This Week in Hip-Hop/ R&B History: Hip Hop Group, Onyx Release Their Breakthrough Single, “Slam”

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— 25 years ago today, NY-based Hip-Hop trio, Onyx, released their most successful hit to date, “Slam”.

On May 11, 1993, Onyx, originally composed of Fredro Starr, Sonny Seeza, Big DS, and Sticky Fingaz, released their second single from their debut album, Bacdafucup. While their first single “Throw Ya Gunz” went on to earn spots on 4 different Billboard charts, including #1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart, their second single, “Slam” did that and more. Not only was “Slam” the second straight Onyx single to top the Hot Rap Singles chart, but it was also certified gold in less than 2 months and certified platinum by August of the same year.

Onyx were well-known for their gritty and hardcore, yet outlandish and energetic imagery. In fact, this is, in part, why “Slam” was so successful—Onyx were able to harness their raw lyricism and package it into a radio-friendly hit without compromising their integrity. Fredro Starr has mentioned on numerous accounts that Onyx were fans of Nirvana and were deeply inspired by their “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video. Particularly, they were intrigued with the idea of “Slam Dancing” (also known as “Slamming” or “Moshing”) and wanted to mimic that same energy in a Hip-Hop setting. Onyx’s lyrical style meshed perfectly with such a concept and visual—making “Slam” an instant classic.

For the main chant used in the chorus, producers Chyskillz and Jam Master Jay used a variation of the intro to the often-sampled instrumental, “The Champ”, by The Mohawks. The heavy use of Christmas bells in the song is also noteworthy as this was a commonly used production tactic in Hip-Hop and R&B at the time.

“Slam” has since been featured in countless TV shows and films such as 8 Mile, How High, Silicon Valley, Lip Sync Battle, and The Cleveland Show as well as commercials for SoBe, Gatorade, and more. It was even used as one the theme songs for professional wrestling tag team duo, Public Enemy, during their Extreme Championship Wrestling Career.

Although Onyx is often forgotten when mentioning Hip-Hop’s greatest and most influential talents, it should be a crime to do so. While some group members went on to be more well known for their work in film (Fredro StarrMoesha, Sticky FingazLaw & Order, etc.), it should always be remembered that, for a moment, everyone wanted to sound like Onyx.

Check out the single and accompanying videos above.

Written by Simo Haier