Bone Thugs-n-Harmony have played a large part in making the midwest’s presence felt in hip-hop. Now, nearly two decades deep as recording artists, they’re continuing the path they’ve been on of taking their careers into their own hands. Layzie Bone just released two albums independently, and this week we caught up with him to find out more about the projects, why he feels he couldn’t have gone the indie route at the start of his career, and who among the current crop of popular emcees he feels could have survived when Bone Thugs first came on the scene. Layzie also shared a few, amazing, personal stories about Eazy-E you won’t read anywhere else.
Adam Bernard: Throughout the years we’ve seen Bone Thugs go through some changes in membership. What is the current status of the group? Are you all one big happy family?
Layzie Bone: We all good, man. We did the Uni5 (album) last year, so I think when we worked on that particular situation we got it all the way together. We’ve been friends all our lives, we just go through changes and adjustments, but we don’t change on each other.
AB: That’s good to hear. As a solo artist you just released not one, but two albums – The Definition & The Meaning. Why release two albums at the same time?
LB: It’s just the abundance of music I was sitting on. I was going to put out one record, but as I was recording my flow and creativity wasn’t stopping, and then I felt like it started to come together with the concept of defining what it means to have this longevity in the game, and then trying to do it as a solo artist. It became an overall package, a survival kit.
AB: So these are two fully formed albums. They’re not just a bunch of songs you released so that people will pick up singles.
LB: This is a whole, complete, conceptual package that’s all put together. It’s designed as a survival kit. It’s designed to be a total package. You can’t have the definition without the meaning, or the meaning without the definition.
AB: When you say it’s a survival kit, is it a survival kit for life, for being in the music industry, or for something else?
LB: It’s a survival kit for all of the above; for being in the industry, to withstanding and having longevity with a career in this game. It’s a survival kit of life because our music, a lot of people come to us and be like “your music helped me through a lot of things in life.” We get that a lot, so I feel like this is Layzie Bone’s survival kit.
AB: And you released these albums independently, correct?
LB: Yeah, independently, though my new label, Harmony Howse Entertainment. It’s Mo Thug refurbished and it’s distributed through RBC.
AB: What have you found that’s different about releasing things independently after having a successful career on a major label?
LB: It really works out quite well because me being able to make all my own decisions and not have to deal with A&R… I get to be my own artist representative. It gives me the full creative control that I’ve always wanted. Now I can decide the total fate of my record, not from a record sales standpoint, but from a creative standpoint, to how I want it to sound for my fans.
AB: You said that this is the control that you’ve always wanted. Now that you’re more mature, you’ve been doing this for over 20 years, do you think, looking back, you could have handled this much control from day one?
LB: Oh, not at all. Everything happens when it’s supposed to happen. If I would have had this type of power, or diplomacy, over my own situation I probably would have blown it off because I had to learn a lot. We live and we learn, so 15, 20 years ago I wouldn’t say I was ready for this type of responsibility, but now that I’ve learned and been through the hard knocks in life, I feel like I’ve graduated from the university of life and lesson and experience. To be able to have this control now, it comes with great responsibility, and life is the best teacher of that. I probably would have blew it back in the day. I was young, wild, and learning.
AB: As someone who’s been both a major label, and now an indie, artist, do you feel the internet has really leveled the playing field for independent artists?
LB: Yeah, I think it’s more than leveled the playing field for independent artists because as opposed to handing out tapes and CDs you can be an independent artist like myself that already has a name and is still relevant in the game, and I can reach Japan in a split second, I can reach Australia in a split second, I can reach South Africa in a split second, Brazil in a split second, so I think it’s more than leveled the playing field if you understand how to market and promote yourself. Everything has its odds, its good and its bad, its yin and its yang. My record leaked before it came out, both records leaked, (but) by me being able to reach out to my fans all across the world, they’re gonna purchase, but at the same time (the leaks) are still promotin that I got good records, because there’s always been bootleggers in the game anyway.
AB: I do occasionally miss seeing the dude with his sheet covered in CDs.
LB: The dude got the incense AND your CDs. That was the game back then. You had to get to a barbershop, or something like that, and you’ll find your bootleg man with all the new movies and all the new CDs, but with the internet you don’t need the physical CD. The whole world is coming into this digital thing where you can go online and purchase whatever.
AB: That’s these days. When you look at the artists who are seeing success right now, how many of them do you think could hang when Bone Thugs first came out?
LB: Only the ones that were out back then, like the Puffys and the Jay-Zs, and all that. All the new artists are doing Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, singing and rapping put together, that’s something we brought to the game. Bone Thugs’ children, the emcees that adopted our style, the sing-song style, or the fast rappin, whatever element of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony they decided to bite on to, or latch on to, they couldn’t have lasted at all because they needed Bone Thugs-n-Harmony to even be born.
AB: Finally, Eazy-E passed away 16 years ago this month. What are some of your fondest memories of Eazy-E that have nothing to do with music?
LB: I remember when we were doing “1st of Tha Month,” Eazy-E came and got me and he was telling me that he seen in me that I was following in his steps as being a businessman and he wanted to put my name on the back of the “1st of Tha Month” single as co-executive producer. Back then I didn’t understand. I didn’t want him to put my name on there because I didn’t want to be separated from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, but that’s one of my fondest memories because he was like “I’m just telling you what I see, man,” and I didn’t get that until after he passed, that he was pointing out that I was becoming a CEO of Mo Thug and all that. Eazy-E saw that first. He helped me developed Poetic Hustla’z and II Tru and Tre’, the first groups that I came out with. Eazy-E allowed me to do that. I remember him coming to pick us up in a 600 Benz back when we were enthused about being in a Benz. He’d come by and pick us up and take us out to eat. Little things. I remember Eazy-E playing with my oldest son, Jeremy. I never knew he was into kids the way he was until I brought my son around one time and he damned near kidnapped my son. He had him with him all day. My son was kickin it with Eazy-E. Those are some of my fondest memories.