In the history of hip-hop, many rap groups have made their mark in the culture, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is among the best to do it. Composed of rappers Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, and Flesh-n-Bone, the Cleveland natives took the music by storm with their melodic flows and uptempo delivery.
Coming to prominence with their debut EP Creepin on ah Come Up in 1994, their breakout first single, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone," peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their sophomore album E. 1999 Eternal, which included hits "1st of tha Month" and "East 1999," was released in 1997.
The group won a Grammy for their classic song "Tha Crossroads," a tribute to Eazy-E and members of the group's family who passed away. The song stayed at the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for eight consecutive weeks
Throughout their legendary career, they would continue to rack up more platinum albums and hit songs that have left an indelible imprint on hip-hop.
BET.com spoke with Layzie Bone and Flesh-n-Bone about paying tribute to NWA, meeting Eazy E. for the first time, their upcoming projects, and the group’s enduring legacy.
Leading up to the 66th Grammy Awards, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony had the honor of honoring N.W.A with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony on Saturday (Feb. 3). As mentees of the late Eazy-E., one of the founders of NWA, Layzie Bone shared that it was a significant moment for the group to present the award to their heroes.
“NWA were our greats. We signed with Eazy-E on Ruthless Records and we used to be on the block playing “Dope Man” when that was out,” Layzie Bone explained. “We were really living that life that they were talking about and we made it out of that life, and had the pleasure of meeting Eazy-E. Through the seeds that he planted, we are part of that tree.”
“Working with the group that influenced us and seeing that Eazy’s vision was still in effect was amazing, man,” Flesh-N-Bone added.” Around a time when he got sick. He was telling us, “My group and I are going to get back together.” He used to talk shit to us saying his group was doper than us [Laughs]. He was talking to Dr. Dre and Ice Cube about getting back together. So it was a full circle moment to honor them.
We look forward to receiving one of those if God has it in the cards for us.”
Although many believe that Eazy-E discovered them because of the late rapper's eye for talent, the group sought him out. Displaying determination and perseverance, they pooled their money together to meet the West Coast legend.
“I keep telling everybody this and I hope the world gets it when you put it on BET because Eazy-E didn't discover us,” Lyazie Bone explained. “ We found him. We used all the money we had and bought one-way bus tickets from Cleveland to LA. At one point, we were homeless. We called his office every day.
“In our homeless phase, when we first got out there, we went to see Tone Loc. We were really scraggly and we were trying to audition ourselves,” Flesh-Bone recalled. “He had some big people but we still pushed up in there and explained to him that we were some rappers from Ohio. We had on the wrong colors of LA when all that gangbang sh*t was going down. Tone Loc was like, “I ain't got time for this sh*t. You're cool. Good luck.”
Facing various obstacles did not dissuade the group but made them more determined to make a name for themselves as a rap group.
“We ended up hunting down a couple of numbers and one was Ruthless Records. We called Eazy but we didn't get Eazy on the phone right away because he was on tour promoting “Real Compton City G’s.”. When he came home and was able to finally get us on the phone and he wanted to hear something. We sat around a table on the phone and we started rapping. He was like ‘I want y'all here right now. As a matter of fact, I'm in Cleveland next week. Can y'all be there?’ The rest is history.”
After struggling for years, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was successful right out of the gate. In a matter of months, their fortunes drastically changed and they were well on their way to realizing their dreams.
“We left Cleveland on November 23, 1993, and we were homeless. We were with Eazy E in California by January 1994,” Layzie Bone recalled. “We started recording from February to June 1994. On June 24, 1994, “Thuggish Ruggish Bone hit the airwaves, and within one week, it went platinum.”
Unlike most groups, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was in high demand to make feature appearances on songs by artists such as Mariah Carey. When asked when some of their favorite collaborations are, Layzie and Krazie shared that they have the distinction of recording songs with Eazy E., The Notorious B.I.G, Tupac Shakur, and Big Punisher while they were alive.
“Man, I love them all. All of them are heaters, bangers, and crowd rockers. Even the work we did with Phil Collins on “Take Me Home,” Flesh-N-Blood said.
“One of my favorites was “Order My Steps” with Yolanda Adams. They probably slept on that one but that’s a feel-good song. If anyone knows her, she is incredible and sings her heart out on that song,” Layzie Bone added.
After more than three decades in the game, Bone Thugs are not showing any signs of slowing down. They have expanded their brand with Shoe Palace merchandise, opening Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Clothing Store, and partnered with the city of Cleveland to revamp their old neighborhood. On the music side, they have plans to release several projects in 2024, including a documentary about their meteoric rise, and now, they own their masters.
Throughout all the ups and downs of the industry, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony said that they owe their success to the love of the game and remaining consistent for more than three decades.
“I would say it was the consistency that we have. We had consistency with working in the studio but we never oversaturated ourselves in the market as far as putting out too many records,” Layzie Bone said.”We were able to change our identity because we got the House Boys with me and my brothers so We made music under that banner. We have had Bone Brothers whether it was the three-man, the four-man, or all five, we were able to adjust, be consistent, and keep changing with the times.”
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