December 12, 2017

Reader Review: Sticky Fingaz - Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones (May 22, 2001)




(So today I'm running another of the Reader Reviews submitted fifty years ago, this one from Savion, who tackles the solo debut from Onyx's Sticky Fingaz, Blacktrash: The Autobiography of KirkJones. Note: this write-up will not discuss any plot details, as Savion chose instead to comment on just the music and not the overall narrative, so there aren't any spoilers to be found, unless you count song titles. If anyone wishes to discuss the story itself, use the comments section. Enjoy!)

“What’s the last verse you was always waiting for? / Well he solo now, you ain’t gotta wait no more!”

Two and a half years after the rap group Onyx blewthefucup with Bacdafucup, they released a CLASSIC known as All We Got Iz Us. If you haven’t heard that masterpiece from the trio of Fredro Starr, Sonny Seeza, and Sticky Fingaz, then I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing with your life. On that album, Sticky turns in amazing performances, and Fredro becomes a monster behind the boards. They followed that up with Shut Em’ Down, but by that point their label, Def Jam Records, had lost all faith in Onyx, the trio's antagonistic formula declining in effectiveness since their debut. This explains how the knuckleheads ended up in the Koch Graveyard for their fourth studio album, Bacdafucup Pt. II (which, at least they didn’t call it All We Got Iz Us Pt. II, is all I’m saying). Throughout their time in the spotlight, it was crystal clear that Sticky Fingaz was the most charismatic and had the most potential of the three, so it made sense for Sticky to strike out on a solo career. Thus, his debut, Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, was born.

Let me just expand a bit on how underrated of an emcee the man is. On All We Got Is Us, he was at his peak, which could be seen as the equivalent to a Hell On Earth Prodigy or a Midnight Marauders Phife Dawg, contributing a hot verse every fucking time. Eminem was at his peak on The Marshall Mathers LP, but Sticky effortlessly bodied both Eminem and RBX (whom I don’t personally like) on “Remember Me” (a reject from Dr. Dre's The Chronic 2000 sessions). But back to All We Got Iz Us: Sticky's verse on “Purse Snatchaz” is up there with the Rebel INS’s verse on “Triumph”. I know you fuckers are familiar with that verse.

His solo debut, Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, is a concept album built around the story of an ex-con who tries to adapt to life as a free man while finding himself falling back into old habits. Naturally, as with all concept albums, this resulted in very few tracks being created for radio airplay, which meant low sales numbers, and the label, Universal Records, ultimately dropping his ass. In hindsight, I respect Sticky’s creative direction, but it’s a damn shame: All We Got Iz Us also didn't move as many units as Onyx's debut and had no radio-friendly singles. Most of the time I don’t fuck with the radio singles, but I believe that rappers have to find that balance between songs for the hip hop heads and appealing to a broader audience if they are striving for success and career longevity. This is a mistake that many artists have made and continue to make to this day (although the rules have certainly changed).

Sometimes I like to defy the laws of circular motion and go off into tangents, so I apologize in advance.

1. INTRO
*yawns*

2. COME ON
Yeah! It’s a good sign when the album’s first song has a hard-hitting beat: nobody wants a heartfelt song to set off an album from a hardcore rap artist. That’s how “Streets Raised Me” fucked up my perception of Mobb Deep's Murda Muzik, even though I liked that song. Sticky’s lyrics are also as volatile as ever.

3. MY DOGZ IZ MY GUNZ (FEAT. BLACK CHILD)
Black Child’s hook is weak, but overall this track manages to carry the momentum from the previous one, with a decent beat crafted by three no-namers. On here, Sticky Fingaz uses dogs as a metaphor for guns. Songs like these interest me: the concept is quite similar to Nas' “I Gave you Power”. He sounds pretty good, although a couple of his rhymes are a tad questionable (“Rob you doggystyle with the gun in your back!”?).

4. NOT DIE'N
Sometimes when Sticky raps, he reminds me of a rodent trying to get out of its cage. It’s almost as though he purposely limits himself lyrically, because we all know from That Classic Onyx Album I Won't Name Again that he is capable of crafting much better bars. This song was alright.

5. KIRK JONES CONSCIENCE
Skits make for worse filler than actual bad music.

6. MONEY TALKS (FEAT. RAEKWON)
Hey, let's throw Raekwon on the hook, that’s a great idea, right? “Money Talks” is the album's first misfire. Our host's rhymes sound contrived, and the drums on the instrumental (provided by Rockwilder, proving that he has worked with more artists than just Redman and Christina Aguilera) are terribly dated, but I’m most annoyed with the waste of the Chef on here. I mean, the man is known for his storytelling raps, and as such, should fit onto a concept album seamlessly, but to limit him to the chorus? Really? This is almost as bad as when Xzibit asked Ras Kass to provide a hook for one of the tracks on Man vs. Machine. Now that was some useless shit.

7. WHY (FEAT. STILL LIVIN & X-1)
I usually skip past this song. Sticky Fingaz attempts a Notorious B.I.G. “Gimme the Loot”-esque track with assistance from his late brother X-1 (R.I.P.), which ultimately doesn’t work. The hook is somewhat weirdly memorable, though.

8. OH MY GOD
Sticky plays the role of God (a couple of rappers have done this before, the first I can think of being Joe Budden) and co-produces this song. I appreciate how he seems to have his sticky fingaz all over the structure of this album. The hook could have been better, though: if I don’t say anything about the hook or whichever song I'm writing about during the rest of this review, just assume it’s fucking weak. This song is quite goofy.

9. STATE VS. KIRK JONES (FEAT. CANIBUS, RAH DIGGA, REDMAN, SUPERB, SCARRED 4 LIFE, & GUESS WHO)
This courtroom trial-as-rap song wins the award for the most random collection of artists to ever collaborate on a hip hop track. Seriously? Why does it take Sticky Fingaz (of all people) to convince Canibus to actually say something worthwhile? And Superb? The same dude from Ghostface Killah's Supreme Clientele? The fuck? What kind of an alias is Guess Who? Who the fuck is Scarred 4 Life? Does this track classify as a posse cut? Why won’t anyone answer these questions? Redman proves himself to be the best rapper on the song (and the album), as Sticky himself sits this one out in order to further the story along.

10. KIRK JONES CONSCIENCE II
For my money, the album that has the most useless skits ever goes to Method Man’s Tical 2000: Judgement Day.

11. BABY BROTHER (FEAT. DAVE HOLLISTER)
This song reminded me of “Black Girl Lost” by Nas. I don’t have a brother, but I do have a younger sister, so I can relate. I don't ever really expect Sticky Fingaz to go the sweet route, but he proves his versatility.

12. CHEATIN'
Another dated Rockwilder beat, and another misogynistic rap song in general, but I guess it’s worth a listen if you have a girlfriend and you're so unobservant that you need Sticky Fingaz to point out whether she could be cheating. But if I want love advice, I’d turn to Ghostface Killah, thanks. Or if I’m really upset, Kurupt. (Yikes.)

13. WHAT CHU WANT (FEAT. X-1)
Neither Sticky nor his brother says anything worth hearing on “What Chu Want”, a song that it took four producers to craft for some reason. Have any of you heard the Onyx project #Wakedafucup? Now that’s some hot shit. Sonny Seeza is absent throughout, but the combination of Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Starr over banging Snowgoons production makes it one of the better albums to come out in 2014, a year when celebrating the twentieth anniversary of a classic is much more enjoyable than listening to the shit that was actually brand new. (I left that sentence in just as a marker of how long it took me to run this review. Anyone else that sent me a submission: believe in your dreams, kids.) By far the weakest song on here so far.

14. GHETTO (FEAT. PETEY PABLO)
I once got into an argument on Facebook with some people who believed that rappers shouldn’t be in this rap shit if they didn't have a deprived childhood. That is some bullshit to me. In fact, it bores me nowadays when rappers only talk about their struggles. Be original. Anyway, “Ghetto” doesn't amount to much, and Petey Pablo also appeared.

15. WHAT IF I WAS WHITE (FEAT. EMINEM)
What a subtle song title. Eminem appears to be returning a favor to Sticky for his own appearance on The Marshall Mathers LP's “Remember Me?”, on which, let me remind you, our host dominated. I didn’t find Eminem to be more of a waste on the hook than Raekwon, but only using him on a chorus is still strange: I guess Sticky didn't want to be murdered on his own shit either. Our host coasts on here lyrically, and the beat isn’t all that.

16. SISTER I'M SORRY (FEAT. CHOCLATT)
I find it hysterical that all of the misogyny displayed on the album up to this point leads up this ode to females. This is like Sticky’s version of 2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up”, so if you liked that song you’ll like this one, and I like this. Way to put a positive spin on there, Sticky!

17. GET IT UP (FEAT. FREDRO STARR)
The only single from the project, and it was a minor hit, which means that Universal Records branded the album a failure. Also, the misogyny is back, in case you missed it. A lot of these beats that were crafted in the early part of the millennium really don’t hold up over time. That being said, this song is alright, but Fredro’s presence is wasted, as were most of the other features on this album. Where the hell is the mandatory I’m-a-solo-artist-now-but-I-still-got-love-for-my-crew posse cut with the three base Onyx members (and possibly X-1)? I get that Fredro was busy with his own solo album Firestarr, but both Sticky and X-1 appear on his shit, so there's really no excuse.

18. KIRK JONES CONSCIENCE III
You know, I actually liked the skits on the Onyx albums, now that I think about it.

19. LICKEN OFF IN HIP HOP (FEAT. COLUMBO THE SHINING STAR)
I like this song. Sticky has some hot bars here, and the beat was decent, too. This wouldn’t have made for a bad outro, either.

20. WONDERFUL WORLD
However, fuck this shit! The only thing you must know about “Wonderful World” (a cover of sorts of Louis Armstrong's “What A Wonderful World”, no seriously, that's what it is) is that the chorus samples some Raekwon vocals from “Incarcerated Scarfaces”. What a fucking horrible way to end the album. (There is a longer version that Universal wouldn't allow Sticky Fingaz to place on the album, for anyone interested in alternate-universe takes, which I would assume is most of you two, if you frequent a hip hop blog where the author constantly bitches about the “what-if” of it all. I believe it can be found online, but I haven't actually looked for it, so.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, Sticky Fingaz the solo artist shows sparks of potential, but most of the time he seems unfocused, making it apparent that he decided to record a solo concept album just because he could. I wish Sticky had used the opportunity to build on his own lyrical prowess, maybe filling in some blanks with occasional posse cuts and some A-list production (only half of the beats on here really work), but some aspects of the story work pretty well: our host's involvement in Hollywood must be rubbing off on him. Although the guest list on here could be seen as misleading (as Eminem, Raekwon, and Fredro Starr only provide hooks, and Sticky doesn't actually interact with Canibus, Redman, and Rah Digga), I still think Blacktrash: TheAutobiography of Kirk Jones is an improvement over Shut 'Em Down.

BUY OR BURN? I own this album, and I don’t regret buying it, but I don’t think you should waste your money on it, unless you’re an Onyx groupie. Instead, I think all of you motherfuckers should go and grab All We Got Iz Us immediately.

BEST TRACKS: “Come On”; “State vs. Kirk Jones”; “Licken off In Hip Hop”

-Savion

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? You know what to do.)

14 comments:

  1. Interesting that you hate Money Talks, as I found it to be a definite highlight of Black Trash. Agreed on your gripe with the relegation of motherfucking Raekwon the Chef to mere hook duties, even though I LOVE the wordy hooks he and the original Terror Squad used to write.

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    1. Yeah. It’s just that if Rae was relegated to hook duties for Can It All Be So Simple & M.E.T.H.O.D Man things just wouldn’t be the same.

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  2. this is actually one of my personal favorite hip-hop concept/opera albums alongside tricks of the shade, deltron 3030 and a prince among thieves

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  3. This was one of the better guest reviews Max has run.

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  4. The remix of "Get It Up" is pretty dope, too bad it didn't make the album. Also check some bootleg/mixtape cuts like his take on "Jackin' For Beats" updated for 1999.

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    1. I agree but I believe it was made after the album was released (not unlike the recent Hood Go Bang Remix by Wu Tang without the Clan), it’s Sticky’s verse on that remix where I quoted the first line from my review which pretty much summed up the birth of this album. And Jacking For Beats is also my shit.

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  5. This is getting long..

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  6. Can you review DAMN now?

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  7. review wakedafukup and against all authorithies, bro

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