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ONYX (Buy CDs by this artist)
Bacdafucup (JML/RAL/Chaos/Columbia) 1992
All We Got Iz Us (JML/RAL/Def Jam) 1995
Shut 'Em Down (Def Jam) 1998
STICKY FINGAZ
Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones (Universal) 2000
FREDRO STARR
Firestarr (Koch) 2001

Bald heads, bad attitudes, cool jams and words you can't say on television are the hardcore hallmarks of Onyx, the extreme Brooklyn/Queens crew that took roughneck gangstarism straight over the top. Signed and smartly produced by Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay (whose entrepreneurial instincts frequently lead him towards caricatures, like the put-on Afros), Onyx gleefully mines crime, violence and sex for bludgeoning shock potential with such vehemence that it ascends to a grim joke. Beyond sheer malevolence (the title track, "Bust dat Ass" and "Bichasniguz"), Bacdafucup arms the old-school party wave in "Throw Ya Gunz" ("...in the air/Buc buc like you just don't care"), gives lust a torpedo-like charm in "Blac Vagina Finda," makes a mugging career mundane in "Stik'n'Muve" and mingles in skits (including "Bichasbootleguz," with an Asian-accented offender) that all end in brutal blasts. For all its superficial offensiveness, though, the album (which went platinum, giving new meaning to the phrase "number one with a bullet") is hard to dismiss: the powerful quartet boasts several compelling rappers, Jay's simple beats are atmospherically effective and "Slam" has an irresistible gang chorus and a shattering freestyle from Sticky Fingaz (whose fast guttural growl sounds like a cross between Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard).

Stripped back to a trio of Fredro Starr (now calling himself Never), Sticky Fingaz and DJ Suavé Sonny Caesar (billed as Sonee Seeza), Onyx took over the production for All We Got Iz Us, an evil-minded follow-up which strives hard to make Bacdafucup sound like spring break at Sunday school. The album begins with a demonic voice pushing a victim to suicide (Sticky Fingaz, who announces in the liner notes that, "I ain't got no love for nobody, 'cept my Moms," later offers to do himself in, "'cept they might not sell weed in hell"). It gets worse. Declaring themselves "young, black and just don't give a fuck," Onyx rationalizes drug dealing ("killing my own people...they gonna get it from somebody, I'd rather it be me") and makes music about theft ("Purse Snatchaz"), violence ("Betta Off Dead") and murder ("Shout"). If the topics of Onyx's charged rhymes weren't so disastrous for so many, the album would be sensationalist sport, but the proximity of reality and the relentlessness of the band's nihilism takes all the fun out.

[Ira Robbins]