Fredo Starr : Firestarr

Founder member of Onyx releases debut solo record...

Hip-hop heads generally don’t trust actors, as it’s a sign of being in collusion with the dreaded Hollywood lie-dream machine. But Fredo Starr has kudos, despite noted television and film roles.

As a founding member of Onyx, he was partially responsible for the proliferation of grimy, anthemic hip-hop, in which screams of rage and frustration were well to the forefront. Now older, and calmer – on the surface at least – Starr’s debut solo effort shows his return, Raekwon-style, to the game he thought he’d left behind.

And, along those lines, both the dazzling intro and the general plugs for his Other People’s Money label imprint do take a leaf out of the Wu-Tang member’s book, purely as a cross-reference. Though recorded in Hollywood, ‘Firestarr’, which doubles as Starr’s new sobriquet, is definitely located, action-wise, in the Jamaica, Queen’s section of New York City.

From the expressions of dedication on ‘Dying For Rap’, through the excellent index of possibilities on ‘What If’, right into the sad salutes to dead hip-hop heroes on ‘I Don’t Wanna…(Die)’, he shows an allegiance to the old neigbourhood, whilst he keeps younger cats in mind of the way things were in the past, and might be in the future – should anyone mess with him.

Great beats abound, with most soundscapes either laced with desolate strings or pumped up with massive, subsonic bass. And, when you get through the surface obscenity on ‘Perfect B!tch’ and ‘Who F!ck Better’, a more humanist subtext unfolds. The overall point being that Fredo Starr might be an entertainer, a rapper and seemingly averse to political activism, perhaps from despair, but he sure as hell knows whats going down.

Dele Fadele