After releasing their third album, Shut 'Em Down, in 1998, something goofy happened to the Queens-based rap crew Onyx: they kind of fell apart, but in a successful way. Even though Shut 'Em Down wasn't exactly what one would refer to as "popular", it had its moments (including helping the career of a then-struggling rapper named 50 Cent, who would later turn his back on the group), and it opened doors for two-thirds of the band, Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Starr, that wouldn't have been available to them otherwise: not only did both rappers opt into solo deals (Fredro landed at Koch, while Sticky ended up on Atlantic, unsurprising since he's been the breakout star of Onyx anyway and had the critical acclaim to justify a major label's interest), but they also took their talents to Hollywood, securing acting jobs left and right, keeping up their own public profiles while Sonee Seeza, best known as "the other guy in Onyx", remained in the background, which is what he was prone to doing, which is pretty much the exact same thing I write about the guy every time I come back around to review an Onyx album.
In the meantime, Onyx's days with Def Jam were over, as the label went in a different direction, namely one that didn't include them on the roster. Nobody really noticed this at first: since Fredro and Sticky were still releasing new music, everyone just assumed that Onyx was still around. It wasn't until 2002, four years after their last release, that the world took note of Onyx's semi-forced retirement, ironically right at the point when they were attempting a comeback of sorts, with the financial backing of Fredro's label Koch (an independent label that specialized in signing acts who were no longer popular, for the most part) behind them.
In what has become a rather sad trend in our chosen genre, Onyx elected to force nostalgic feelings onto their audience by naming their fourth full-length release Bacdafucup Part II, billing it as a sequel to their debut album (three guesses as to what that one's called) and inadvertently drawing immediate comparisons to said debut album. (The album cover even echoes that of the debut, although only the three remaining members of Onyx are featured on Bacdafucup Part II: most people have long since forgotten that the late Big DS was a member of the crew when the debut dropped.) If you're the type of person who gets upset with Hollywood when they continue to release sequels and remakes instead of coming up with new ideas and concepts, then you're probably annoyed by how many rappers (including some that I actually like quite a bit) feel the need to go back to the well, but Onyx added insult to injury by also including the single "Slam Harder", which is, you guessed it, a sequel to their breakthrough song "Slam", a track that still bangs today, although in an extremely dated way.
Bacdafucup Part II managed to not find any significant audience: if pressed, even you may be forced to admit that you didn't remember this shit existed until right now. Sticky, Fredro, and Sonee saw their respective fates as recording artists passed through the hands of multiple labels, each one smaller and more independent than the last. I suppose this could be read as a cautionary tale for rappers who still act the exact same way even though they have gone way past their prime, but that would defeat the purpose of you having to read through the rest of this, so just forget I said that for now.
1. WHAT'S ONYX
It's kind of adorable how angry Fredro Starr sounds at the very beginning of “What's Onyx”, a non-punctuated question anyone who would actually purchase this shit would never fucking ask. I guess the trio felt the need to reintroduce themselves to the masses that would never know that this album existed in the first place, given that it was their first not released on Def Jam, maybe? I don't care. This shit was kind of stupid: Fredro and Sonee deliver unfocused bars (over a crappy, generic Davinci beat) that pretty much imply that Onyx is everybody, Onyx is a state of mind, whatever bullshit you choose to buy into, and Sticky Fingaz's grand return takes the form of a shitty hook that doesn't allow him to bring the crazy that we so desperately need. Fuck this glorified rap album intro.
2. BRING 'EM OUT DEAD
Far more successful at helping you two remember why you once gave a shit about Onyx is “Bring 'Em Out Dead”, whose very title is a calculated attempt to appease older hip hop heads who can recall the phrase within the context of the trio's career. Over a D.R. Period instrumental that is smart enough to lend a structure but stays out of the way otherwise, Firestarr and Sonee run through their quick boasts 'n bullshit, letting Sticky bring up the rear, which he does with ease, casually dropping violent threats like a flower girl at a rather antagonistic wedding. It's no “All We Got Iz Us” or anything, but it would have fit on Shut 'Em Down, which is good enough for my ears right now.
3. SLAM HARDER (FEAT. VERSATILE)
Onyx was only really away for four years, hardly enough time to justify sampling the fucking theme song from Welcome Back Kotter for their “comeback” single “Slam Harder”, a sequel to their breakthrough “Slam”, but allegedly harder. (At least they beat Pastor Ma$e to the punch, squandering the sample two years before Mason Betha would do the exact same for his own comeback. And who says hip hop has run out of ideas?) D.R. Period tries his best to make this shit sound like something he might have given the Mash Out Posse back in the day, but, well, let's be honest, how many of you motherfuckers remember what “Slam Harder” sounds like? The hook is embarrassing, Firestarr and Sonee sound uncomfortable, and, most confusingly, this doesn't sound anything like “Slam”, not even spiritually: the song is such a desperate cash grab that I saw it wearing skimpy outfits around my son's friends, and I don't even have a son. It's also censored: I understand that, due to an error in mastering, every copy of Bacdafucup Part II features the radio edit of “Slam Harder”. Great job, Koch: way to look out for your investment. At least Sticky Fingaz tries to inject some energy into his performance.
4. HOLD UP (FEAT. X-1 & HAVOC)
D.R. Period tags in Havoc (of “not being Cellblock P” fame) to both produce and lend a hook for “Hold Up”, a track that also sees Sonee sitting things out in favor of Sticky's little brother X-1 (R.I.P.). Because they couldn't all be bothered to share a room or something? Who the fuck knows. But “Hold Up” manages the unthinkable: it makes the listener completely forget about the abomination that was “Slam Harder”. Not because it's great or anything (it's merely alright: there's a reason Hav didn't just keep the beat for himself), but because it doesn't suck. Sticky's hushed performance is pretty potent, too, and the other guys “Hold Up” their end of the bargain. You won't skip over this one, but you won't really seek it out, either.
5. BANG 2 DIS
Shut 'Em Down wasn't perfect, or even a very good Onyx album in the grand scheme of things (All We Got Iz Us holds that title indefinitely, the way the crew's career is going), but even its lowest moments topped this horseshit, produced by Davinci (who handled the boards on the majority of Fredro's debut solo album). I imagine the only banging you two will do to this is an interaction between your head and the closest wall. Groan.
6. GANGSTA (FEAT. X-1 & PLATINUM PLUS)
Show of hands: who wanted to hear Onyx record a song for the ladies? That's what I figured, but they went and did it anyway. To be fair, this isn't (really) a love rap as much as it is an ode to their respective, anonymous down-ass chicks who they may or may not love, it isn't made abundantly clear. D.R. Period's instrumental is low-key, its relative minimalism (at least when compares to other Onyx songs) underlining how serious these guys are trying to be about their bottom bitches. The sung hook, from guest Platinum Plus, is a bit overkill, but hey, you have to hook the ladies somehow: why not with a less catchy take on Apache's “Gangsta Bitch”?
7. HOOD BEEF (FEAT. X-1)
Self's instrumental isn't bad, but I wish it hadn't been wasted on a song where the hook culminates in the shouting of the title, as it cheapens the whole effect. Unofficial fifth member X-1 pops up yet again, but that's okay, as I've never really had an issue with his cameos, but it is weird hearing him after knowing what happened five years later. Well, that got dark really quickly. Anyway, this could have been worse, but I wasn't really expecting better when I threw Bacdafucup Part II onto my iTunes playlist, so.
8. BIG TRUCKS
Huh? You're writing about vehicles now? The world I knew is no more.
9. CLAP AND ROB 'EM (FEAT. VERSATILE)
At least this subject matter makes much more sense, even if Ant Boogie's instrumental is too goddamn peppy for its own good. Which actually makes sense, as the hook mimics the chorus from Bobby Day's (or Michael Jackson's, depending on how old you are) “Rockin' Robin”, and yes, it's as corny as that sentence would imply. While I'm sure the various members of the group take great pride and even enjoy their work both clapping and robbing, I'm almost positive that this shit is not what they would use to hype themselves up. Did you ever want a rap song to make you feel like you had outgrown hip hop long ago? You're pretty close to that here.
10. ONYX IS BACK (FEAT. FELISA MARISOL)
Ten tracks into their “comeback” album, our hosts finally claim that “Onyx Is Back” by using the vocals of Felisa Marisol to rip off the chorus from The Fat Boys' “The Fat Boys Are Back”. That is a true statement: go listen to it for yourself. Or, better yet, if you're any sort of even a halfway-indifferent fan of Onyx's first three albums, it's probably better if you just ignore the fact that this is an actual real song that exists. The end of Sticky's verse was kind of funny, but even that isn't enough of a justification to suffer through this ridiculousness, which is so bad that Fredro appears to be channeling Puff Daddy in his rhymes. Again, this is a real song that exists.
11. FEEL ME
According to the introduction, “Feel Me” was recorded on September 11, 2001, although it isn't clear if this was recorded prior to the attacks on American soil or if it was intended as a gut reaction response. But here's what I do know: this was underwhelming as fuck. It isn't in good taste to criticize a song whose heart is in the right place, I know, but as a rap song, its first job is to entertain, and that just doesn't happen on here, possibly because the subject matter is far too serious and somber for Sticky, Sonee, and Fredro to feel truly comfortable. Davinci's instrumental appears to have cost a maximum of two dollars and a large curly fries, as well, so even though they meant well, all three members of the crew come across as insincere, but not through any fault of their own. True fact: “Feel Me” made me visibly upset when Firestarr chose to reinterpret his opening bars from “Last Dayz” during his verse.
12. WET THE CLUB
Bacdafucup Part II ends with a bizarre Scott Storch-produced attempt at a club banger, filled with shouting of random phrases and ad-libs, with the hook trying its best to mimic a poor man's Lil' Jon. “Wet The Club” not only closes out the album, it cements Onyx's legacy as a rap crew who overstayed their welcome, grasping at straws to remain relevant but ultimately failing miserably. This shit is terrible. I can't even put All We Got Iz Us on right now to cleanse my memory and my soul of Bacdafucup Part II because I have the knowledge that the same people who recorded All We Got Iz Us were also capable of this bullshit, and I'm just sad now.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Bacdafucup Part II is such a waste of plastic that I'm left wondering why any of the principles bothered to release it in the first place. The nihilist, hyperactive, almost cartoonishly violent environment Onyx had fostered for three consecutive albums has been brushed aside in favor of chasing then-current trends and embarrassing attempts to stay relevant in our constantly-evolving genre, resulting in the alienation of whatever fans they still had left in 2002. I realize that the Koch graveyard wasn't known for their deep pockets, so while some of the actual rapping managed to be decent (unsurprisingly, most of Sticky Fingaz's performances worked out), the musical backing is so fucking lacking that I can't even come up with another word that ends in "-acking". In short, the beats on here fucking suck. D.R. Period has put in much better work elsewhere, and apparently Onyx purchased the cheapest Scott Storch beat that has ever existed. A far cry from being the crew first discovered and mentored by the late Jam Master Jay. Shit like this makes you wonder why you should even bother with finishing what you started, but everyone needs a goal to aim toward, so Onyx will probably return to the site in a couple of years. Yay?
BUY OR BURN? The fuck do you think?
BEST TRACKS: Honestly, nothing here is really worth your time.
You can click here if you still want to read more about Onyx for some reason.