“For blue collars and undue squalor” – SKE reviews the new Onyx album: “Black Rock”

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SKE English

If you are tired of rap music’s mumblers and mutterers, grumblers and stutterers, fumblers and putterers, then perhaps you shall find some relief in the rough, articulated vocals that vibrate (are nigh screamed) on Onyx’s new album, Black Rock (see above). 

It’s been four years since Onyx released their last album, Wakedafucup (excluding the collaborative album Shotgunz in Hell with Dope D.O.D. that was released last year), and while Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz are in good form (Sonny does not appear on the album), it’s mostly the latter who shines, delivering a number of memorable lines – with his characteristically rugged voice – on the album’s standout tracks: Black Rock, Blinded by the Light, and Greatest Day:

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You ever wondered why you can’t see your own face /
You need to look inside, you’re looking in the wrong place / 
– Sticky Fingaz (Greatest Day)

Used to have to have talent, then the fame would happen /
Now because you’re famous people think you got talent /
– Sticky Fingaz (Blinded by the Light)

I ain’t no alkie; I know my limit /
I always stop drinkin’ when the room starts spinning /
– Sticky Fingaz (Black Rock)

The album features guest appearances from the likes of Skyzoo, Optimus, R.A. the Rugged Man, and others, but the record’s high point is reached in the featureless Love Is a Gun, where Sticky Fingaz sustains the titular metaphor throughout the duration of his verse: a clever piece of surprisingly poignant wordplay that is worth “reprinting” in its entirety:

You was shining the first time I held you in my hand /
Ain’t wanna let you go: You made me feel more like a man /
Took you everywhere, you think we was attached at the waist /
When people saw you, you should’ve seen the look on their face /
I don’t know if it was fear, ’cause of the fact you with me /
Or it’s envy, ’cause god damn, you look so pretty /
Who’d have thought something so special could be so deadly /
So I took a shot at love with you before I was ready /
For a long time: looking for a piece of your caliber /
On a scale of 1 to 10, you’re a 9 but I still marry you /
When I was broke, you even help me get money /
If I was ever in a squeeze, I know that you’d kill for me /
(I’m with you) at the range so our love don’t get cold /
Make you explode, we even share the same pillow /
Before (you), love was only a semi, but with you it’s automatic /
You got a mind of your own – sometimes you let people have it /
Used to do shit with you that jeopardized my freedom /
Have you sittin’ on my lap, drunk, late night, speedin’ /
You know everything about me, you know it all /
I’d have to stab somebody if I couldn’t see you no more /
You know who I robbed, shit, you even know who I killed /
You even know about the times I thought of killing myself /
I can’t leave you, ’cause I know that you would rat me out /
If I lay a finger on you, you’d lead them right to my house /

While Black Rock may not be a great album, there is certainly a lot to like, and although adolescent trappers may not appreciate the spare, guitar-infused production, and the old-school enunciated flow, older fans will in all likelihood nod their heads: This is music for calloused palms and iron bars; for blue collars and undue squalor; for aging individuals nostalgic of ’90s Hip Hop (the undersigned included). 

We’ll leave you with a few classics from Onyx’s oeuvre, including one new joint with Sticky and Cassidy.

Words: RTH

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