If resilience were a music certification, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s legend would have grown to folklore years before this point. Arguably the most successful Hip-Hop group in terms of sales to longevity to song quality ratio, the Cleveland, Ohio quintet have endured every debacle the industry could possible heave at them and have still emerged as supreme victors.
Entering their third decade of rap relevance, BTNH have subconsciously adopted brand new as the slogan to launch their dominance. This means a new label (Warner Bros.), new album (Uni-5: The World’s Enemy, the eighth official album to bear the Bone Thugs name) which consists of a the group going in a new harmonious direction. But still, questions remain lingering in the sky. At press time, four eager Bone brothers set down with TSS for a Smoking Session, but where was the ever-elusive Bizzy Bone? How easy was it to even come back together and why such a drastic change in their sound for the new LP?
Well ladies and gents. Ask you shall receive and that’s just what TC did.
TSS: This is the first time we’ve seen every member on the cover since Creepin’ On Ah Come Up but why do you feel like you’re The World’s Enemy with so many people happy to see Bone back together?
Layzie Bone: Because we bring the truth and a lot of people in the world don’t want to see the truth. We go against the grain and we have a lot of opposition. A lot of people don’t want to see us shine. And this ride hasn’t been easy for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. We feel like how you know in the Bible it says “not to be of the world” even though you’re in it. We’re in the world but don’t be “of” the world, all the materialistic and all mentalities of people–we go against all that. We have a message and it’s about the truth. And you already know we pray everyday so it can be taken in a real deep context; Satan & God or it can be a lot of different meanings.
TSS: Would you agree that the ride has been bumpy so far Wish?
Wish Bone: Definitely, definitely! Ain’t nothing truly good easy. Anything that’s good, great, wholesome, loving–you’re going to have to work hard for it.
Flesh-n-Bone: Especially when we decided to call this project Uni-5. We had to fight for that! We still fighting for that! Right now, Bizzy is here in spirit; we promised to deliver five on this project and that’s exactly what we did. And we’re still going against a lot of unforeseen situations that we’re willing to tackle and smash at all costs so we’re the world’s enemy in every aspect.
Krayzie Bone: That’s a damn lie! [Slams on table]
Wish Bone: Objection! Objection in the courtroom!
Flesh-n-Bone: Nah, not exactly true. He put that out there but that’s not exactly true. More so financial reasons. We were doing the first stretch of the world tour on the East Coast, and it’s a promotional. Most first legs start off as promotional–and you don’t get nothing! And we were fortunate enough to get on a paid promotional tour. And everybody understood that but Bizzy argued the fact that it should be more money. But we tried to reason with him that it’s promotional pay. You know we had to grow through that but nonetheless, the fans are going to see him at some of these shows.
And look at the turnout! Ten/eleven shows and all of them have been sold out. So Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is going to do what they have to do, no matter WHO is at the show to contribute.
TSS: After recently seeing you perform in Austin, you guys still bring that studio quality sound to the live show after all this time. How is that even possible?
Flesh-n-Bone: Practice, practice, practice!
Layzie Bone: (Laughs) I mean we’ve been doing it for 25+ years man. It’s like…it’s our job. It’s like riding a bike; you don’t never forget how to pop wheelies and stunts and shit.
Wish Bone: You know we the Rolling Stones of Hip-Hop and we always on the road so we gotta get it in!
TSS: Flesh, what’s going on with that situation you got into? From what I read and heard, it was like a misunderstanding of the facts…
Flesh-n-Bone: Yeah, that’s all that is, just a misunderstanding that’s got to get ironed out. That’s all that is, man. It would great if the good people could withhold from making their personal comments about it until the truth is actually brought to light. It’s a little disheartening and upsetting to hear some of the foul things people have to say about it but like I say, let the truth come out to light. My innocence will stand as proven pure as day. It’s just a little hill we had to get over with all the proper paperwork or whatever all pulled out and everything.
TSS: O.K. Uni-5 talk. How would you describe the vibe. Does the entire album keep up with the first few singles that we’ve heard thus far?
Krayzie Bone: Yeah man, the whole album basically describes us where we are at in this part of our lives. We’re a lot more grown up; a lot more serious than we were a few years ago. But we’re still creative. Talking about different issues and reaching to bring out the best possible music out of us. And we’re going to keep changing. The older we get, the more we’re going to change–the way we want to change.
TSS: So does that mean there’s no aggressive content whatsoever?
Flesh-n-Bone: Well see, that’s the essence of Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony. We’re headcrackers! Not to toot our horn but we consider ourselves some of the best to ever do that. Battle rap is a strong foundation of us and that street vibe, that’s an element that’s never going to go away. That street vibe. But those high concepts…we’re creative enough to be able to go any avenue with it. We’re open-minded with it, the fans definitely have to be open-minded with it.
Because we’re the creators/inventors that’s in the lab cooking it up, creating it for them. So the music is for them! We’re not making music for ourselves to burn to a CD and bump the car. We’re trying to sell it! So there’s a whole lot of avenues that we try to reach out to and being able to go with those high concepts is one of the keys to that.
Wish Bone: And you have to look at in another way like, we always had a message with our music. It wasn’t always “bustin’ heads” or jewelry or cars. We aim to use our blessings to reach the masses with positivity. We’re fathers and husbands and things like that now so we ain’t on the block no more selling rocks and robbing people no more. How we gonna rap about that right now? It ain’t real!
TSS: O.K. so with this new, mature outlook. I have to ask, is there still love for the buddah?
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony: Nigga what!? Hell yeah! Oh yeah!
Layzie Bone: Buddah lover forever!!! (Laughs!!!)
Flesh-n-Bone: All medically prescribed baby!
Krayzie Bone: I’m blown right now! Smoke something!
TSS: Figured as much. (Laughs)
Wish Bone: Niggas ain’t rolling blunts, smoking ’em with their kids though! Don’t get it twisted!
TSS: And speaking of being in the lab, one thing that usually gets swept under the rug with Bone Thugs is the creative process of making a song or even the harmony aspect. How does Bone go about putting a song together? How did Uni-5 start from its roots to grow to the tree?
Wish Bone: It starts with the music and then we stand and in a circle and someone hums the melody and comes with an idea and then we go from there.
Flesh-n-Bone: It’s amazing because when we come together in that circle we feed off each other. Inspiring and motivating each other to really come up with something potent.
TSS: What kind of producers did you use this time around?
Wish Bone: We didn’t reach out to many big producers even though we could have. We wanted to keep the focus on what the project and the unity of us back together. We wanted everybody to understand what this album was really suppose to be about which is togetherness, family and Bone. We did get DJ U-Neek back in the mix though.
Flesh-n-Bone: It’s only a couple new faces on this project. With respect to the producers, Thin C has been around for a minute. But the fans have been wanting that old chemistry so there’s L.T. Hutton and of course DJ U-Neek. And we thought it would be great for this new effort as well.
TSS: And despite the touring issue, you did say Bizzy is on the album 100%?
Krayzie Bone: Definitely. We were all in the studio together. There wasn’t any songs chopped up. We were together the whole time, creating and completing.
TSS: Throughout the entire Bone Thugs saga, Layzie you seemed to be the focal point whether it was a full-length album or a side project like Mo Thugs–whoever. Was it always a personal goal to keep Bone Thugs together?
Layzie Bone: I mean, I just love my niggas. I became a man with these guys and it’s just always been me and my dogs. And that’s really just what it is. It ain’t really like I’m the focal point or nothing like that, I just love to get together with my buddies and make music. I love my niggas, I love hard and I love for real. All our lives have been like this ever since the early 80s. We ran the streets and accomplished all this together so life without them, I really can’t see it.
TSS: With the new generation and even more rappers springing up daily, kids may not know who Bone Thug are or they just may know recent material like the song with Akon. Is it a challenge to keep the legacy shining through these days?
Wish Bone: Nah!
Layzie Bone: Not really man. Because we have fans down from ninety-nine down to two! With songs like “Crossroads” and “1st of Tha Month,” even now, you’ll see kids nine and ten-year-old kids in the crowd at our shows. So I think our music is like that Marvin Gaye or Temptation music where you just can’t put it in just one generation. I think we’ve succeeded through all these generations, so I don’t think that’s something Bone Thugs-N-Harmony has to worry about.
TSS: Well there’s another piece of your legacy that seems to get more and more forgotten. What about being a product of Eazy-E? Does that stand up as strong as the years roll by?
Wish Bone: Well, yeah, you know. We get pissed off everytime we see a mural with, [no] disrespect to Biggie or Pac but there’s no way in hell Eazy-E shouldn’t be right there with them. On every mural, every painting, spray painted, drawn–whatever you do. Eazy-E needs to be right there!
TSS: Bone Thugs has hits for days but is there any particular song that you can’t stand to perform live and took out of the set list?
Flesh-n-Bone: Took out of the se..? Oh nah, ain’t none of that jumping off!
Wish Bone: We got too many; it’s hard to fit ’em all in!
Layzie Bone: I will say one song that’s “fuck all that” is “Mr. Ouija.” We were some young ass kids fuckin’ with all that so…
Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony: [Murmurs in agreement]
TSS: Yeah, I remember when Tha Art of War dropped, you had deaded that concept. People were getting it misconstrued for devil worshipping and you were just harmonizing.
Layzie Bone: It was a Parker Brothers game and we played in high school a couple of times and we made a song about it.
Flesh-n-Bone: You can go to Toys “R” Us and buy a Ouija board for cryin’ out loud!
Layzie Bone: Yeah, that was just a little experience in life but that’s what we do. Damn near everything in life that we’ve been through, we made a song about it. But that’s one of those ones…we don’t fuck with like that.
TSS: What about that wild message in the E. 1999 Eternal booklet? The one where you had to hold it up to the mirror…
Wish Bone: Oh shit… (Laughs)
Flesh-n-Bone: Oh, that was just some creative shit that just gave people something to do. It was original, it was different.
Layzie Bone: And then we wasn’t talkin’ no real crazy shit–it was just backwards! We always tried to stand out and be different.
TSS: As it’s not all said and done for Bone, but it is for a lot of your earlier competition. What does that say for Bone Thugs just by still being here visibily at this point?
Krayzie Bone: It just goes to show the creator is always going to outlast the imitators. And by us still being around, it truly shows everybody that we owned what we created. And that’s just what we did. We’re still here because we created it and everybody is still trying to imitate it.
Flesh-n-Bone: And we just want to encourage everybody to check out the new project, today May 4th and thanks for supporting Bone for all these years in all our ventures. Keep showing the love and we’ll keep showing it right back!
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s brand new album Uni-5: The World’s Enemy is available on iTunes, Amazon and in stores TODAY courtesy of Warner Bros. and BTNH Worldwide. For more information, visit www.bonethugsnharmony.com.