After 16 years in the music industry, one would be hard pressed to find something Bone Thugs-N-Harmony haven’t accomplished. They helped usher in a new sound when they first appeared on the scene. Having won several awards and toured the globe numerous times over, they’ve enjoyed both critical and commercial success as well. However, with the return of incarcerated member Flesh-N-Bone, the group was finally able to achieve the one thing that has been out of their grasp for so long: record a studio album with the original members intact. With the release of Uni-5: The World’s Enemy, the Cleveland quintet’s reunion falls short to a glorious occasion as they fail recapture the creative spark they had earlier in their career.
The most puzzling thing about BTNH’s comeback is the direction the group chose to take. With the return of Flesh & Bizzy into the fold, you would think there would be a positive (or at least reflective) tone to the album. Instead, the group chose to address haters and individuals who’ve adopted their style. At their best, the listener is treated to gems like “Rebirth” and the gospel-infused “Only God Can Judge Me,” where Krayzie, Layzie & Flesh play Sam Wheat while looking in on life after they’ve departed over a sped up series of vocal runs. Unfortunately, it loses much of its bite after both “Meet Me In The Sky” and “Gone” address the same topic — to much lesser results. With the limited subject matter, this problem arises time and time again.
At their worst, the listener is treated to songs like “Wanna Be,” a dulling Pop/Rap hybrid that rests somewhere between a cautionary tale for the trappings of stardom & not losing one’s identity while chasing their dreams. It’s extremely hard to tell with each member going off on their own tangent. The worst offender would have to be Bizzy though, who begins by offering somewhat sage advice, before transitioning into a rant on people downloading albums free and tying it all up by letting listeners know that only Jesus can make them a star. The musical platforms found throughout Uni 5 also act as a negative contrast. The reuniting of DJ U-Neek and L.T. Hutton sound promising on paper, but they merely submit a plethora of jovial, uber-friendly beats that do nothing for the clique’s throaty and harmonious runs.
In Bone’s mind, they view the lack of interest in their affairs to be a form of hate. When in reality, they haven’t produced a collection of material to add to their legacy since BTNHResurrection. Since then, they’ve watched the game change and evolve, while they’ve been pushed further into the margins. Instead of holing up in the lab and just making good music to push their way back to the forefront, they took the easy way out and blamed everyone else for their lack of progress; making them come off as bitter legends unwilling to go off quietly into the sunset.
Uni-5: The World’s Enemy doesn’t stand as the album to help Bone regain a prominent place in today’s landscape. Only solution for that is to stop feeling sorry for themselves and create something to prove the “haters” wrong, instead of fueling the fire with outings like this.