Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | Posted in ,,,,

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After conquering Hollywood, hip-hop’s original rebels, ONYX - Fredro Starr, Sonny Seeza, and Sticky Fingaz - return to the scene, emerging from their musical vaults with a new album, Cold Case Files, a 16-track collection of previously unreleased songs executive produced by the members of Onyx and Omar “Iceman” Sharif for Iceman Music Group (IMMG). “It’s a culmination of all the years,” explains Fredro. “A cold case is a murder that gets cold and people forget about it. Years later, with new evidence they reopen the case. This is us coming back after all the years with murderous tracks. It’s a throwback for hard-core Onyx fans across the world!”

The collection features underground singles, lost studio recordings from the group’s first three albums, and appearances from Method Man, deceased Onyx affiliate X1, and Gangreen. According to the group, revisiting these sessions also served as a tribute to fallen soldiers Jam Master Jay, X1 (Sticky Fingaz’s brother) Big DS, and all Onyx affiliates who have passed away in the last five years; some of which are still unsolved murders. “I remember when we filmed the video with those guys in the Isuzu Rodeo jeep,” recalls Fredro of “I’ll Murda U,” one of the songs included on Cold Case Files. “Listening puts me right back there.” Sticky Fingaz adds, “I listen to Cold Case Files and think, ‘Damn, why didn’t we put that out before?’”

Fredro’s younger brother and frequent guest artist, Whosane, archived most of the unreleased tracks. Sonny, who served as album supervisor shares, “Some of these songs are so raw that you’re hearing the original mix. We kept it authentic to the period when they were recorded. Whosane was usually in the studio with us and kept kept all our classics recordings that never made it onto albums in the Onyx Music vault; so when the time came to select tracks for Cold Case Files, he had tracks that we didn’t even know existed on everything from cassettes, DATS, CDs to 2-inch reels.” Fredro adds, “It’s kinda bugged out to deal with this new technology too, ’cause back in the days, we was puttin’ shit on DATs, cassettes, and it still sounds good. This is classic vintage Onyx. When you listen to this album you gonna feel like you’re in the ’90’s.”

01. U.S.G 00:15
02. Ghetto Way Of Thinking 04:40
03. O.N.Y.X 03:21
04. See U In Hell Pt. 2 03:22
05. Evil Streets Remix (feat. Method Man) 04:13
06. Rock U 04:15
07. Hydro 03:06
08. Purse Snatchaz Pt. 2 03:33
09. Wili'n Wili'n 04:08
10. Free Style 03:40
11. I'll Murda U (feat. Gang Green) 03:43
12. Mad World 04:16
13. I Don't Want To Die 03:48
14. Return Of The Madface 03:23
15. Candy Man 02:12
16. Hard To Be A Thug 03:10

Most of the tracks are what you would expect to hear from Onyx in their heyday. Haunting, gritty beats stripped down to a simple kick, a snare with lashings of reverb, simple loops and the occasional unobtrusive bassline take you back to 90s.
Purse Snatcher's II uses the same beat as 1995's Part I, but sounds much less raw, with the strings taking centre stage and the original heavy bassline toned down giving the track a much more polished and up-to-date sound. Rock U? Think of Onyx doing their version of Queen's We Will Rock You! 'I ain't got nothing to lose, the world to gain, Could lift a crowd off their feet without poppin a vein. Even make you experience part of my pain, using only 15% of my brain' [Sticky] Evil Streets Remix replicates the vibe of the All We Gotz iz Us original although there's alot of different sounds in there. The loop has gone up a couple octaves and is at a different tempo. The lyrics are delivered in a hoarse whisper as opposed to the hyped style we know Onyx for. Personally I prefer the original but Method Man sounds sick on his verse as always.
Wili'n Wili'n sees the emcees spitting double time over a relentless and emotional guitar loop. Free Style is a dope f***ing track, the bass coincides with the thump of the kick and with hyped lyrics, its sure to get your neck snapping. As for I'll Murder You featuring Onyx affilate, the late Gang Green, peep the video below!! Dope. I Don't Wanna Die grew on me and the chorus features Onyx's rendition of I Believe I can Fly (think R-Kelly) replaced with the lyrics 'I don't really wanna die, all I wanna do is just get high'. Candy Man has the emcee rhyming through the eyes of a drug dealer over a laidback, jazzy beat. I'm not sure if it's just an excerpt because it fades out in the middle of a verse (i.e. when i was getting into it lol). Memorable lyric: 'I never pulled out my dick or my gun and not used it.'
If you're a fan of Onyx circa 1995, you're definitely gonna be feeling this album. There really aren't that many skippers on here and it contains a good mix of all their different styles. If you're a fan of the group or that sound or that era, you should definitely cop it, there's no way you'd come away disappointed.