Happy new year on Day 7 of 12 Days of Early 90’s Hip Hop and The Oynx is here…
Bacdafucup – Onyx (1993)
Produced by Chyskillz, Kool Tee, Jam Master Jay and Jeff Harris
This debut album from Onyx made the sort of impact one more readily associates with a heavy-duty post-apocalyptic street assault. It’s an unequivocal album of violent thuggery and criminality, and a kind of soundtrack for robbery. Yep, it’s not winning any awards for positivity or progressiveness. It is however a lasting testament to a sound this band helped established: “grimy”.
Onyx have an interesting back-story. Established in Queens, New York in the late 1980’s, they had minimal success with some singles that were much softer than the sound we have grown accustomed to hearing from them. That sound was Jazz influenced and the only three members of the group were Big DS, Suave and Fredro Starr (no relation to Ringo). However, what happened next became the stuff of Hip Hop folklore. The group had arranged a presentation for Jam Master Jay at Def Jam in hopes of being signed to that label, but on the day only Fredro was available. Not wanting to go to the presentation alone, he invited his cousin Sticky Fingaz along with the promise of allowing him to join the group if the presentation was successful. It was. And it’s lucky Sticky was involved because his skills as an MC are probably at least 35% of the reason this debut album was a platinum-selling masterpiece. Big DS was incarcerated for much of the making of this album, so although there are four faces on the iconic cover of this record, you’d be forgiven for thinking onyx were a trio from the get-go. In fact, DS remained pissed at his lack of airtime on the record and left the group during the recording of their second album. But it was no great shakes, as he was easily the least talented rapper in the group.
Ok, the album. The first single released was Throw Ya Gunz, which became the advert for Bacdafucup (you have to forgive the group their ridiculous text-talk spelling). Throw Ya Gunz was referenced in Notorious B.I.G.’s Gimme the Loot, and Jeru the Damaja’s Come Clean chorus. It was an exciting advert for young male anger, and the truth is the entire album is a musical tribute to ferocity. That energy persists in the album’s stand out single, Slam. Slam is the single that can be played in any Hip Hop night, in any club, and you will see the over 30’s scramble on the dance floor like someone is handing out coupons for fucking comfort fit underwear. I’m no exception. Slam is 20 years old. Twenty. Somebody fucking shoot me.
Before you do, buy this record. Jam Master Jay’s tight beats, Sticky Fingaz with his lyrical and stylistic mastery, the griminess, the stand out tracks: Shiftee, Slam, Throw Ya Gunz, Bitchasn***z, and Atak of Da Bal-Hedz, are enough. But when combined with the wonderful rhyming mastery of oesophagus and monogamous in Da Nex N***z, you’d be foolish not to. It sounds like very little that came before, and I don’t think the album has been given its dues in terms of legacy. Onyx never reproduced their commercial success here, but did make some great music later.