Anthony “Krayzie Bone” Henderson is attempting to explain the surreal loyalty of hardcore Bone Thugs-n-Harmony followers. Over the last 24 years, the defiant (and at times downright weird) five-man Cleveland rap crew—who unceremoniously crashed the exclusive East Coast/West Coast party with their groundbreaking and controversial 1993 debut EP Creepin on ah Come Up—has translated their nearly 30 million albums sold run into a bankable, consistent touring operation. During a Bone show, it’s not at all shocking to witness locked-in apostles proudly displaying BTNH tattoos as they passionately recite the group’s trademark rapid-fire, what-the-hell-are-they-saying??? linguistics, as if it were some ride-or-die pledge of allegiance.
Krayzie, the de facto Bone frontman and producer, is gearing up for the release of New Waves: a long-in-the-making duet album alongside the group’s most irreverent and infamous member Bryon “Bizzy Bone” McCane. The charismatic tag-team now goes under the no-frills name Bone Thugs. And they can both testify that the cult of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony is real. It’s the kind of dogged fandom lodged somewhere between kabuki-esque ‘70s hardrock behemoths Kiss, and iconic Staten Island kung-fu obsessed hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan. Krayzie is as surprised as anyone that the late Eazy-E’s favorite Ruthless Records standouts are still packing them in.
“People still want to see Bone Thugs-n-Harmony just like Snoop Dogg,” Krayzie reflects of the group’s indelible connection with the fans. “We can tour forever. I’m even shocked sometimes that the fans are still coming out. Sometimes I think, ‘Ain’t y’all tired of hearing this old shit yet?’ [laughs]. I even say it to myself sometimes. I just did a solo tour in Europe that was pretty damn good. So that Bone legacy has been benefiting us for a very long time.”
But without the assistance of revisionist history, critics and hip-hop zealots early on had little use for Bizzy Bone, Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Wish Bone, and Flesh-N-Bone. Their triple time, tongue-twisting flow was deemed a mere gimmick. And while they were fully capable of writing melodic, heartfelt anthems about celebrating loved ones we have lost (“Tha Crossroads”), finding redemption beyond the streets (“Days of Our Livez”), and staying grounded through fame and fortune (“Look into My Eyes”), they faced criticism for their less pristine content.
If you were to actually take Bone’s records seriously, you would swear they were weed smoking, devil worshipping, dope dealing, welfare check-cashing thugs. On two-fisted statements like “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” “Foe tha Love of $” and “1st of Tha Month” they foresaw Trap Music before Young Jeezy knew what was good. And yet that over-the-top balance worked, as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony became major crossover stars, hitting the studio with everyone from the Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. (“Not many artists can say that,” Bizzy Bone glows.) to pop siren Mariah Carey.
Which brings us back to the newly christened Bone Thugs. Krayzie and Bizzy swear that Bone Thugs-n-Harmony have not broken up. They view their offshoot act as a dream project for the fans. Sure, it could be argued that Bone Thugs’ New Waves should have dropped 15 years earlier to ensure maximum commercial impact. “But it was never about that,” says an animated Bizzy. “I think it was just time. We’ve been on the road since Flesh got out of jail in ’09. We’ve been on a mission. A lot of comments from our fans we read on social media…that just guided us in this direction. Organically, it all just came together with all the elements and parts.”
So what does a Bone-affiliated album sound like in 2017? UGHH sat down with Krayzie and Bizzy to discuss everything from the evolution of New Waves and their place in hip-hop folklore to why they like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s chances of making the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Read on.
There was a time when Bone fans thought this project would never come to fruition. What finally pushed you guys to make New Waves a reality?
Krayzie: Me and B have been talking about doing this for a long time ever since we recorded a song together on [1995’s E. 1999 Eternal] called “Die, Die, Die.” Since then we have always tossed around the idea of us doing a duets album. At one point the album title was called Ebony & Ivory [laughs].
Now that’s an album title…
Krayzie Bone: No joke. Ebony & Ivory was out there for a while. Then time presented itself for us to get together and finally do it. We knew that the fans love Bone, but they understand the dynamics of the group and where the harmonies come from. With us two coming together, the fans know that they will be hearing classic Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and more.
Bizzy Bone: And E One made it very easy for us. Our team let me do me because I be off on other shit sometimes [laughs]. It’s like our team is watching both of us evolve into better artists. They knew we were serious about the music. Me and Krayzie weren’t sitting at the negotiation table talking about, “We are going to need $1.7 million for this one!” We took this album very seriously.
Krayzie: We have so much history with not only E One Music, but with Alan Grunblatt (President of E One Music). We have so much history with him from our early Bone days. This is the same dude we’ve had all our success with our whole career. Everything we’ve ever done has been successful with Alan. So I’m comfortable with knowing that our project is in good hands.
So what does this project mean for the future of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony?
Krayzie: It’s still the same…we are definitely still together. The reason we took on the name Bone Thugs is because this is not the whole group; this is Krayzie Bone and Bizzy Bone. But sound wise we are still Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. We wanted to give this project a different look. That’s where the album title comes from: New Waves. This album is something that will add to the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony legacy.
A lot of Bone fans have been comparing the Krayzie/Bizzy dynamic to the Wu’s Raekwon and Ghostface. Do you agree?
Bizzy: That’s exactly what I see…that same type of effortless chemistry. And the fans have been waiting for this for what it seems like forever. It’s just the right time.
Let’s talk about your single “If Heaven Had a Cell Phone,” which features Tank. Such a bold title doesn’t leave much to the imagination. How did the track come together?
Krayzie: The beat came to us already titled. And the title is crazy, so we knew we were going to stick with it. When I heard the song I knew that we needed real R&B on it. No Auto-Tune, but real singing. And who better than Tank? He came in and killed it. “If Heaven Had a Cell Phone” is basically us imagining if we really had the opportunity to call up God and talk to him. What would that conversation be like?
Bizzy: Just the entire idea of “If Heaven Had a Cell Phone” took us to the next level. People know what Bone should come out with. They know what we should sound like. This album was put together with the hands of real artists. The struggle and the strife you hear is just where we come from. We ain’t bougie, word to Migos [laughs].
When you are performing some of the older Bone material such as “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” “1st of Tha Month,” and “Crossroads” what instantly comes to mind?
Krayzie: Just how crazy it is that we were so young and on that level lyrically. We created our style just from being around each other every day. We definitely had influences, but we took those influences and created our own thing. We created a sub-culture within the hip-hop and not many groups have been able to do that.
Bizzy: I think about the fact that I’m still doing the songs that I wrote when I was 18-years-old. I’ve been experiencing it for years and years and years. So each time you are taken back to your past. It’s not just one big biopic. Those classic songs are something we experience on a daily. Every single show we experience it. It’s now a part of our lives.
Krayzie, you have been pretty open about your personal battle with the autoimmune disease sarcoidosis, which took the life of legendary comedian Bernie Mac. Can you give us an update on how you are doing at the moment?
Krayzie: I’ve been doing good. I have check-ups every three months. My lungs are getting healthier and healthier. I’m just thankful for that because it could have went another way. It can be a very serious disease if it’s not taken care of. I still have to take prescription medicine just to make sure everything goes well. Without my lungs, it’s pretty hard to rap this fast onstage. Thankfully, I’m still able to do what I love to do.
Bizzy: Can I just say Krayzie Bone is a genius? You hear it throughout this album. He has that West Coast and East Coast, and some of the South in him. I’ve watched him evolve. Krayzie is one of the greats. Krayzie was doing all of our live show tapes when we first started. He’s the genius behind Bone Thugs-n-Harmony technically. He was literally our first tech dude.
Krayzie, what comes to mind when you hear such unmitigated praise from your Bone brethren?
Krayzie: What can you say to that? I mean, Bizzy is one of the coldest rappers to ever pick up a mic. Period.
So far we’ve seen Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, N.W.A., and Tupac Shakur all get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony will be eligible in 2019 for the Hall, which is based in your hometown of Cleveland. Do you like your chances?
Krayzie: There’s a great chance we could make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s something we have been looking towards for a long time. We are coming up on the 25-year mark. We bow down to N.W.A., but we feel like we are right behind them…right on their heels. That’s one of the reasons me and Bizzy wanted to come together and do this album.
We want to let everybody know that we are still contending out here. If you look around you will see that everybody is doing Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. We brought this to the table 24 years ago. They are doing us. We birthed this whole era…the good and the bad. So we got to get out here and solidify our careers and just go out like the legends that we are.
Bizzy: We’ve been on this journey together. This is what we do…make music together. When you hear a new song like “Waves” (which features all five original members of Bone) you are listening to years of us touring together. We do our records every night and people love them each time because we put a little different spice to it. We love what we do.
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