Onyx: Mad About You
However, with the August release of their Cold Case Files via Koch Records, an album's worth of unreleased material from the Queens group is making its way to fans. The album features all of the group's members as well as verses from Sticky's deceased brother X1 and Big DS, as well as an appearance from Method Man on the Evil Streets remix. HipHopDX recently spoke with Fredro and Sonee about the timing of the release and more.
HipHopDX: Let's talk about this reunion of sorts that you guys are having, it's unexpected. Was this planned all along or happened suddenly?
Fredro Starr: I mean, it comes when it comes. When it comes to the studio album, it's really the Black Rock album we working on, but the Cold Case Files album that's coming out first, these are songs that we had since the '90s, since '93, '94, '95, '96, all the way up to now. These are songs that Onyx fans or new fans haven't heard before, so we decided to unleash them, to go back to the '90s with this album. So we kinda warm up our sounds for the kids. The new generation may have not heard of Onyx, they can get familiar with how it used be in the '90s, when niggas spit that straight fire. But we're coming with a studio album called Black Rock, the reunion album.
DX: I heard some of the tracks from Cold Case Files, and it's definitely reminiscent of your old work back in the day. How do you feel it's going to be accepted by the fans now, given that it's a different era for New York rap.
Fredro Starr: First of all New York rap is taking a hit. To come back with this album, it's cool to open up, to maybe start some change. Maybe you'll [get] a Naughty by Nature or Das EFX albums of unreleased tracks, so hopefully New York can come back and I think old school artists can contribute to that. We just doing what we do.
Sonee Seeza: He already summed it all up. That's basically what it need to be. But as far as I'm concerned, the state of Hip Hop in New York City is hell and we need Onyx to tear that shit down again. The Hip Hop listeners need something real. Onyx is back.
DX: Fredro, how do you personally balance your acting career and the music? Music hasn't been as much of a cash cow as doing movies or TV.
Fredro Starr: You have to find a balance. Even before me, [rappers] were doing movies. I mean Hip Hop and the movie business go together, just like back in the days when Frank Sinatra and Elvis [Presley] were doing movies. Even before Bacdafucup, I was doing movies. That was before the album came out, I was on a movie set. This is what we do.
DX: I was going back through some interviews with you and you and 50 Cent had exchanged some words. I wanted to revisit the issue. Are you guys still at it or have you resolved your problems?
Fredro Starr: I mean it depends on what you call a problem. I'll always have a problem with the dude, that's how I feel, I can't speak for every man on the planet. As far as me, I want to have some fun. Sticky [click to read] and Sonsee, we ready to have some fun with this music shit. I think with 50's album sales, at the time when we had a real problem and the beef really started, I think fuckin' with him at that time as far as musically or anything else would have been bad time to do it. Because of the hype around him and so much money was behind him, it would have been like throwing rocks at a building. But now, that his sales aren't there, G-Unit [click to read] didn't sell a lot of records last week and I think we kept the heat ... G-Unit, Onyx, we can do it any day. Fuck that. This is entertainment, we can entertain any day.
DX: Off of Cold Case Files, what songs represent what Onyx is the best?
Fredro Starr: My favorite track is with Method Man ["Evil Streets remix"]. I like the beat, he spitting crazy, we get our point across. It's that street, Southside Jamaica Queens get-stuck-up music right there. That's why I like the "Evil Streets remix."
Sonee Seeza: We also address the political landscape, the way Onyx do. For me [the track I like], it'd be "Mad World." Because it's definitely a timeless song. It's still relevant with the things that are going on in the world that we spoke on in the song that we made in 1995. It's 2008. Just that timeless music is one of the great attributes of Onyx, and I feel like the world needs to know that. We definitely ain't just a group that be screaming, jumping around and slamming, we got a lot of substance to what we talking about.
DX: Whose idea was it to name the album Cold Case Files?
Fredro: The concept came from my boy DJ Infinite. He's like, I want to hear some shit y'all ain't released and it should be called Cold Case Files. I thought that was kinda hot. We went to the vault, went through the cassette tapes, went to the DATS, started to put it together on digital form and mixing them. Altogether we had 35 songs. We're going to give you Cold Case Files 2 and 3, and keep giving you unreleased music. I think it's a very creative idea.
DX: Being that you are veterans, I wanted to ask you to compare coming out on Koch now to when you first dropped on Def Jam?
Sonee Seeza: As far as the difference between then and now as far as the machine ... We had a staff of people. Now, you got us handling [marketing and promotion], we're not adolescents -- we're grown. It's not harder. When you do do this, you feel more gratification, and you get more of the return. You get more for your buck, more for your work.
Fredro Starr: I feel like we should have never, ever, ever been dropped from Def Jam. Because of the simple fact, I don't give a fuck about music, I'm going take you back to history because we didn't know. When we was on Def Jam, Def Jam was on Sony Records. I know because we were doing promo with Nasty Nas back in the day, we were almost Sony. We didn't know that Russell [Simmons] was in the hole $40 million with Sony Records, right? We go double-platinum, I'd say we sold six million records with the first album worldwide with our first album. I think our record sales they cheated us on, that's just my perception, Fredro Starr speaking. Now, they were down $40 million to Sony, LL [Cool J] wasn't selling at the time, no disrespect to LL, Public Enemy wasn't selling. All the artists on Def Jam wasn't really selling no records. Redman came through and opened the door for the new Def Jam, then Onyx came in and slammed the door for the new Def Jam. So after that Russell uses us as bargaining power to go get a deal at Polygram for $80 million, and to repay his debt to Sony which is $40 million, and goes to Polygram with the other $40 million, and then starts kicking it with groups such as Ja Rule and DMX and starts making his money back. My thing, we were the bargaining power, we put Def Jam on on our back, going through all these shows and getting in shootouts and fights and all that shit. We should've never been kicked off Def Jam. If our records wasn't selling, they prayed on us like vultures. I feel like Koch is the new Def Jam.
DX: Let's talk about Black Rock. I know you guys have been working on that for a minute. Can you talk about the progress you made with that.
Fredro Starr: It's a Rock 'n Roll album, it's a Rock 'n Roll hybrid of just the same lane we opened up with "Judgment Night" and "Slam remix," which never went back to, cause after the first album came out, we got [tired] of flack. People were saying we weren't really lyricists. In the second album, if you notice the lyrics are way more complex, because we have something to prove to the streets. When you see an Onyx show, it's not a regular Hip Hop show.
DX: Tell us more...
Fredro Starr: It's a hard rock, hard-changing, and we on it kicking our rhymes. We're channeling the Rock groups into what we are saying. When you listen to it, you might hear Coldplay, Maroon 5 or Radiohead. These are groups that we are listening to besides Hip Hop. It was a fun record to make. The first leaked single is called I Ain't Ever Going Back. I'm going to leave it at that.
Sticky Fingaz "Debo The Game" Music Video from KB on Vimeo