Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - Biography
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony hit the American rap scene in the mid 1990s with a signature flow that combined hostile, fast-paced rapping with smooth harmonization. Although they got their start in Cleveland, Ohio, the group soon drew ties to the West Coast when they teamed up with Los Angeles producer DJ U-Neek and N.W.A.’s Eazy-E.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony formed under the name B.O.N.E. Enterpri$e in the early 90s. Originally consisting of just four rappers who went by the monikers Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, and Wish Bone, the group added a fifth rapper, Flesh-n-Bone, to the lineup and recorded their debut album, Faces of Death (Stoney Burke), in 1993. Their career was shaped through their connection with Eazy-E, who would be instrumental in getting the quintet signed to Ruthless Records.
In 1994, the group officially changed their name to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and released their debut for Ruthless Records, an EP called Creepin on ah Come Up (Ruthless Records). Certainly an unapologetically violent album that glorified crime and drug use, Creepin on ah Come Up scored big with the gangsta rap community from the onset, but was a relative sleeper for commercial radio. However, the release of two singles, “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “Foe tha Love of $,” sped up the mainstream reception of the album. The singles gained fans with videos on MTV and Creepin on ah Come Up went on to be certified double platinum by the RIAA.
The following year, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony set upon making an LP that was less focused on the dark underworld of crime and drugs. Instead, the group diversified their sound with smoothed-out harmonies and lyrics touting spirituality. The album, E 1999 Eternal (1995 Ruthless Records), hit number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts. “1st of tha Month” and “Tha Crossroads” catapulted the group and E 1999 Eternal into the mainstream’s radar. “Tha Crossroads” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and, due to the major success of these two singles, E 1999 Eternal was certified platinum six times by the RIAA.
The Art of War (Ruthless Records) was released in 1997 as a two disc set. The single “Look into My Eyes” gained a large fanbase after it was featured on the soundtrack for the film Batman & Robin and rose to number four on the Billboard Hot 100. “If I Could Teach the World” won an American Music Award, further gaining momentum for the album. While not chart-topping, “Thug Luv,” a collaboration with Tupac Shakur, gained tremendous popularity via radio play. The Art of War saw the group focusing more than ever on the topics of relationships with God and one’s family. However, the album was not entirely without controversy; some of the lyrics take a decidedly more violent approach and threats are made to “clones” (or copycats) whom Bone Thugs-N-Harmony accuse of stealing their signature rapid fire delivery. It is widely suggested that these were direct attacks on Twista, Do or Die, and Three 6 Mafia. The Art of War was eventually certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.
In 2000, Flesh-n-Bone finally stepped into the group’s spotlight with BTNHResurrection (Ruthless Records). Flesh-n-Bone’s previous contributions had been limited due to the fact that he had not signed with Ruthless Records, but BTNHResurrection officially represents his first album as a signed artist. While BTNHResurrection debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and went platinum, it was a far cry from the success the group had become so accustomed to in recent years. The album seemed divided, with half of it following suit with the older Bone Thugs-N-Harmony style of aggressive and nihilistic rage, and the other half reaching towards the gentler, more enlightened side of the group. Tensions within the group rose; ongoing pressures were put upon Bizzy Bone to pull his weight on tour and then Flesh-n-Bone was arrested for threatening a neighbor with an AK-47. He was sentenced to 11 years in 2001.
Despite the rut they found themselves in with BTNHResurrection, the group forged ahead and came back in 2002 with Thug World Order (Ruthless Records), an album initially so violent that Ruthless Records would not accept it — especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York City — and forced the group to re-record. The album debuted at number 12 on the Billboard 200 and did little to stay afloat. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony soon parted ways with Ruthless Records.
After signing with Koch Records, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony released 2006’s Thug Stories (Koch), an album unsupported by singles or videos. Thug Stories continued down a more harmonic and mature path, while still regaling the stories of thug life. The album peaked at number 25 on the Billboard 200 and has sold over a 100,000 copies.
In 2007, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony released Strength & Loyalty (Interscope), an album rife with A-list collaborators such as Twista, Bow Wow, Mariah Carey, Akon, will.i.am, The Game, and Yolanda Adams. The album scored a number two spot on the Billboard 200 and R&B Albums charts. Production was handled by Swizz Beats and Jermaine Dupri, amongst a host of other big name talent. Strength & Loyalty has been RIAA gold certified.
Also in 2007, the group filmed and produced a straight-to-DVD movie called I Tried. The film, directed by Rich Newey, explores how life would be different for Krayzie, Layzie, and Wish Bone if they had not eventually met Eazy-E.