A combative and in-the-red style of hardcore rap brought Queens MCs Onyx unlikely Top Ten pop success in 1993 with “Slam.” That instant hip-hop classic pushed the parent album Bacdafucup to Top 20 placement on the Billboard 200 and opened a route to the mainstream for similarly rowdy if otherwise distinctive hits by M.O.P. and DMX, two of the many artists with whom central members Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz would later collaborate. After their second and third albums for Jam Master Jay’s JMJ label, namely All We Got Iz Us (1995) and the Top Ten hit Shut ‘Em Down (1998), and a couple independent releases early the following decade, Fredro and Sticky paused the group for a while. Since the mid-2010s, they’ve been on a prolific run with releases ranging from #WAKEDAFUCUP (2014) to Onyx 4 Life (2021).

Originating from Queens’ South Jamaica neighborhood, Onyx formed in 1988 and two years later made their recorded debut on the Profile label. “Ah, and We Do It Like This” presented permanent members Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz, along with Suavé (aka Sonsee and Sonny Seeza) and Big DS, as an eager if comparatively reserved crew. The group subsequently found an admirer in Run-D.M.C.’s Jam Master Jay, who signed the group to his Chaos/Columbia-affiliated JMJ label and co-produced their first album, Bacdafucup (1993). The set was led by the menacing “Throw Ya Gunz” and the highly energized and anthemic “Slam.” Both singles topped Billboard’s rap chart, but the latter was even more successful, a number four hit on the Hot 100. Bacdafucup consequently reached number 17 on the Billboard 200 and, like “Slam,” went platinum. Shortly after their commercial impact was made, Onyx courted the metal crowd with a pair of Biohazard collaborations: the “Bionyx” remix of “Slam,” and the title track to the motion picture Judgment Night. Bacdafucup went on to win Best Rap Album at the 1994 Soul Train Music Awards.

Although All We Got Iz Us (1995) and Shut ‘Em Down (1998) both followed the debut into the Top Ten of Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop chart (and on the Billboard 200 placed respectively at the 22nd and 10th slots), Onyx left the major-label system after the latter and went independent with Bacdafucup, Pt. II (2002) and Triggernometry (2003). The second of those two albums was released the same year former member Big DS died of cancer. Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz had embarked on solo careers by then and also established themselves as in-demand actors, seen in films and television series such as Clockers, Dead Presidents, New York Undercover, Moesha, and The Wire.

Without Sonny Seeza, Fredro and Sticky eventually resumed studio work as Onyx the following decade and were as productive as ever. #WAKEDAFUCUP and #TURNDAFUCUP (both 2014), Shotgunz in Hell (a collaboration with Dope D.O.D., released in 2017), Black Rock (2018), and SnowMads (2019) were all out by the end of the 2010s. The MCs continued the next decade with the Lost Treasures compilation (2020) and a new studio album entitled Onyx 4 Life (2021).

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