18 June, 2014@12:27 pm
If you came of age in the 90’s golden era, you know that Onyx’s introductory album Bacdafucup was a hip-hop staple. Sticky Fingaz, Fredro Starr, Sonny Seeza and Big DS (R.I.P) were angry, spastic and totally captivating on the mic. Subsequent albums became soundtracks for New York City ruffnecks and ruffneck sympathizers across the world. It’s been two years since their last release; Cold Case Files Vol. 2, a follow up to the first compilation of previous hits and lost tracks. But is their new material enough to hold today’s listening audience?
The 14-track album titled Wakedafucup; produced entirely by the Snowgoons, dropped quietly on March 18th and stayed true to Onyx’s history of making music for the streets. In a time where most albums are made for the clubs, a handful of tracks hit just the spot to offer refreshment. For one, “We Don’t Fucking Care” featuring A$AP Ferg adding some new school flavor and Sean Price doing what he does best. Haunting keys, brooding bass and crisp drums make this one a standout.
“Buc Bac” feels dated due to the group’s signature call and response, gun loving chants. Meanwhile, they show up with the same gritty voices and topics from over two decades ago. Take “Hustlin Hours” featuring MakemPay – albeit laced with sharp cuts and classic boom bap, one wonders if an ode to hustling is necessary in 2014.
A tribute to famed New York City nightclub the Tunnel, featuring Cormega and Papoose, proves touching with a reference to the late great Baby Chris; “Chris Lighty ran the Tunnel, he was the man.” Vivid descriptions of the club that had a culture of its own are great for reminiscing if you were of age during that time.
“Wakedafucup” reprises the album intro as a call to the rappers of today to loosen up their clothes and stop dancing. It may be a valid argument that “Hip Hop needs a facelift,” but Onyx does not convince us they are the surgeons for the job. What’s more, the “hip hop needs to be saved” concept is overdone and inoperative. These outdated sentiments ignore and alienate current talents who manage to incorporate the substance past generations are used to, yet still innovate fresh.
The next series of songs taper off in energy; “Dirty Cops” ft Snak the Ripper, “Boom” with more precise scratching and “Trust No Bitch,” where Sticky enacts Common’s “I Used to Love Her” method, equating the bitch in question to hip-hop. That is, until “One for the Team” where Reks in the assist spits what might be the best verse on the entire album. But what also stands out is Sticky’s confession that hip-hop keeps calling him. Out of the other group members, he’s the one to believe. “Turndafucup” picks up the pace as the final track, with everyone in pocket sounding like the Onyx of old, but it’s not enough to catapult the project to greatness.
This album starts off strong but wanes by the middle and plays like a reach for nostalgia. Snowgoons don’t disappoint, offering beats that prove they’ve studied the greats. But while there are some bright moments, it seems the wake up call should be for Onyx. Though lyrically sound, the ferocity they’ve displayed in the past is missing and their subject matter has failed to evolve. Still, amidst the lackluster there’s a little fight left in Sticky. Wakedafucup would have fared better as a shorter album, allowing Sticky to shine.
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