Some of the very best things in life happen by accident. This applies to the music industry too. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s first independent release called “Faces of Death” was released under the name B.O.N.E. Enterpri$es, but these young Cleveland-based hustlers were hungry for a piece of the flourishing gangster rap market, so after a promised callback from legendary Eazy-E was unfulfilled the group got together and visited Eazy in person when they caught wind that he was in their hometown. Upon the shakedown, the group was signed on the spot–thankfully, the rest is history.
“Creepin On Ah Come Up” was the first notable release from the five member group: Krayzie, Layzie, Bizzy, Wish and Flesh-n-Bone. It was released in June of 1994, but like many of the acts from that era they were not immediately a hit. It was two singles that broke them into the mainstream; those being “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “Foe Tha Love of $.” These two remain the only major hits from the album, yet the album is an excellent listening experience throughout, so if someone were to compile a “Greatest Hits” album of this groups fine material (which has been done) there would not be a lot off this EP, but on the other hand I would argue that all but a few of the eight tracks do not belong on a “Best Of” disc.
The album kicks off with a 1:25 introduction that introduced many to the group that would soon be famous. It is fitting to their namesake that the track features the group harmonizing like a ghetto barbershop quartet. And the â€˜thug’ aspect of it comes with a sinister Freddy Kruger-sounding voice introducing the members of the group.
They take this kind of gangster singing and expound upon it on “Mr. Ouija.” It’s like the group is summoning an evil when they rap “Ouija are you with me/I wanna know my future/mo’ murda, mo’ murda.” The Mr. Ouija idea would appear on several subsequent releases. At this point on the disc the group has not really rapped, but have wisely set a dark tone to the album, as this will prove to be the darkest piece in their careers.
“Thuggish Ruggish Bone” was the first single that really jumped off. It is a genuine classic that features production from the often utilized DJ U-Neek and a great female hook. As each rapper gets there chance to shine, this track really showcases how the group so perfectly complimented each other with their own character. The quintet was known for their rapid fire delivery but each one has a unique voice and rhyme style. Bizzy comes the hardest on this particular joint with the following bars:
“Gotta give it on up to the glock glock
Pop pop, better drop when them buckshot blow
The bone in me never know ho, so no creepin up outta the zip lock
So sin, sip gin, and lil’ mo heart run up, nut up
And flipped in, than slipped the clip in, mistaken’ the bloody victims
Ever if ya test nuts, to the chest and put em to rest
And, but I won’t test bucks, put a hole up into me vest
And gotta get through my soul, but they won’t budge, mud, drug me victim
The blood in me runnin’ my mental, the thug in me, stuck in me
Keepin’ it simple, the bone in me runnin with thugs so
To the temple, buck when you duck to the thuggish ruggish
T’s St. Claire P’s to appeal to the G’s
And a buck to all my enemies”
The lyrics may not be prolific; nonetheless, they are suitable to the vicious West coast-influenced production.
The following two tracks are more of unsung classics when considering “No Surrender” and the essential “Down Foe My Thang.” The latter is straight drive-by music with a perpetual low bass line that rattles any trunk and requires being played at a high decibel. This still belongs along any self-respecting Bone fans’ list of top tracks.
Then there is a coupling of tracks that have a more hypnotic quality about them. The title track is followed by the most popular joint on the disc, “Foe tha Love of $” featuring the incomparable Eazy-E, who the game would later lose in tragic fashion. Much in the same way as “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” “Foe tha Love” incorporates a stellar female vocal throughout. Eazy E delivers a seemingly short, albeit gem of a verse:
“Standin’ on the corner straight slangin’ rocks
Aw shit! Here comes the muthafuckin’ cops!
So I dash, I ducks, and I hides behind a tree
Makin’ sure the muthafuckas don’t see me
Now my fat sack of rocks hell yeah I stuffed ’em
Police on my draws, I had to pause
And yeah, it’s still muthafuck ’em
Now my game is tight, tight as fuck is my game
Easy muthafuckin E or Eric Wright it’s all the same
Now niggas might trip on how I stash my grip
I gotta have it bitch
For the love of this shit
Every time I hear this I can think of no other adjective but â€˜classic.’ It seemingly laid the groundwork for another future anthem-style hit “1st of Tha Month.” The instrumental carries over into the concluding track “Moe Cheese.” They add a variety of piano keys and a female’s orgasmic moans to change it up a little and let the disc ride out to its conclusion.
There is so much to like about this disc. Bone Thugs were purely a unique entity in the way the manner they rapped. The disc is a singular cohesive work of art that never loses it’s direction. A few listeners may nitpick at the fact that a few tracks aren’t entirely necessary, or the selection of tracks is not diverse enough in terms of production and subject matter, or that it’s too short. Still, they grabbed their audience with this and having them yearn for more is not a bad thing. This would undoubtedly be on a short list of best EP’s of all-time.
Bone would go on to reach great new heights with the follow-up “E 1999 Eternal” — a disc widely considered as their quintessential piece. They started to explore more complex subject matters By the time the two-disc, slightly misdirected, opus “Art of War” rolled around Bone Thugs were a name even in white suburbs. This was a more difficult barrier to cross at the time. The storyline gets a bit tangled after BTNH, mainly due to disagreements with Bizzy, as he was supposed to appear on ’07’s “Strength and Loyalty,” and the rest of the group and Flesh-n-Bone’s prison stints. They’ve all had their chances going solo with the most successful being Krayzie and Bizzy. A lot of their work has been really second rate though; I saw Bizzy on BET’s Uncut program some years back with a rapper from Alaska called Joker the Bailbondsman and probably teared up a bit. I hope, like I’m sure many fans do, that they get it all together again and reach a certain level of prominence because they deserve it for the impact they had on our music. They are still relevant.
Bone Thugs always keep it real. While driving here in Columbus I found out that Bizzy resides in Westerville, OH–a safe suburban fixture–yet you could always tell which one was his by the entourage parading the outskirts of the property and by the fact that he does not have a front door. He brought the ghetto lifestyle with him despite his success. Further, few rap releases are as real as “Creepin On Ah Come Up,” which is why you must own a copy if you do not already have oneâ€¦and why Bone Thugs remain an immovable pillar in the genre of rap music.