”We’re like Channel 2 News,” growls Big D.S. from hip-hop’s mad-face invasion, Onyx. ”We just report what’s goin’ on inna U.S.G. — the United States Ghetto, knowhatimsayin’?”
If these four B-Boys are the reporters, then the nightly news must be on BoxTalk, the viewer-programmed offshoot of the cable music channel The Box. For anywhere from $1.25 to $2.95 a call (depending on caller’s location), viewers can peep at their favorite recording artist not singing, not rapping, just talking. But with little editing and such artists as Ice-T and heavy- metal rocker Danzig in creative control, what began as four minutes of mild self-promotion has segued into music-industry bashing and expletive-heavy editorializing that some consider to be in questionable taste.
Case in point: Onyx’s dramatization of how to buy a gun on the streets of L.A. The clip is in the top 10 of the 500,000 requests BoxTalk tracks every month. Onyx insists that it, like their top 10 single, ”Throw Ya Gunz,” does not encourage violence but rather explains a serious problem. ”It’s too easy to buy a gun in the ghetto,” says raspy-voiced Sticky Fingaz. ”And we wanted to bring it to people who don’t know this goes on,” adds Fredro Starr.
BoxTalk creator John Robson also defends the segment: ”If you watch it, you’ll see they [Onyx] say we gotta fix this problem. It shouldn’t be this easy to get a gun. And the message is much stronger when it comes from a hot group and it’s not sugar-coated in the form of a network PSA.” BoxTalk, he adds, is ”a forum for artists who don’t get much chance through mainstream channels to say what they feel.”