Why you should care
Twenty years ago, a hip-hop group ushered in an era called Da Mad Face Invasion. In 2014, they are back and madder than ever. Be warned.
Not everyone is in love with Pharrell Williams’ super sun-shiny pop hit, “Happy.”
“Whenever it comes on in the car, I… I… turn it off. I can’t listen to that shit, straight up,” says a Fredro Starr, with a razor sharp voice and quick laugh. He’s one-third of the boistorious and gritty Queens, New York rap trio, Onyx. Sticky Fingaz and Sonny Seeza complete the three (Seeza isn’t featured on the new album Wakedafucup. “Communication got lost over the years with Son. We never broke up. I still speak to Son See on the regular,” says Starr). A former fourth member, Big DS left the group after the first album and passed away from cancer in 2003.
The rhyming-wrecking crew formed in the late 80s in the South Jamaica section of Queens. Not far from where hip-hop legends Run-DMC grew up. So it was pretty much fate that the group ended up being discovered and produced by Run-DMC’s DJ, the now late-great Jam Master Jay.
Hitting the scene with trademark baldheads, military jackets, black hoodies and Timberland boots, they shifted the hip-hop landscape with brash, vulgar and unapologetic street raps. They defined the rebel culture of corner-standing youngsters from New York. Even their logo is mad. The group’s first official single on Def Jam Records was 1992’s “Throw Ya Gunz”. Politically correct they were not.
Now, straight from the acting world, Sticky and Starr have returned to music. Sparked by the recent 20th anniversary – in October 2013 – of their classic debut album, Bacdafucup, the fellas find themselves with a new album, (their 8th) this month. The project is produced entirely by German beatmakers, The SnowGoons, titled Wakedafucup. “We named the album Wakedafucup because hip-hop is sleeping. The hip-hop that we know is sleeping. This album is dedicated to boom bap hip-hop,” Starr explains. They stay true to their original gritty style with today’s underground banger, “We Don’t Fuckin’ Care” featuring hardcore rappers Sean Price and ASAP Ferg.
Yet even among all the shiny-and-new, when asked about a memorable show that the guys have had, Starr doesn’t hesitate with the answer: “There was a show that we did on the ’Survival of the Illest’ tour, I’ll never forget, it was in Trenton or Newark, New Jersey, 1996. And ’Last Dayz’ was like the joint at the time and I told everybody in the audience that, ‘Yo, we got the power to take over the world. We could do what the fuck we want to do.’ When I said that, the whole crowd just got vibrant. I had to stand back and say, ‘Yo, these are powerful words coming out my mouth.’ You can control people’s emotions with this shit. ’Last Dayz’ had [them] in a trance. It was a feeling of anger, angst…but people was letting go. It was a release, cus nobody got shot! From being on stage, the crowd reaction…throwing chairs, it was the illest five minute brawl I’d ever seen.”
Relive the moment with Onyx as they perform “Last Dayz” (around the 3:37 mark), which speaks on the ills of the world and the struggle of personal strain. See how the other side of “Happy” lives.