August 15, 2010

Onyx - Bacdafucup (March 30, 1993)

I'm about to make some of my readers feel old: The rap group Onyx released their breakthrough (and biggest) single "Slam" seventeen years ago.  Seventeen!  And they said that hip hop would never last.

But let me rewind a bit.  Newer hip hop heads will notice that there are four people on the cover to Onyx's Def Jam debut, Bacdafucup (and no, I still have no idea how they were able to release an album with that name on a major label in the United States).  "But there are only three guys in Onyx", you may say to yourself while staring at your computer screen between sips of your coffee and checking your other tabs to see if your deviant porn sites have fully loaded yet.  "What the hell is going on?" 

Well, before Onyx became best known for "Slam" and being the starting ground for the acting careers of two of its three members, they were a quartet.  More importantly, though, before they were a foursome, there were only three guys in the crew, although not the three you're probably thinking of.  Onyx started life as a trio consisting of Fredro Starr, Suave (better known today as Sonee Seeza or Sonsee, as he can't settle on just one rap name), and Big DS.  This incarnation released a twelve-inch single, "Ah, And We Do It Like This", on Profile Records in 1990, which was received well enough for a song that most of you two have likely never heard of.  (Sadly, I have yet to actually sit down and ingest this song, so I don't have any opinion on it, but I understand that the track has a much jazzier feel than anything else in the group's catalog.) 

In 1991, Onyx had planned on presenting themselves to Run DMC's Jam Master Jay for a possible deal with Def Jam Records, but only Fredro was available; the other two were out of state handling business.  Not wanting to walk into a meeting that could potentially change his life without backup of some sort, Fredro asked his cousin to accompany him.  His cousin ended up being Sticky Fingaz (convenient, that), and with the promise that Sticky would be incorporated into the group, the newly-signed Onyx quickly churned out the buzz single "Throw Ya Gunz" and their debut Bacdafucup in 1993, executive produced by JMJ.

Although there are four artists on the cover, only three seem to appear with any consistency: Big DS only provides sporadic verses, although he fits right in with the crew's mission statement: hip hop you can rob people to.  My understanding is that Big DS spent a bit of time in the clink during the recording of Bacdafucup (the concept of breaking him out of jail, as opposed to simply bailing him out, is bandied about during the outro of "Throw Ya Gunz"), but he was still upset at his lack of screen time, and left the group during the recording of their follow-up, All We Got Iz Us.  That's why you may only believe Onyx to be a threesome.  (Sadly, Big DS passed away in 2003 due to complications from cancer.  R.I.P.)

With the surprise success of Bacdafucup ("Slam" even entered regular rotation on MTV, which helped contribute to the eventual platinum plaque the group earned for the project) and a well-received guest spot on the rap-rock concept album-slash-soundtrack to the film Judgment Night, Onyx was poised for success.  Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Starr even managed to take their personas to Hollywood; the former is known for his roles on The Shield, Blade: The Series (playing the Wesley Snipes role), and, um, Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood, while Fredro worked his magic opposite Brandy on the hit television show Moesha, while also turning in a good performance in Sunset Park and not bringing shame to his family in Save The Last Dance.  (Sonee Seeza preferred to keep to himself in the background, although he has, apparently, recently released a solo album without the help of his friends, although the three continue to work together occasionally.)

Reader beware: some of the spelling choices on Bacdafucup may make your head spin. 

A fairly useless rap album intro. Is there any other kind? Yes. Yes there is.

On their first actual song, Onyx comes out swinging, taking all prisoners, and abusing several other clich├ęs. The production work (from Chyskillz and Jam Master Jay) sneaks up on you: before you know it, your head is nodding to the argument that these four men craft against the concept introduced in the song's very title. To use some old-school parlance, everybody on here comes correct, especially Sticky Fingaz at the end, as he convincingly plays “the n---a in your nightmares” with just enough precaution to still attract a mainstream audience. I also liked how the chorus completely changes into something else entirely midway through the track. This shit was much nicer than I remembered.

The Onyx legacy has certainly gained a lot of mileage off of this one song: hip hop heads will notice a gaggle of sound bites that have been used in other rap songs (most notably Sticky's inadvertent contribution to The Notorious B.I.G.'s “Gimme The Loot” and Fredro Starr's line that ended up as the “chorus” to Jeru the Damaja's “Come Clean”). It is a good song to sample from, though, and the hook will get even the most hardened wallflower excited. And yes, I realize that last sentence has a double meaning. Grow up, you two.

The first misfire. The hook on here is awfully weak (although it fits the criteria for a call-and-response-type chorus for use at live shows, which I suppose was the point), and none of the lyrical contributions are memorable; these guys sound as if they're going through the motions, filling empty space so that Bacdafucup can be considered a full-length album and not an EP. The Chyskillz beat was alright, but it wasn't enough. Moving on...

Onyx clearly came up with a song title and wrote a hook, but then forgot to record an actual song, turning this into an entirely skippable interlude.

Okay, now we're back on track. Over the same drums Muggs used for Cypress Hill's “How I Could Just Kill A Man”, these bal-hedz run wild, with Suave, Fredro, and Big DS sprinting ahead Sticky Fingaz with their animated deliveries (Sticky was trapped at the starting gate, as he was unable to mask his disbelief at seeing a girl with a bald head). A bit more high-concept than, say, “Bichasn---z”, but a good track nonetheless.

Please refer to my comments from “Bust Dat Ass”. But hey, at least these guys are aware of their own limitations, right?

It's rare that an outsider can simply read a song title and know exactly what kind of track it will be. (I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a compliment or not). Onyx's self-proclaimed “song for the hoes” has a decent enough old-school beat (although back in 1993, I'm sure it was considered downright trendy), dominated by some hard drums and the faintest hint of melody, but the lyrics, oddly, don't focus on the quest for blac vaginas enough. Apparently Onyx can't be bothered with a standard sex rap, but they certainly make sure to use the term “cunts” before the song abruptly ends. There's no real reason to listen to this track more than once, if that, as it isn't even funny.


Attempts to be one of the darker tracks on Bacdafucup, but this song takes a turn for the absurd with its corny-ass hook, on which I would normally praise Onyx's sheer audacity at adapting a nursery rhyme if it weren't so goddamn forced and, subsequently, goofy. Lyrically, everybody involved manages to sound convincing enough, but once they start chanting the hook, all hope is lost. Which is a shame, as the rest of this song had potential.

This song could have made more of an impact had it been sequenced after the introductory track, as there is no need to introduce yourselves to the listener when they've already listened to over half of your debut album. There wasn't a whole lot to recommend on here. So let's just skip ahead to Onyx's signature song, shall we?

12. SLAM
This is probably the only Onyx song that the majority of you two are familiar with. Everybody and their grandmother knows the hook to this track, but unlike other massive crossover singles (such as Cypress Hill's “Insane In The Brain”, House of Pain's “Jump Around”, or, more recently, M.O.P.'s “Ante Up (Robbin' Hoodz Theory)”), almost nobody knows the actual fucking lyrics (unless you're an Onyx historian, of course). This bit of trivia lends “Slam” more depth than the average radio hit: although none of these guys actually say anything important, the illusion is prevalent enough that you actually hear a completely different song when you play this alone in your car than you would when at the club, getting drunk while your girl dances to the half-hour of old-school hip hop that the deejay throws in to appease the older audience (sigh). And that last sentence was somehow supposed to be a compliment.

It sounds as though Onyx has simply lost steam. The beat (made by a committee) is simple and plain, and the tales of various robberies ring hollow, as all of the conviction behind the voices of these guys seems to have been left behind during the studio sessions for “Slam”.

Another interlude that consists of a fairly catchy hook and not much else. More rap albums would benefit from this bizarre form of self-restraint.

This just sounds like generic Onyx song #4080, although I am thankful that overly wordy choruses aren't part of the crew's repertoire (yet). While there was nothing objectionable about the track overall, there was also nothing memorable to be heard. I also question why the skit tacked on at the end wasn't given its own track like all of the other interludes on Bacdafucup. Hmm...

The goofy singing-slash-chanting during the hook (at least before it abruptly changes midway through – I appreciate that the members of Onyx don't feel imprisoned by the constraints of traditional songwriting) made me laugh. Unfortunately, that's the only thing that this song had going for it. Well, the Chyskillz beat was also okay, I guess, but that's all.

17. DA NEX N---Z
For the final real song on Bacdafucup, our hosts calm down more than a little bit to relate a joint take of a girl cheating on them. When not hopped up on 1993's equivalent of Red Bull, these guys actually sound fairly polished behind the mic, and although the story doesn't really go anywhere (they resort to repeating the hook over and over again in lieu of character development), it at least helps wind things down for the evening.

A typical rap album outro. And we're done.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you picked up Bacdafucup and didn't know any better, you'd probably believe Onyx to be nothing more than an M.O.P. knockoff for those reading at a fourth-grade level, as nearly every song title is a spellchecker's worst nightmare. However, Sticky Fingaz, Fredro Starr, Sonee Seeza, and Big DS are all deft at moving the crowd (okay, not so much Fredro yet, and Sticky blows everyone else out of the water with his psychotic act, which is actually much more rational than he would like), and with Bacdafucup they have crafted a good number of songs that still do just that even today. Not ever song works, there are too many interludes, and some of you two may grow weary of being yelled at for the better part of an hour, but with Bacdafucup, Onyx created their own niche (hip hop for the mosh pits) and perfected it in one fell swoop. More importantly, a lot of this still holds up, which is more than you can say about a lot of albums from 1993, so that was nice.

BUY OR BURN? Although some of the tracks on here are more embarrassing than entertaining, enough of this album clicks that a purchase is recommended. Throw it on during your next get-together, or mix a couple of its tracks into your next deejay set, and you won't be disappointed by the reaction, either from your guests or from your own damn self.

BEST TRACKS: “Throw Ya Gunz”; “Slam”; “Atak Of Da Bal-Headz”; “Bichasn---z”



  1. About time you put on these loudmouths.

    The review perfectly matches my own thoughts, but in a more advanced and informative manner.
    I prefer All We Got Iz Us though, as I heard that album in full first .. but I still love this shit.

  2. found this online a while back but have yet to give it a spin. Ill probably give it a listen since you seem to recommend it.

  3. this is a fuckin classic, I think you go too hard with this, Ill wait for All We Got Iz Us (but Bacdafucup still better for me)

    were waitin for this review since start readin HHID !!

    mustbuy mustbuy mustbuy mustbuy

  4. Mr. AquariusAugust 15, 2010

    Nice review. Made me pull out my Judgement Night soundtrack as the Onyx/Biohazard song was my favorite off that CD. You should look into that album in the near future.

  5. This alubm was the shit. when i bump this in my ride, it makes me wanna beat someone up and steal there lunch money. Good review Max. Also, them skits in the album are useless

  6. Max, I'm SO glad that you finally reviewed an album I actually care for. And you did it justice. "Throw Ya Gunz" is a fuckin' classic!

    And "Bitchasbootleguz" is one of the most hilarious skits ever.

  7. great job max, not to get to Return of the Boom Bap and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

  8. Commenting to prevent future Busta Rhymes reviews...

    Anyway, I like this album but I always though that "All We Got Iz Us" was their best album.

    Nice review!

  9. Maks, ahm reelee dizappoyntid n yoo, ut leezt ya kudd hef rittun ya revyoo n ebonyx n getcha tuypin rite, yooza bichassuka. Fukk dis syte!

  10. I like you taking time on your articles! Realy dope!

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  11. UK Real Hip HopAugust 16, 2010

    FLX - Please tell me that's not how you usually write and you were taking on some sort of strange persona?!

    Anyway good review Max.

  12. 17 years you say...seem like only yesterday hedz was wilding, out chorussin "ta, taa, dah" when the dj threw slam on ... funny you never mentioned "strapped" the bokeem woodbine debut movie had bacdafuc up all over the soundtrack as well as sticky and them having bit parts... wtf happent to Onyx the Birthstone Kid?
    Large Up Onyx.RIP DS

  13. djbosscrewwreckaAugust 17, 2010

    I'm gonna stick my head above the parapet - I don't rate this album. I know it's supposed to be part of their appeal, but there is too much monotonous shouting on this album, and it's a chore to listen to it all. To pull this kind of thing off you need to be wittier and have slightly more interesting instrumentals. Throw Ya Gunz is classic, but a lot of this album is like a poor man's MOP. Shut 'Em Down is better - same level of aggression but better instrumentals and more polished emceeing.

  14. All We Got Iz Us is classic.

    Coming back to this after that album makes this album sound childish, doo-doo.

  15. mop is the poor mans onyx, you got it backwards

    bosscrewrecka's grey matter all over the parapet...lying prone with his bichass skirt pullt up

  17. AnonymousJuly 30, 2011

    cant believe you didn't like "here n now" it worth a listen just for stickys verse alone!!

  18. you just damn wrong about shifftee cuase it'e the fucking anthem

    too-too doo-doo doo-doo too

  19. On "Come Clean", it was Sonsee. NOT Fredro. Fredro shows up on the extremely underrated "Inherit the World" song off the extremely underrated album "From Where???" by Skillz

  20. A lot of people forget that it was Onyx, Naughty By Nature & Das EFX that led the East Coast Renaissance.