The inevitable commotion stemming from news that a critically-acclaimed group is releasing an album seemingly after their half-life has expired usually croaks in the cold light of reality. The stench of Goodie Mob’s 2013 Age Against The Machine is still fresh in the noses of those who were ravenous for just a whiff of Soul Food’s rich aroma. In 1993 when a couple of raw, superbad MCs collectively known as Onyx released the brilliant Bacdafucup, the reverberations that emanated were stretched far beyond the five boroughs. The world over was forced to reckon with the Queens natives brimming with lyrical intensity and specializing in all things deafening.
However, these ingenious moments are often the fruition of a swirling cocktail of variable factors that are almost impossible to replicate 20 years after the fact, more times than not resulting in sonically debauched C-sections. Instead, they are organic offspring knocked up from 20-somethings with booze, short-pockets, talent, and an inherent desire to prove to the masses that they can shut it down. But it’s 2014, and for Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz, this is 40. The platinum plaques are on the wall, the names are now in film and primetime television credits, and most importantly, the boys are no longer boys.
But Wakedafucup defies the precedent of disappointing reunion albums we have begrudgingly come to expect in recent years. Wisely electing to remain loyal to the style that made Bacdafucup and All We Got Iz Us quintessential gemstones, Onyx are not searching for new converts here, and thankfully there are no snippets of “Mike WiLL Made It or “Mustard On The Beat” preceding any of the tracks. The album is entirely produced by the German production team The Snowgoons, and with them Onyx have found a musical locomotive that is able to capture their gritty essence without trapping them in the ‘90s. The instrumentals on Wakedafucup are dynamic effusions of apocalyptic horns and hype-inducing bass that is only slightly less audible than the two thunderous MCs on the mic.
No worse for the absence of Sonny Seeza, the battery remains implanted in Fredro’s back, and he is electrifying on tracks like “One 4 Da Team,” but the true star Lebron-ing the show is Sticky Fingaz. Throughout the album, Stick seems to scream “remember me?” as the pre-Eminem/Lil Wayne/Rick Ross MC with reckless abandon for whatever comes out of his mouth. Lyrically he is just as sharp as ever, proving on songs like “Boom” that he is one of the all-time loudest MCs in both a literal and figurative sense (“I scream so much I type in all caps / You couldn’t fuck with me if I was writing your raps”).
Realizing they don’t have to pander to the unofficial making-a-hip-hop-album-for-dummies checklist, absent are the “love song” and “introspective song.” Instead, we get tracks like “Trust No Bitch” and “Dirty Cops,” where Fredro and Stick embrace their positions as the old wisemen of the streets, schooling the new generation with resounding pulpit-pitch without sounding too preachy in the process.
The new jacks featured on the disc seem to exhaust themselves in attempts to keep pace with the energetic old timers, such as A$AP Ferg’s appearance on “We Don’t F**kin’ Care,” all participants involved atoning for the weakness of their previous collaboration, “F**k Out My Face” from Ferg’s Trap Lord album. Another shining example is Papoose’s guest spot on “The Tunnel,” a track paying homage to the historic Twelfth Avenue establishment and former mecca of NYC hip-hop. Nostalgia reigns supreme here as Onyx, Pap, and Cormega reminisce on days long ago past against the backdrop of hard-hitting drums and scratches. The track recalls a beautiful time in history when the East Coast seemed to drop nothing but all gold everything, and as an unofficial call-to-arms for the new descendants, “The Tunnel” drips with a thousand times more ethos than Trinidad Jame$ or any irrelevant rapper on VladTV complaining about him.
With Wakedafucup, Onyx have followed in the footsteps of what made the recent studio releases of their New York contemporaries Nas and Jay successful: having fun. It just so happens that Onyx’s brand of fun has nothing to do with popping Molly or even rocking Tom Ford, but rather rocking the eardrums with psychotic intensity. Saving the best for last, the album concludes with “Turndafucup,” a record that could just as easily been dubbed “Slam Part 2” because it is just that good. If you’ve been sleeping on Onyx the last decade or so, it’s clearly time to wakedafucup.—Kellan Miller