The hip hop legend hosts a new series, Behind the Grind
By Marina Cannon
When Onyx’s founding member Fredro Starr started rapping back in the mid-90s, he already had his sights on how far hip hop would take him. A year before Onyx’s debut album won Soul Train’s 1994 Best Rap Album of the Year, the young artist would appear in his first film, Strapped. That part, and subsequently 40 more on the big and small screen, set the foundation for Starr’s biggest role yet: talk show host. Behind the Grind his new show, airs on Saturdays on the Impact Network as part of the cabler’s Super Saturday’s programming. The show features leading conversations on finding success and staying power with some of hip hop’s biggest names. Here, Starr shares what’s ahead for the series and the surprising first job that prepared him for this moment.
BRONZE: As a member of the iconic hip hop group, Onyx, and an actor, why did you want to become a talk show host?
FREDRO STARR: I’m just checking off my bucket list. [laughs] I have a gift to speak. That’s why I’m a rapper. God gave me a gift to use my mouth to get my point across. I’ve done movies, lot of records, perform on stage. So, why not interview some of the greatest hip-hop legends on my show, and bring positivity to the culture? It’s also my salute to Montel Williams. I always used to watch Montel. He had a bald head, he smoked weed. I was like, “Yo, this dude kind of reminds me of myself.” [laughs]
BRONZE: Let’s go back to your early days with Onyx and you were on Def Jam Records. You were at the pinnacle of hip hop and you were seeing all of the mechanics of what was going on behind-the-scenes. Do you think that informed you to become a talk show host?
STARR: My preparation was even before hip-hop. I was a barber before I was a signed rapper. That’s what was paying my bills when I was 16, 17, 18 years old. All kinds of customers come to your chair. You might have a lawyer, you might have a drug dealer, you might have somebody who plays on the Mets. My clientele was all different types of people. So you have to speak to them and know how to articulate yourself to get that tip. [laughs] If I’m speaking to a lawyer, I had to change my tone a little bit, and speak about different things. That was my first preparation into Behind the Grind. Also it’s been years and years of me doing movies, and television that has prepared me to be a talk show host. I look up to guys like Montel Williams, who I always say reminds me of myself. When I was looking at Montel, I would be like, “This guy reminds me of myself.” You know, baldheaded, not the biggest guy, but he looks strong. You know what I’m saying? I would like to hang out with Montel Williams. Matter of fact, I’m going to get Montel Williams on my show. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get Montel on Behind the Grind.
BRONZE: I saw that Onyx received its roses very recently and if you were to get Montel Williams, it would be a way of you giving him his. He does not get enough credit for breaking that genre. He had a show for 18 seasons!
STARR: Montel was the guy. And he was a no-nonsense militant type of guy. I’m kind of the same way, the same militant mindset. I’m just hip-hop. I bring the hip-hop culture, and that’s what I’m bringing with me. And that’s a lot to bring. To bring my audience. A network like Impact is very important. You have to look at it like that. It’s like, “Okay, I’m not just bringing myself, I’m bringing everything that I represent with me to the Impact network with Behind the Grind.”
BRONZE: You’re one of the few men to enter this space at this time. With Sherri Shepherd and Jennifer Hudson’s daytime talk shows, how does it feel to be the new guy this season?
STARR: Like you said, it’s been a shortage of male talk hosts but I feel like it’s time. It’s time to set it off. I think a lot of people are going to be like, “Wait a minute. Okay, let’s get back into this.” There was Arsenio, there was Sinbad, there was Montel… We had Black [male] talk show hosts. But on October 29th, it’s going down. Straight up.
BRONZE: How do you define success for yourself?
STARR: I define success as being happy, healthy and sane. Being successful is making the right moves, for your family, for your future. I’m thinking past me. I’m thinking where my sons are going to take it. I’m thinking generational wealth. That’s successful to me.
BRONZE: When did you learn that success was a grind because after a nearly 30-year career, success is something you have had to maintain.
STARR: It is a grind. And it’s an everyday struggle. You got to think about it. You got the richest people in the world that still go out and go to work. Bill Gates is not on an island chilling somewhere, Elon Musk is not just chilling. Money doesn’t define success. What defines success is passion, and never stopping until the day that you are not here anymore. It’s definitely a lot of passion in what I do, and I think people are going to see that on my show.