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Onyx. The hip-hop act who named themselves after a black stone. Clever, but just who are the bald-heads with knives?
In 1989, Onyx formed out of Queens, NY; consisting of Fredro Starr, Sonee Seeza (then known only as Suave), and Big DS. They released their first single under Profile records, “Ah, and We Do It Like This” to not much success. Two years later is when fate struck.
Onyx was going to demo off some tracks for Run DMC front man, Jam Master Jay, but there was a small problem. Big DS and Sonee Seeza were in CT at the time. Fredro Starr called up his cousin Sticky Fingaz who then worked at a barber shop but was always rhyming. Sticky Fingaz hooked up Fredro and did a demo to present to Jam Master Jay and he instantly loved the Madface sound. When presenting the tape to Def Jam, and Onyx returned to them, the first question was “Where’s the guy with the deep, raspy voice?”. Of course they were referring to the cross-eyed slightly insane member, Sticky Fingaz. The rest was history.
Onyx inked a deal at Def Jam for an EP after “Throw Ya Gunz” was released. The song was such a hit that Onyx was promised an album, and in 1993, they delivered “Bacdafucup” to the hip-hop world. Incredible hits such as “Slam”, “Throw Ya Gunz”, “Shifftee”, and of course the “Slam” collaboration with Biohazard brought Onyx to huge heights of success. “Bacdafucup” quickly climbed the hip hop charts. “Slam” was the #5 single of the entire year and the album went on to quickly sell 2 million copies. Onyx also had higher scaled recognition, winning Soul Train’s rap album of the year award and at the same show keeping underground recognition with their raunchy live performance usually consisting of carrying .45’s and bullet proof vests.
Nothing was stopping the bald-heads in 1993. The rap group who were notorious for bringing rap to the mosh pit with their heavy metal-esque antics, bloody sad-faced logo only a maniac (or death metal band for that matter) could concoct, and rapid gun fire rhymes and beats, it was no wonder why they blew up in the first place. And Onyx were certainly living up to that hardcore image when Sticky Fingaz was arrested for assault on a flight and Onyx were denied access to perform half time at a football game when the NAACP deemed them a disgrace to blacks. Lyrical skill, production skill, and being one of the hardest groups of that time was their claim to fame.
Two years pass and a lot can change, and for Onyx, it most certainly did. Big DS was no longer in the group and rumors circulated that he was either in jail or kicked out of the group. It was two years since Onyx had released anything and all the fans were waiting. A lot cooled down over two years as the thick-minded MTV jockey just assumed Onyx were another “Tag-Team” never to show up again. Boy were they wrong. In 1995 Onyx decided underground props were way more important than commercial success, and that was very apparent on their 1995 album, “All We Got Iz Us”. Not one radio friendly song on the album and not one video suitable for MTV, Onyx knew their true fans or newly gained underground fans would flock to them, and they did. Selling 500,000 copies, a simple minded person sees that as a cut and almost as a letdown. Onyx saw it as an underground group having a gold record. Respect was way more important than fame. The album was a critical success especially with fans who loved the new lyrical skill Onyx accquired over those two years. Instead of a rap group who releases half-assed albums every six months, Onyx wanted to take it easy and concentrate. It was worth it. “All We Got Iz Us” is an underground classic thanks to the singles “Last Dayz” and the dreary video for “All We Got Iz Us” that only BET would play late in the day… if you were lucky.
This time, three years were going by before anything else came from Onyx. Onyx fans both frown and look highly upon this. Onyx already proved themselves with two great albums so waiting only meant a better release. But waiting also meant…. waiting. After “All We Got Iz Us” was released, Onyx’s fame was rising on a different level. Acting. Fredro and Sticky Fingaz can be found in dozens of movies from this era, anything from “Clockers”, to “Dead Presidents”, to “Strapped”, to “The Addiction”. Never playing lead roles, Onyx members showed the dreary parts they played on “All We Got Iz Us” could easily be incorporated into the movies and television.
June, 1998, Onyx finally released their third album, “Shut ‘Em Down”. After many delays and track changes, the album was released with a huge underground and commercial success. Underground Onyx fans loved the B-sides to the album, and the radio listeners loved “React” and “Shut ‘Em Down featuring DMX” just as much as they loved “Slam” five years earlier. The sales and even the style were in between that of the first two albums. A true Onyx and underground hip-hop fans dream. Hip-hop at the time was for many fanatics an all time low. Puff Daddy, Camron, Mase, Jay-Z and other commercial “emcees” were infesting the air waves and hardcore hip-hop wasn’t getting airplay. Onyx was a breath of fresh air for a genre gone sour.
Fast forward to 2002 and Onyx is still keeping it real. One of the very few hardcore hip hop acts even left in the industry, Onyx knows being in a class of their own means success on so many levels. The true fans of hip-hop readily await to hear what Onyx is bringing this year and in the future… and they will not be let down.
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