Monday, 27 September 2010

Onyx live on Russell Simmons's Phat Jam in '93

Since Onyx's performance of Throw Ya Gunz on The Word still hasn't shown up on Youtube yet, I guess these'll have to do for now :

I saw Onyx live back in 1993 or 1994 and, while the crowd weren't going ham slamdancing like that, the show I witnessed had the surreal sight of feathers floating around after stanley-knife toting rudeboys had slashed people's bubble-gooses and moments of sheer pandemonium after someone licked a shot in the air. Okay, it was probably a flare gun on some Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club type shit, but it was a gun nontheless, and just like Rocky 3 and 4 ruined boxing for me early on in life because no match I've watched has been anywhere near as thrilling as Rocky Balboa versus Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago, that Onyx show spoiled all future rap shows I've attended because how can you possibly top such excitement?

So, it's about that time of the year to dust off those classic NYC wintertime rap albums such as Liquid Swords, The War Report, and Onyx's perennially underrated All We Got Iz Us again. Onyx's sophomore effort was a far more sombre, ocassionally conscious affair than their enjoyable but gimmicky debut as it dealt with the tribulations attendant on men living in a bleak megalopolis caught up in a tug of war between endless crack-related crime and Giuliani's "Zero Tolerance" policy, which found Sticky Fingaz reacting by delivering one of those heroic super-m.c-in-a-group performances a la Puba on One For All, Ren on Efil4zaggin, or Scarface on Till Death Do Us Part (the "Light skinned and a shame, cuz way back in the day they raped my grandmother's mother's when they was enslaved" part in Getto Mentalitee shits on Mos Def's entire career) that almost makes you forgive him for getting Apollo Creeded by cracka skater dude Simon Woodstock live on MTV in the late nineties (in the pre-Youtube/WSHH/OnSmash era, this was as close as we'd get to a bruised-up Cam'Ron in short-shorts in the backyard of his Florida bungalow or Beanie loved-up on ecstasy getting all touchy-feely with Peedi Crakk and whispering sweet-nothings into his ear style video). No beef, doe, Sticky - enjoyed your work as Kern Little in The Shield, and you dropped three classic singles in '95 from All We Got Iz Us :

Onyx - Last Dayz

Onyx - All We Got Iz Us (Evil Streets)

Onyx - Walk In New York

Two criticisms I've seen levelled at All We Got Iz Us are that the suicide trope of the album was a cynical post-Kurt Cobain ploy to further tap into the white rock market they'd previously exploited with the Biohazard collaboration on the Judgement Night soundtrack after the commercial success of Slam (Ayo Fredro - Ice Cube already used that "suicidal like Nirvana" line on Natural Born Killaz, son), and that the whole theme of internal implossions caused by external metropolitan forces was gaffled from Organized Konfusion's Stress : The Extinction Agenda album, but I don't find either critique particularly troubling. My personal bugbears with the LP would be that a song like Live Niguz doesn't really gel and the album is lacking a couple more headbusters which sound akin to being drizen insane by the shadows which lurk in the mind at night after days spent dwelling Hades (or sumfin') like Betta Off Dead on there. I get that Shout was a more commerical attempt to build on the crossover success of Slam and Id be lying if I were to pretend that I've never mock-stagedived onto household furniture when jamming it, but, eh, I'm not quite sure interpolating choruses from a Tears For Fears masterpiece gives off the vibe of claustrophobia caused by urban desolation they were going for in the same manner that Betta Off Dead does, even if it was a throwback to Craig G :

Onyx - Betta Off Dead

Onyx missed a trick on their debut where the best beat on the whole album ended up as the intro, but they didn't repeat such a rookie move here since they had another brilliant scene-setting intro in Life Or Death and then seven songs in they made it into a proper song with Betta Off Dead; best joint on there and possibly the best thing they ever did. Shout outs to Chloe Mafia, btw : she's actually darker than my man Sticky Fingaz and if she ever puts out an album it'll probably be better than Black Trash : The Autobiography Of Kirk Jones.


The CritIQ said...

(Rap Trivia): The course of rap could have run very differently. If it hadn't been for Common Sense's uni commitments, Jam Master Jay would've signed/broken him and not, as it turned out, Onyx.

MF said...


Things could've been so different : Common might've ended up in The Shield like Sticky or Moesha like Fredro, and Sticky and Fredro might've ended up taking bit parts in movies like American Gangster.

Mr Bozack said...

Quality - never seen Sticky's ruck before.

Reckon Derek and Jamar both more than held their own on One For All btw.

MF said...

Oh definately (just like Big Mike more than held his own on Till Death Do Us Part), but Puba is just unfuckwithable on that album.

hl said...

"Light skinned and a shame, cuz way back in the day they raped my grandmother's mother's when they was enslaved" part in Getto Mentalitee shits on Mos Def's entire career

^Riigghhtt. Sure it does.

tray said...

^^ And just like Dre actually holds his own on Efil4zaggin. He would never rap with half as much fluidity again. Of course, he also sounds unconvincing, ridiculous, and scared of his own tough talk throughout, but I enjoy his particular brand of unconvincingness.

MF said...

Yeah, one of Dre's strengths was somehow making awkwardness sound...badass.

HL, granted I've never been much of a Mos Def fan, but Sticky's verse on that song tells a European cracka such as myself much more about black history than all of Mos Def's supposedly conscious records.

brad said...

purse snatchaz and the remix of it with method man and different beat were got an mp3 of the remix?

Mr Bozack said...

Potential post - "Rappers in groups who were destined to go solo/blow up/become annoyingly ubiquitous" etc - there must be millions apart from the obv ones like Kool Keith, Bus-a-Bus etc.

Actually, you've prob already done it.

MF said...

I always thought Dres was holding back Mista Lawnge from becoming a solo star.

MF said...

Bradley : Onyx remix

brad said...

cheers, mucka