Exclusive: Onyx discusses their creative process to A Day In The Life, and says 50 Cent and them reunited to tell Jay's story.
Earlier this month, Sticky Fingaz [click to read] released A Day In The Life, through his Major Independents film production company, in conjunction with Lion's Gate Studios. With a cast that includes Mekhi Phifer, Omar Epps, Faizon Love and Michael Rapaport, the Hip Hop drama boasts dialog spoken entirely in Rap verse. Kurupt, Treach and Tash [click to read] also appear, in addition to Lil Zane and Truth Hurts. This week, the brothers from Onyx - Sticky and Fredro Starr spoke to HipHopDX about the film, the soundtrack, and going back into business with colleague-turned-rival-turned-business partner 50 Cent [click to read].
"It all started during my first solo album, Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones [click to read]. It was on Universal Records. That whole album was a concept album [presented similarly] to a movie. [A Day In The Life's concept] is almost like the same thing, in a sense, but I think A Day In The Life is Black Trash on steroids. Black Trash, I wanted to shoot a movie to it, but I never found a budget. So this time, I did the exact opposite: I got the budget to shoot it, then I shot it, then I recorded the album - which is the movie; they're one in the same," Sticky Fingaz told DX.
The front-man for Onyx continued, "The hard part was that I wanted to use actors, and not rappers. If you use rappers, that's a given - of course they can rap. Some actors can rap, some can't. Some you have to teach, some get it. Mainly, it is a Rap thing, but when we were in the studio, I just said, 'I just want you to talk in the cadence with rhyming words.'"
Both Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Starr believed that the film's moments with Clarence Williams. The scene's soundtrack rendition comes as the song "Drop A Jewel On Me." Both young actors look up to the Mod Squad alum, and say that they draw comparisons to his time in Hollywood to their own. "To see somebody that age connecting with Hip Hop is ill, 'cause Hip Hop is the cool culture. I've seen [Clarence Williams'] from when he was younger, and he was always cool," said Fredro Starr.
The director, Stick, added that he largely plotted the production out based on backdrops ranging from church scenes, to old fashioned bar-room wisdom, to shoot-outs and hospital attacks.
In a classic Sticky Fingaz diatribe, the Queens emcee-turned-actor/director stressed that the film and soundtrack are an attack on film and music's monotony as of late. "I'm just trying to raise the creative bar, not only for myself, but for other artists out there. Music is getting so un-creative nowadays - even movies as well. Think about it: how many remakes can you do? How many fuckin' times can you do Superman over? They're even doin' TV shows on it: Smallville. It's still the same shit! Can't y'all come up with a new hero? Why y'all gotta keep doin' remakes and shit? As far as the music, everybody wants to be T-Pain [click to read] and use the Auto-Tune. Ain't nothin' wrong with Auto-Tune; I like how the shit sounds, but God damn, everybody's just bitin' each other's nuts and shit. I predict that somebody's gonna try to bite my nuts with these Rap movies."
Note that the creator pluralized his films. Sticky revealed that his next film told in Rap dialog is already in the can. "It's not a continuation or anything like that, but it's the same concept. It's a different story, different actors. It's called Caught On Tape. This one is starring Vivica Fox, Cedric The Entertainer, Angie Stone. It's done. It'll be out at the top of next year. I'm gonna still let people soak in A Day In The Life for a few more months, then we're gonna drop Caught On Tape right after it."
Onyx fans will appreciate that Fredro Starr served as A&R for the rapping and production (courtesy of veteran Michigan native producer Essman). Released through Tommy Boy Records, the soundtrack features the scenes from the film in audio form. "Sticky wrote everything. [The actors] just followed the lines that he wrote, and I just made sure it sounded hot," simplified Starr, a successful Hollywood actor in his own right.
Another development in Onyx's film career came when Fredro Starr updated HipHopDX on his Jam Master Jay documentary. Onyx was signed to Jay's JMJ Records imprint in 1992, and maintained a relationship with the Run-DMC deejay through his October, 2002 murder.
"As far as the documentary, it's crazy, man," began Fredro. "[Jam Master Jay's] cousin came to me a couple of years ago. I raised the money to get it going and started. We got some great interviews. We're just trying to get the insight of his life, 'cause a lot of people don't really know the real people in his life: the old lady at the church that he used to go see, or his cousin. People like that. We just wanted to give people the real [information] about the Jay murder, and who it might be, or who it's believed to be, and why nothing's happened. It's kinda crazy. Every time I watch it, I cry. There's a tear coming down my eyes; it's real emotional."
"The whole JMJ [Records] family is being interviewed," added Fredro, speaking about Jayo Felony and 50 Cent. The latter, 50 Cent, was somebody who was once at odds with Fredro and Onyx, stemming from a 2003 VIBE Awards red carpet scuffle and subsequent press maylay. 50, who first appeared on Onyx's 1998 song "React," has reunited with his label-mates in producing and backing Fredro's Jam Master Jay documentary.
"50 bought the movie. He's gonna put it out with his situation. Whenever he tries to do it. He came as the executive producer, and he made a move. I think it was a positive move for the sake of Jam Master Jay, that me and 50 do some type of business together to make it happen," revealed Fredro, confirming that the G-Unit head purchased the project after two years of early production. "We're just waiting for it to come out."
The emcee and Sunset Park star continued, "I think a lot of people overlooked Jay's death. There's a lot of negative stuff happening in Hip Hop all the time, but it's just Biggie and 2Pac - those murders. [Jam Master Jay's] murder has always been overlooked. I think this is a good perspective, and a good insight."
A Day In The Life DVD and soundtrack is in stores now.