Still Creepin’ 

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony hit Memphis.

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Cleveland's Bone Thugs-N-Harmony first came together at the beginning of the '90s under the highly unlikely (and wisely scrapped) moniker, The Band Aid Boys. The then five-member group of MC's Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, and Flesh-N-Bone adopted the B.O.N.E. Enterprises name for the recording and release of their underground debut full-length CD/LP, Faces of Death. It was made under the studio guidance of then-mentor (and older brother of Krayzie Bone) Kermit Henderson, who released the album in 1993 on his own small label Stoney Burke. The group pushed itself to many labels and throughout the industry and eventually endeared themselves to former N.W.A. member and Ruthless Records owner Eazy-E through a live audition in his dressing room. Eazy was impressed enough to get serious about the group and sign them to Ruthless with the caveat that they be known as "Thugs-N-Harmony," though a middle ground was met and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would soon be one of the most distinctive and important mainstream hip-hop groups of the '90s.

Bone Thugs' debut for Ruthless was 1994's eight-song EP, Creepin on ah Come Up, which circulated amongst gangsta-rap audiences for a short time until breaking through to the mainstream and peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart on the backs of the hit singles "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" (No. 22 on the Billboard's Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Hot Rap Tracks charts, respectively) and "Foe tha Love of $" (No. 4 on Hot Raps Tracks). The latter featured a verse by Eazy-E, who would go on to mentor and guide Bone Thugs' career for a year until succumbing to complications from AIDS in March of 1995, though Ruthless Records continued to be the group's label during their highly successful run throughout the '90s and into the next millennium. 1995's E. 1999 Eternal, the first proper full-length album by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, upped the ante considerably by becoming an absolutely massive hit and the group's biggest selling title.

The singles "1st of tha Month" and "Tha Crossroads" truly introduced to a large-scale, mainstream audience what was a style of hip-hop that went way beyond "horrorcore," G-Funk, and gangsta rap elements and combined into something musically unprecedented at that level. Bone Thugs' popularization of their signature "chopper" style of hip-hop was truly one of the seven phonetic wonders of the MC'ing world when it hit big in the mid '90s. In between extremely catchy choruses sung in the G-Funk style was the group's lightning-speed rapping, itself so fast that it seems stream-of-conscious (far from it and masterfully crafted lyrically) as it undulates to and fro, taking on the role of an additional primary melodic hook for each song.

E. 1999 Eternal (the "E" being in tribute to Eazy-E) and its follow-up, the epic-length The Art of War (1997), were categorically huge hip-hop releases that rebirthed at an above-ground level the violent lyrical content, which had run its (first) course by the mid-'90s, typically associated with gangsta rap. It was during this era that the "Mo Thugs" entity was established as a collective and record label focused on up-and-coming or affiliated Cleveland-related artists, and five albums were released by Mo-Thugs (which numbered almost 40 members, including the Bone Thugs MCs) between 1995 and 2009. Art of War's "Look Into My Eyes" showed up on the Batman & Robin soundtrack and peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 chart, while "If I Could Teach the World" won an American Music Award in 1997.

Bone Thugs also dealt with the continuing absence of member Bizzy Bone later in the '90s and prior to this a feud with our own Three 6 Mafia over what was at the time considered stylistic cribbing, as both groups had a similar sound and Three 6's had actually been in place since 1989. (DJ Paul explained last year on Blurred Culture's Live With Steve Lobel that the whole thing was essentially a misunderstanding and not "a real beef.") 2000's BTNHResurrection did not repeat the success of its predecessors, and internal conflict with Bizzy Bone (over his own issues with Ruthless Records) soon meant solo albums by Bone Thugs' members, but the rappers returned in 2002 with the shockingly graphic and very much politically charged departure, Thug World Order, their final album for Ruthless Records. 2006's Thug Stories signaled a new label relationship with Koch Records and did better than the previous two by selling almost 40,000 in its first week and peaking at No. 25 on the Billboard 200, not to mention that it was first album Bone Thugs made as a trio (minus Bizzy Bone).

The next year's Strength & Loyalty (on Interscope imprint Full Surface Records) kept the comeback coming, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and featuring guests like Mariah Carey, the Game,, Akon, Bow Wow, and others.

2007 saw Bone Thugs-N-Harmony win the American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Band, Duo or Group. In 2010, following an official reunion of all five Bone Thugs members (Bizzy Bone returned after years of acrimony, and Flesh-N-Bone was released from a prison stretch), the album Uni5: The World's Enemy was released by the group on their own label BTNH Worldwide (distro'd by Warner Bros.), but only Layzie, Bizzy, and Flesh Bone would be the core members on 2013's The Art of War: World War III.

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