Toronto’s last Hip-Hop concert of 2018 would be the classic 90s-era group Onyx performing at The Opera House. Brought to us by Fun Up Entertainment, this show would come on the last Friday night of the year, just three days away from New Year’s Eve. For hardcore and 90s Hip-Hop heads, there aren’t many better ways you could ring in the new year than to party with one of the most influential groups from that era.
While Onyx’s most influential work came in the 1990s, their catalogue stretches far beyond that. In 2014 they returned from a decade-long hiatus to release a follow-up to their 1993 classic Bacdafucup, called #WakeDaFucUp. They’ve gone on to release three more albums since then, including 2018’s Black Rock, and have maintained a presence in the underground. Despite their heavy touring, this would be my first time seeing the Queens, New York duo of Fredro Starr & Sticky Fingaz perform live.
I showed up at The Opera House a little late and missed Toronto’s own Lyve Kaos as the first opener of the evening. Rocking the mic as I got inside was Young Stitch, who we of course saw win the championship round of the 2018 Connect The Dot tournament back in September. The former BET Freestyle Friday champ flexed his rhyme skills in front of the hometown crowd, spitting crisp flows over dope beats to get heads nodding.
Hosting throughout the evening would be Raw Dawg Entertainment’s JDon, who would keep the crowd hyped between performers and would bring out Fortunato next. We saw Fortunato open for The Beatnuts just last month, but this time he would have more time on stage to go through more of his music. His set would include a collaboration he did with the late Sean Price, playing hypeman as DJ Mercilless let P’s verse play through the speakers, and he would also spit a long freestyle over a classic Big L beat.
The last opener of the night would be King of the Dot’s Bishop Brigante, who we saw perform in this very same building last month alongside Choclair. This time he would have the stage all to himself, and would run through a handful of his songs. He got the crowd to chant along to the hook of “Trust Nobody,” and also spit a dope acapella freestyle verse. With each opener rocking solid 15-20 minute sets, the stage was warmed up and ready for the headliners, Onyx.
Fredro Starr came out first and introduced his partner in rhyme, Sticky Fingaz, and together they set things off by running through some songs off that #WakeDaFucUp album. Performing the title track as well as “Whut Whut,” the Snowgoons production combined with Onyx’s vicious raps made for a dope cocktail of aggression. They would tease the hook from my favourite song off the album, “Buc Bac,” before abruptly switching to “TurnDaFucUp” and getting the entire crowd to jump.
By the time Onyx started turning back the clock and getting into their throwbacks, a mosh pit was in full effect. Shouting out some of the emcees with a similar vocal style to theirs who they respect, like M.O.P., they would shoutout DMX before getting into their 1998 collaboration with him, “Shut ‘Em Down.” Sticky Fingaz would drop the mic with confidence after slaying his verse.
Continuing on with their shoutouts, they’d give the Wu-Tang Clan their props before teasing the hook to their collaboration, “The Worst.” They would do one more song off their 1998 album, Shut ‘Em Down, getting the crowd to wave their arms to “Raze It Up.” Next, Onyx took the time to acknowledge artists who passed away this year, playing the beat to Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones” (R.I.P. Prodigy) while shouting out the late Mac Miller and XXXTentacion.
Having been wearing their iconic Onyx Mad Face hoodies and t-shirts all night, Sticky Fingaz would change into a throwback OVO hoodie to represent for Toronto, and would toss his Mad Face hoodie into the crowd. Chaos would erupt as fans fought for the hoodie, and my left contact lens would pop out of my eye in the process (glad I didn’t wear glasses). Like a G I caught that contact lens in the air and ran to the washroom to pop it back in, hearing Onyx hype the crowd up to Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says” in the background.
By the time I got back into the crowd, Onyx had completed their journey back through time and were now in 1993, at the beginning, performing songs off their debut album Bacdafucup. They rocked some favourites like “Throw Ya Gunz” and “Shifftee” before closing out with an extended version of their classic hit, “Slam.” The crowd got hyped one last time before Fredro Starr said peace to both Toronto and the year 2018. Many fans stayed and chanted for an encore, but with no luck in bringing Onyx back to the stage, started to clear out.
Overall, this was a fun way to close out 2018. Being classic artists from a classic era in rap, Onyx put on a classic show with an authentic Hip-Hop vibe. There were no extravagant effects with the lighting or smoke machines, just two emcees rocking the mic and moving the crowd. For the nerdier Hip-Hop heads, Onyx’s setlist was organized to go backwards chronologically, giving the show a nice structure. The crowd was dope, and even with the fighting, they took it upon themselves to make peace right away and keep the good times rolling. Cheers to an awesome, action-packed 2018, and to more concerts in 2019!
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Stay tuned in the next few days, we’ll be counting down our favourite albums of 2018, as well as favourite concerts!