It’s been a little over twenty years since Onyx dropped off their aggressively amazing debut album Bacdafucup. The album paired threatening bars with intense beats, and the result was a classic project that you could both bump in the club and the middle of a brawl. The third single “Shiftee” was drastically overshadowed by the first two singles off Bacdafucup: The controversial “Throw Ya Gunz” and the colossal hit “Slam.” But “Shiftee” had its own unique swag about it. The song was about being grimy and having that echo into a myriad of life situations. On top of all that it was a hidden gem from a group that still reigns supreme in Hip Hop history for crafting quintessential beatdown music. In catching up with Onyx’s de-facto leaders Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz, they discuss the meaning behind “Shiftee” and learning a valuable lesson from Industry Rule #4080.
HipHopDX: What was the concept behind “Shiftee”?
Sticky Fingaz: The concept was low down, gritty, and grimy!
Fredro Starr: The concept basically underlined what Onyx is. Onyx is the shiftee, low down, gritty, and grimy. So we made a song about it. We represent the struggle, we represent the out crowd, the dudes who can’t get in the club, the guys who got to sneak in the club, bumrush the door. Those dudes.
Sticky Fingaz: We bum rush the door, steal from the bar. We ain’t buying bottles, we taking them!
Fredro Starr: So “Shiftee” is the low down, gritty and grimy, and one thing about that song…Chyskillz was the producer. That beat was one of the first beats we got for the Onyx album. That was one of the original beats that Chyskillz made. That beat, “Bacdafucup,” and “Throw Ya Gunz,” that was the core of the album.
Sticky Fingaz: That bassy “Low End Theory” shit.
Fredro Starr: Producers know, that the elements used to produce that beat, we use through the whole album.
Sticky Fingaz: Bob James!
Fredro Starr: See we just gave you the secret. The whole Bacdafucup album was Bob James, just all chopped up. That was one of the illest samples from that Bob James record One. When we heard the beat we were like, “This is it. This is crazy.” And then we shot the video on 42nd Street [in New York City]…
Sticky Fingaz: It was like a riot and shit!
DX: You came up the roof right?
Sticky Fingaz: We came on the roof!
Fredro Starr: Yeah we did! We came on the roof. We was popping.
DX: You were creeping up on the top.
Sticky Fingaz: Magic hour, know what I’m saying?
Fredro Starr: Yeah our faces were on the sidewalk. We did that video, and Lyor Cohen took us to this store. This is the craziest memory we have of “Shiftee.” Lyor Cohen, President of Def Jam said, “Yo I’m gonna take y’all to this store, and I’m gonna get y’all some ill shit to wear!” We were like aight whatever, and we went to the store and the jackets we had in the “Shiftee” video was 3G’s a piece. It was like that reflectable bullshit. They were 3G’s a piece, so that was just crazy.
Sticky Fingaz: Best believe that shit came out of our budget!
Fredro Starr: When we got back the recoupment papers, it had those jackets on there.
Sticky Fingaz: It said, “The ‘Shiftee’ jackets.”
Fredro Starr: Word to my mother.
DX: Oh yeah, you drink a Snapple in the studio, and they charge you airport rates for it.
Sticky Fingaz: There’s the shiftee, low down, gritty, grimy shit!
Fredro Starr: Give me the money!
Sticky Fingaz: I’ll pay for it.
Fredro Starr: That song represented the shiftee and Onyx, and it was a cool thing because at that time Def Jam was behind us and it was still a good feeling.