Slam
by Onyx

Album: Bacdafucup (1993)
Charted: 4
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This song is about slam dancing, making it the first hip-hop hit on the subject. It's very aggressive, compelling the listener to crash into whatever is nearby, especially if it's another person.

    Slam dancing is a staple of thrash metal and punk rock, genres that seem at odds with hip-hop but really aren't so different. Beastie Boys producer Rick Rubin proved this when he brought in Slayer guitarist Kerry King for their 1986 track "No Sleep Till Brooklyn;" then in 1991 Anthrax teamed with Public Enemy on "Bring The Noise."

    In the '70s and '80s, rap had more in common with disco, but by 1993 strains of it were rather pugnacious; just as thrash branched off from metal, gangsta emerged as a rap subgenre. "Slam" became a surprise hit in the summer of 1993 and made a mark as a cultural milestone.
  • Onyx was mentored by Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC, who helped get them a deal with his label, Def Jam (co-owned by Rick Rubin). He produced "Slam" along with his associate Chyskillz, a newcomer who went on to work with LL Cool J and Run-DMC. The song was written by Chyskillz along with group members Fredro Starr, Suave, and Sticky Fingaz, who each take a verse. Those verses are mostly rapid-fire flex to keep the energy going until that famous gang chorus comes back around: "Slam! Da duh duh..."
  • The music video is filled with low riders, stage diving, and lots of people mashing into each other. Instead of going with a director steeped in hip-hop, Onyx used Parris Mayhew, who became the first to put slam dancing in a video when he made one for his hardcore band Cro-Mags in 1986 ("We Gotta Know"). Mayhew told Songfacts about making the video.

    "I got the job primarily because there was slam-dancing in my videos," he said. "In their wisdom, sitting at the record company, they didn't think, 'We need a great cinematographer or director.' They needed somebody who understood slam-dancing! But I had already proven myself a little bit making those other videos.

    So, I got called in to do 'Slam,' and I had this meeting with Lyor Cohen up at Def Jam, and he gave me this crazy song and asked me to write a treatment – and I did. They loved the treatment, we shot the video, and it became the longest-running #1 on MTV ever. It was #1 on Yo! MTV Raps for about six months before it went to MTV's Most Wanted, where it was #1 there I think another five months or something ridiculous like that. It was the song of the year. And that launched my career as a hip-hop music video director."
  • The first single from Onyx' debut album, Bacdafucup, was "Throw Ya Gunz." It was a minor pop hit, reaching #81 on the Hot 100, but a #1 on Billboard's Rap chart. "Slam" was the next single; it was also a #1 Rap hit but crashed into the Hot 100 at #4. Both songs were curated for radio by remaining free of vulgarity or anything too offensive. Most of the songs on the album are not for sensitive listeners.
  • Onyx released a version with the metal band Biohazard called the "Bionyx Remix," which also got a video directed by Parris Mayhew. This version has live drums and guitar weaving in and out.
  • "Slam" was by far the biggest hit for Onyx. Their next two albums got even harder and raunchier. They sold respectably, but nowhere near the level of Bacdafucup, which went Platinum. Their 1998 track "React" features 50 Cent in his first appearance on a major-label release.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket

Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet SprocketSongwriter Interviews

The "All I Want" singer went through a long depression, playing some shows when he didn't want to be alive.

Album Cover Inspirations

Album Cover InspirationsSong Writing

Some album art was at least "inspired" by others. A look at some very similar covers.

Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent

Ben Kowalewicz of Billy TalentSongwriter Interviews

The frontman for one of Canada's most well-known punk rock bands talks about his Eddie Vedder encounter, Billy Talent's new album, and the importance of rock and roll.

Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders

Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy and Black Star RidersSongwriter Interviews

Writing with Phil Lynott, Scott saw their ill-fated frontman move to a darker place in his life and lyrics.

Art Alexakis of Everclear

Art Alexakis of EverclearSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer of Everclear, Art is also their primary songwriter.

Terry Jacks ("Seasons in the Sun")

Terry Jacks ("Seasons in the Sun")Songwriter Interviews

Inspired by his dear friend, "Seasons in the Sun" paid for Terry's boat, which led him away from music and into a battle with Canadian paper mills.