far as harder to find tracks go, both Da Nex Nigguz and Bacdafucup from the first album got put out on promo only 12”s but offer little of interest other than radio versions. There are a bunch of rarer Onyx tracks out there well worth tracking down, and most feature on the Cold Case Files album compiled from harder to find mid ‘90s cuts, released in 2008. A promo definitely worth investigating is the remix of Evil Streets, featuring Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man, backed with Purse Snatchers Pt. 2, which features Smoothe Da Hustler, Trigger Tha Gambler and DV Alias Khrist. Both tracks bang and can be found on the Cold Case Files compilation, as can the only release from relative unknowns, Gang Green (a group that featured Sticky Fingaz’ brother X1, who sadly died in 2007), I’ll Murder You, which features Onyx on the cracking remix and was originally put out by Tape Kingz in 1995.

Gang Green I’ll Murder You Remix Featuring Onyx

Guest spots are surprisingly slim pickings. The group featured on Run DMC’s Get Open from their Down With The King album, and on female emcee Boss’ Livin’ Loc’d from her LP Born Gangstaz, both released in 1993. In 1998 Onyx provided guest vocals on All City’s Xtreme from the Metropolis Gold full length, and Sticky Fingaz contributed rhymes to Pete Rock’s Soul Survivor project (the cracking Strange Fruit) and Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz’ Make It Reign long player (Massive Heat).

If all that wasn’t enough, they dropped the incredible 15 Years of Videos History & Violence DVD in 2008, which is jam packed with all their videos, mad amounts of live footage and plenty of behind the scenes footage of the crazy bald headed crew.

Onyx play Melbourne’s Espy on Thursday 9th June, Perth’s Civic Hotel on Friday 10th June, Adelaide’s Rocket Bar on Saturday 11th June, Sydney’s The Gaelic on Sunday 12th June and Brisbane’s The Step Inn on Thursday 16th June. Grab your ticket and be prepared for some serious Slamming in the mosh pit.

Onyx Slam Live

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