If you’re thinking it’s a little soon for Bone Thugs to be releasing a new album only six months after “Strength & Loyalty,” you’re not the only one. As strange as it might be for Bone Thugs to release two new albums in one year after previously going up to four years between releases, it only gets STRANGER when one pops in “T.H.U.G.S.” and hears Bizzy Bone on the tracks. Let’s not get it twisted here – the current members of Bone Thugs have not reconciled with Bryon, and he is not embarking on a reunion Bone Thugs tour with them any time soon. It’s only through taking notice of the obvious clues and careful observation of the subtle ones that one can piece together what’s going on here.
The first and most obvious clue is the complete lack of cover artwork for “T.H.U.G.S.” The front of the album features the classic BTNH logo superimposed over an artist pile of skulls, with the album’s name perfectly centered and scrolled across the front a few inches below. If you open and fold out the liner notes the theme continues throughout – there are no photos of any of the Bone members anywhere. It’s also telling that there are no “thank yous” from any of the Bone rappers to their family or friends. The more subtle clue is that the album is released by Ruthless Records. Bone have been seperated from their original label for several years now, and if you imagine that they’d go back to their former label let alone reunite with Bizzy Bone in the process you’d be sorely mistaken.
Even if you wanted to argue they’d get back into bed with the label they undoubtedly feel didn’t treat them right or the former member they couldn’t get along with, they certainly wouldn’t do so simply to release an album that would compete with one they already have in stores. Interscope Records certainly wouldn’t be inclined to let them do so – in fact they would probably sue the members of Bone for breach of contract if they did. Ruthless certainly has nothing of value to offer Bone at this point anyway – they can’t afford to promote this CD (it dropped with no advance warning) and as of the writing of this review they don’t even have a functional website up to promote the label.
In the end what’s going on here is perfectly obvious after adding all these clues up and listening to songs on “T.H.U.G.S.” Sooner or later you’ll hear something you recognize from another Bone album, or Bone mixtape, or a song that was leaked to the internet around the time of “BTNHResurrection” or “Thug World Order” that for inexplicable reasons never appeared on those CD’s. Quite simply this is a desperate Ruthless Records attempting to cash in on all of the available Bone Thugs material they have they could dig up out the vaults or remix to release. As such it’s probably not entirely ethical to support an album like “T.H.U.G.S.,” especially as it’s likely none of the rappers involved will ever see a dime from it, and yet songs like the DJ Uneek produced “Everyday Thugs” and Rick Rock’s “Not That Nigga” are the kind of classic smooth Bone shit fans have come to know and love, and for nostalgia’s sake it is good to hear Bizzy reunited with his comrades. This album is right for all the wrong reasons, so the real shame of “T.H.U.G.S.” is that Bone’s current label couldn’t acquire these songs from their former label to promote them the RIGHT way. If you know what you’re getting into and you’re comfortable with the fact this is not really new material, “T.H.U.G.S.” is an acceptable album released in an appropriately “ruthless” manner.