Time to #WAKEDAFUCUP: HipHopCanada chops it up with Onyx [Interview]
Calgary, AB – On Aug. 15, our friends over at True Rhythm brought Onyx (Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz) to Calgary for a stop along the #WAKEDAFUCUP Tour (in support of Onyx’s latest album release of the same name).
Chatting with Sticky and Fredro is one of the realest things around. There’s no flex and there’s no fronting. These guys have been in the game for decades and they’ve built their following on a message of raw honesty. The Onyx is a voice for adolescents; and more specifically – adolescents caught in the struggle.
They totally play off each other, too – Fredro is the outgoing extrovert, and Sticky is the introverted one with quick quips. And he likes to have the final word. But put it this way: in a hypothetical scenario in which you were just casually chilling one-on-one with Onyx, Fredro would be the one egging you on to do something and Sticky would be the one going, “Don’t do that, ya dumb shit!”
“What we got going on right now is perfect because right now hip-hop needs something that says: stand up to what’s going on.” – Fredro Starr
We caught up at Le Rock on 17th Avenue to sit down for a chop-up. Fredro and Sticky were being treated to some sponsored shopping (i.e.: one of those things I forget rap cats are entitled to, and get supremely jealous about). Anyways, the Le Rock fam are always great people to work with. For starters, they have some of the sweetest merch ever. Remember that time they made Redman custom chucks? That was illness maximus. They also have the sickest graffiti-painted walls. Which makes for a solid backdrop for interviewing rap cats.
Fredro and Sticky arrived at the shop just after 7 p.m. They got down to blazing and wandered the store for a while. Sticky had his sights on a particular Dub Nation t-shirt – which he ended up getting and wearing for our interview. Of course, he also HAD to try on the bandana that made his face into a skull. Because reasons. Anyways, we sat down for a solid 15 minutes and talked about the new album (duh – had to), the first time Fredro ever met Snak (spoiler alert: it was over the phone and Snak hung up on him), the 100 MAD fam, and Fredro’s upcoming battle against Keith Murray. Check it all out below.
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: My name is Sarah and I’m sitting here today with Onyx for HipHopCanada, at Le Rock. Hey guys. Welcome to Calgary.
Fredro Starr: Wassup?
HipHopCanada: So I wanted to dive right into the new album: #WAKEDAFUCUP. I saw your recent interview on Sway In The Morning. When [Sway] asked you about the album, the first thing you said was: “Nas said hip-hop is dead.”
Sticky Fingaz: It means it’s not dead. It’s been sleeping. And that’s why we named the album #WAKEDAFUCUP. Because hip-hop needs to WAKEDAFUCUP. We goin’ state-to-state [and] country-to-country [and] city-to-city to wake hip-hop the f**k up.
Fredro Starr: The show – we come to liven the show up. Wakedafucup. Wake the show. Wake the f**k up. That’s what we do. We take it on the stage and…
Sticky Fingaz: …greatest show on earth…
Fredro Starr: So we like to turn the f**k up, too.
HipHopCanada: I felt like this was almost like when you guys fired off that gun at The Source music awards.
Fredro Starr: You was too young for that. How you remember that? Oh god!
HipHopCanada: ‘Cause I watched your footage online. I felt like this album was almost a project to embody that and bring it back.
Fredro Starr: Yeah. Actually, it was, man. Yo, we’ve been through this music thing for a long time so we’ve been through a lot of different styles. A lot of different flows. A lot of different ways of coming at it, lyrically. I think with this album we came from an adolescent perspective. Like going back to being 17 again. Like I have a point to prove in life, trying to find myself, [and] being a rebel for a cause. And that’s where the flow came from. There’s no punchlines; nothing like that. It was just straight raw…
Sticky Fingaz: Raw shit.
HipHopCanada: That’s what Onyx has always been about: giving a voice to the youth and the struggle and…
Sticky Fingaz: …the voiceless.
Fredro Starr: … the shifty mother**kers.
HipHopCanada: You guys have been in the game for a couple of decades, now. How do you find your understanding of “the youth” and “the struggle” has changed as you’ve gone along?
Fredro Starr: It’s never really changed. I think it’s just evolving. Things is always the same. It’s always the same struggle – people getting locked up, can’t get jobs. They gotta do everything to support their families. People going through depression in the hood [and] smoking weed every day to stay out of that…
Sticky Fingaz: I think that the population has grown so there’s more of it now.
Fredro Starr: Straight up. There’s still a war against the cops [and] the kids in the hood…
Sticky Fingaz: Shit. [The cops] got a war against us.
Fredro Starr: It’s crazy. Nothing’s changed – just evolving, and new things is just coming. Same shit.
Sticky Fingaz: Now you can record it. Upload it to…
HipHopCanada: …the Internet.
Fredro Starr: Yeah. Social media is crazy. Social media is good and it’s bad. It’s the world coming together, non-stop. No floodgates or nothing. Everything is in the open. You can reach out to anybody…
Sticky Fingaz: Everything is accessible…
Fredro Starr: Say something to anybody on any platform and they might see that. And it might reach them; it might not. You could say something to Obama right now. Tweet Obama. It might affect him.
HipHopCanada: What would you say to Obama?
Fredro Starr: I would say to Obama…I don’t know. If I had to tweet something to Obama, I would say “Hollywood is waiting.” I think he should be an actor. Give Denzel [Washington] some competition or something.
HipHopCanada: So I wanted to take it back to when you guys first started up. When was the moment you decided, “Hey. We want to start using our voice for the youth. I have this craft. I have my rap. I can use it for more.”
Sticky Fingaz: There wasn’t a particular moment. But in the future we do have an album called Black Rock that’s basically addressing all those issues from that stand-point.
HipHopCanada: Black Rock. That’s what “Onyx” means.
Fredro Starr: Black Rock. We was gonna put the album out but I think we revamped it.
Sticky Fingaz: Shit is renovated now.
Fredro Starr: What we got going on right now is perfect because right now hip-hop needs something that says: stand up to what’s going on. Socially, and…
Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Starr (in perfect unison): Politically!
Fredro Starr: We’re coming from a place where we understand that shit. And every day we wake up, it’s like…it could be or it can’t be. It don’t matter where you at. It could happen to you any day. We live by that.
Sticky Fingaz: Our family, friends, relatives, everything – they still in the thick of it. They still in the front line. Just like us. So you not out of it until everybody’s out of it.
Fredro Starr: As far as us knowing we had a voice – at first, you makin’ records. Four young dudes from South Jamaica, Queens making records. Having fun. Go and do shows…
Sticky Fingaz: And then like Spider-Man, you realize your responsibility, and the power that you have.
Fredro Starr: We didn’t realize it was going to be in Russia, or in Canada, and all of these places – 20 years later, still we doing shows. We didn’t do it for that at that time.
Sticky Fingaz: We did it for ourselves and our hood, and for the love and the fun of it and to WILD OUT! You know what I mean?
Fredro Starr: It’s a blessing with this thing – hip-hop shit, and this culture. It’s very powerful. This culture brings all races together. It’s like mathematics…
Sticky Fingaz: Like who doesn’t like hip-hop?
Fredro Starr: And not just it brings cultures together. It brings a lot of different sports and a lot of different businesses. Hip-hop rules the world.
HipHopCanada: So let’s talk about the Snowgoons. Tell me about the first time you met with those dudes.
Fredro Starr: Man. I was in my trailer at the show; trying to get some rest. And I heard these fucking beats and shit. Like, who the f**k is this shit rattling my trailer? I just woke up – my eyes was like… “Who’s on stage right now because this shit sounds crazy. I can’t get no sleep.” It was Snowgoons. I was like, “Yo let’s chop it up.” Me and DJ Illegal chopped it up. It just made sense to put music out together.
HipHopCanada: It was almost like blending the two generations together.
Fredro Starr: It’s just like working with Chyskillz back in the day. He first produced for us. He produced the entire BACDAFUCUP album – basically. Him and [Jam Master] Jay, and Kool [Tee], and everybody else. But working with his sound – his sound worked for that album. The Snowgoons sound was the sound we needed – we needed to…
Sticky Fingaz: WAKE N*GGAS UP!
Fredro Starr: Exactly. Straight up. Set on fire.
HipHopCanada: I also wanted to talk to you guys a bit about 100 MAD. You guys got some Canadian cats on there.
Fredro Starr: Canada – first of all – has got some of the best trees. Let’s get that out the way.
Sticky Fingaz: B.C. bud!
Fredro Starr: They doin’ good.
Sticky Fingaz: We in a smoke shop right now!
Fredro Starr: We feelin’ good. But Snak the Ripper? I met Snak the Ripper the craziest way. We was doing a show and the promoter picked us up and he was playing Snak the Ripper’s shit in the car. I’m like, “Yo. Who the f**k is this mother**ker?” Because he sounds like he’s down with Onyx’s shit. I didn’t know who he was. [The promoter]’s like, “He’s Snak the Ripper.” So I was like, “Word. You got his number?” I called him and he thought I was playing on the phone. He hung up on me.
Sticky Fingaz: He’s like, “This aint no Fredro Starr. Get outta here.” Hung up.
Fredro Starr: I called the mother**ker back. I’m like, “This is me, man.”
Sticky Fingaz: DON’T F**KING HANG UP AGAIN, N*GGA!
Fredro Starr: And we just kept it cool like that. We jumped on his records. He jumped on our records.
Sticky Fingaz: 100 MAD!
Fredro Starr: And Merkules. He on 100 MAD now. Under [Snak’s] umbrella. Shout-out to JC and all of that.
Sticky Fingaz: Shout-out my n*gga, Bishop Brigante.
HipHopCanada: So Fredro, you have an upcoming battle next month with Keith Murray. I know you’ve talked about how the platform for having rap battles is something new, but they’ve always been in the game. Tell me about the first battle experience you ever had.
Fredro Starr: My first battle? The platform hasn’t always been there. It was created by the guys who created it, or whatever. It’s time to do something different. When I talk about it, it makes my heart beat. It puts me in a competitive place. As far as me – as far as what I do, I’ve been rapping my whole life so it’s just another extension of what I do. Let’s see how it goes. I’m not going to go into a battle over-confident and under-prepared.
HipHopCanada: When you’re doing these rap battles, you actually have to research your opponent.
Fredro Starr: Of course you gotta research. I think as far as battling, you’re creating until the day of the battle. There’s no stop to the creation of your shit. Or hip-hop in general.
Sticky Fingaz: At the battle you’re still creating. You might come up with some other shit as a rebuttal. And throw it into your shit.
HipHopCanada: So Sticky, are you going to watch the battle, and what are your predictions for the battle?
Sticky Fingaz: You don’t want to know my predictions. Fredro Starr is going to body everything. YO. N*GGAS IS BETTING ON THIS SHIT. In New York. N*ggas is betting on this. For real. I don’t know what the odds are. I aint go to the f**king office. But it’s like a fight; like a game. THIS IS REAL SHIT.
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
Twitter: @ONYX_HQ | @Fredro_Starr | @iamStickyFingaz