THE INTERVIEW: Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony
Since dropping their epic 1994 EP Creepin On Ah Come Up, Cleveland-based rap group Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony have garnered legions of fans worldwide. With multi-platinum album sales from E 1999 Eternal (1995), The Art of War (1997) and BTNHResurrection (2000), the legendary group is back with their upcoming reunion LP, UNI-5: The World’s Enemy.
For those who thought Bone-Thugs left the game, lest we forget, true artists never leave. Though Flesh-n-Bone served a 7-year bid and was released July 2008 and Bizzy Bone had other personal challenges, Layzie Bone, Wish Bone and Krayzie Bone were still grinding with Thug World Order (2001), Thug Stories (2006) and Strength & Loyalty (2007).
Nevertheless, despite a near two-hour delay, I had the chance to catch up with Krayzie and Wish via telephone to find out more about the new album, how they see the music industry today, the effect Michael Jackson’s passing had on them, T.I.’s current situation, and who they think the hottest rapper alive really is….
Who’s all in the room right now, I hear several different voices?
Krayzie: Right now it’s me and Wish but Flesh will be coming back in a minute, and Layzie’s coming but he’s not here yet. (Nor was Bizzy).
Just so the fans know, why is now the perfect time for Bone-Thugs to come back with a reunion album?
Wish: It’s not like we strategically planned it like this. It just so happens that Flesh came home, you know…
Krayzie: We all knew that once he came home we were all gonna have to come together and do what we needed to do. Now everybody sees that the situation with Bizzy was not as serious as everyone thought…we’re all back together now. It’s been a great experience recording the album and just being in the studio, we made some amazing music, you know. Once the record comes out, everybody’s gonna see how that chemistry just fell back into place.
That’s right, that’s what we’re waiting for. But you guys are not only well-known for your melodic tone and quick flow, but for your subject matter as well, you talk about street life, God, spirituality…but on the new album (The World’s Enemy), are you pretty much going the same route or can we expect something different?
Wish: We definitely always put out a message on real-life situations with our music. We definitely got some of the good and the bad coming out on the record, as usual.
Krayzie: Definitely, we consider ourselves as you know, street reporters. We give it to people real raw. We’ve always been conscious of what’s going on in the world and that always just fell into our music. We’re definitely touching on some serious situations that are going on today.
Can you give us any insight as to what you guys talk about?
Krayzie: We got a song called “Determination.” You know, just inspiring everybody. That if you have something you want to do or you want to do something in life, you really have to be determined and set your mind to it, and believe that you can do it. Like don’t let distractions get in your way. Like no matter what you’re doing. We have a song where we remade a Michael Jackson song that’s called “What Have We Done to The World.” It’s basically talking about where we are now. You know how things used to be and where we are now…and basically, where we’re going. It’s real deep. The album has a lot of deep concepts to it.
You guys mentioned that you remade a Michael Jackson song, how did you all take his passing this past summer?
Wish: It was hard.
Krayzie: Michael Jackson is the reason I even got into music. Like when I first started loving music, I was imitating Michael Jackson. When I first heard about his passing, I was hoping it was a lie, that it was a rumor. Then when I turned the TV on…it had me in zone for at least like two weeks straight, no lie. It’s crazy because my kids really didn’t know anything about Michael Jackson but they’re Michael Jackson fanatics now.
That’s how my brother’s kids are…they didn’t know anything about him before he passed, but now his songs are all they sing.
Wish: Yeah, yeah, exactly, that’s how my kids are. It was a real major loss to music, period. Because Michael Jackson to me, he changed the way music sounded, period. So it was a major loss to the business. It was really like a senseless loss too.
Right…But being that Bone-Thugs were the first hip hop group to put the Midwest on the rap radar, over the years, how has that honor factored into how you present yourself?
Wish: We don’t really rub it in nobody’s face about our accomplishments in the game, everybody knows what it is and they know what we’ve done. So basically we do what we’ve been blessed to do. Just as far as doing good music and getting our message out there.
Krayzie: And we’re happy that we paved the way for Midwesterners to come in and be heard and to have a voice to come out and be successful. One thing about Midwesterners, everybody that comes out, it seems that they go global. There’s a lot of Midwest artist that are global like Eminem to Kanye West, Bone-Thugs, Twista, you know what I’m sayin.’ So it’s like we paved a helluva road for a lot of people to come out.
Yes you did! Since you guys started back in what, ’92 ’93 …
Krayzie: We actually started rapping way before then, but we actually got on with Eazy-E like the end of ’93.
How have you seen the music industry change? Or even just the rap game change…from that point to now?
Wish: It’s a lot more business savvy now. It’s not just about making music and shooting videos. You gotta take your brand to a whole other level, and a lot of artists are understanding that now.
Krayzie: It’s turned into a business now. Back then they were calling it just a fad but it actually turned into a multi-billion dollar business. So that’s how it’s changed. Once anything goes commercial, it’s gonna be big.
Having worked with some of the greatest rappers to ever bless a mic: Eazy-Z, Big Pun, Tupac, Biggie., how do you guys plan on leaving a legacy for Bone-Thugs?
Krayzie: We just really want to be known as a group that unified people all over the world. Because our fans are no certain race, they all come from all different walks of life, all ages. I think that will be our legacy. Just for touching everybody, not just young people or people our ages or not just older people. I think we’ve touched everybody. Because I’ve had people who I wouldn’t have even imagined listen to our music come up and say I like Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony and they’re like 50 or something like that. So we touch a lot people, and I think that’s our legacy. Just bringing people together as much as we can because we’re not done yet.
As far as collaborations on the new project (The World’s Enemy) goes, who are some of the artists and producers you worked with?
Wish: Yeah, we went back to worked with DJ U-Neek, who Eazy-E hooked us up with. LT Hutton from Tha Dog Pound that we loved working with in the past, and a lot of up-and-coming producers because as Bone-Thugs, we don’t feel like we have to reach out to the big producers or whatever. We did on the last album and it was a cool thing, but we wanna give the hungry producers and dudes who want to come up a chance. We kept it kinda gutter on this one.
That segues into my next question: Production-wise, what’s the difference between this album and your last, Strength & Loyalty?
Krayzie: First of all, it was just three of us [Krayzie, Lazy, and Wish], and now the five of us. Like I said, the chemistry is back now with the five of us. We’re giving off different pitches, we have different voices, different kinds of flows and the production to me is wonderful. We actually worked on this album for like a year-and-a-half. Ever since Flesh came home.
With The World’s Enemy, what are you hoping to accomplish? What do you want fans to take away from Bone-Thugs?
Wish: Real life experiences and definitely our respect to some of the greatest to ever touch the mic.
Krayzie: Not only that, we’re making music that we love. We’re not coming out to prove a point or to say we’re the best or whatever…because we know that! [Laughter]
So, the last three questions I have are from some fans…
Who inspired you guys to do hip hop?
Krayzie: After I was done with listening to R&B, I was turned on by Run D.M.C. and LL Cool J. I used to write down their lyrics actually, so I could learn their lyrics. Until I got to the point where I was like man this looks easy, so I’m gonna start writing my own shit. So I started writing my own rhymes and been writing them ever since.
Wish: Me personally, I got into hip hop when my mom was dating a DJ back in the day and he actually gave me an N.W.A. vinyl. I started listening to it and I got into some Just-Ice, all the real up-and-coming dudes way back then. I liked the more gritty music more than the messages. It kinda started like that for me.
Krayzie: There’s a lot of others like KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, all those dudes paved the way. I think I had just about every poster of every rapper you could think of on my wall.
Wish: Hell yeah!
Krayzie: I was always into Word Up magazine, Black Beat, Yo!, all that shit. I was in it from way back then.
Who do you guys think is the hottest rapper in the game right now?
Wish: Ugh, that’s us! Nah seriously… I’m definitely feeling Lil Wayne, you know he got a category of his own. I like a little Kanye, he’s a little erratic though but that’s alright. Definitely Jay-Z, I can’t forget my man.
Krayzie: I like Kanye West and T.I. because they are very lyrical. I’m feeling them.
This is an off-the-cuff question, what do you guys think about T.I.’s situation?
Wish: It’s tragic.
Krayzie: You know, you live and learn. We all make mistakes. You know he was a real dude to man-up and realize what he did. Can’t nobody judge that man but God. He did what he had to do. I mean, he made a mistake like we all do. He’s being a man, he’s owning up to it, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be blessed for that.
Wish: He ain’t did nothing we haven’t done before in the past when we got our hands on some money and you from the hood. You go and get a whole bunch of guns and do what you’re use to doing. But…he just happened to get caught.
So the final question is…being that the football season is underway, do you guys have a favorite team?
Krayzie: Oh yeah, but we ain’t gonna talk about them bums right now!
No one wants to say?
Krayzie: Cleveland Browns if we gotta choose one. You know we gotta roll with the home team.
Wish: Yeah, we gotta go with the home team.
The World’s Enemy is due in stores December 22 and you can hear some of their new cuts and old HERE.