Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is an American Hip Hop group from Cleveland, Ohio. It consists of rappers Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone and Flesh-N-Bone. American West Coast rapper Eazy-E, former member of rap group N.W.A, signed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to Ruthless Records in late 1993, when Bone Thugs debuted with their EP Creepin on ah Come Up. The EP included their breakout hit single “Thuggish Ruggish Bone”.
In 1995, the group released its second album, E. 1999 Eternal, which included hits “1st of tha Month” and “East 1999”. A tribute to then-recently-deceased Eazy-E, titled “Tha Crossroads”, won a Grammy award in 1997. The Art of War, the group’s third album, was also released in 1997. Bone Thugs is the only group that has worked with all four deceased artists 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Eazy-E and Big Pun while they were still alive. The editors of About.com ranked them #12 on their list of the “25 Best Rap Groups of All Time” and MTV called them “the most melodic Hip Hop group of all time”.
In 2000, BTNHResurrection reached platinum in one month, while 2002’s Thug World Order received more moderate sales and promotion, going gold and peaking at #3 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. After that album, the group went on hiatus from their label and released their sixth studio album, Thug Stories, independently in 2006. In 2007 they had another major-label release, Strength & Loyalty, on Swizz Beatz’s label Full Surface Records. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony “officially” returned with their 2010 album Uni5: The World’s Enemy, released by their own record label, BTNH Worldwide, with distribution by Warner Bros.
Due to conflicts within the group, longtime members Krayzie Bone and Wish Bone officially left the group in April 2011 to work with their independent label, The Life Entertainment. They would later return, officially re-unifying the group. In August 2013, however, Layzie Bone announced that he would be stepping aside to work more on his solo career. In the same month, BTNH signed with eOne Entertainment (formerly known as Koch Records), who they had previously partnered with to release 2006’s Thug Stories.
Formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1991, the group was originally called “The Band-Aid Boys”. They then formed B.O.N.E. Enterpri$e, which consisted of five members — Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone and later Flesh-n-Bone — and recorded an album entitled Faces of Death in the studio of their then-mentor, Kermit Henderson (Krayzie Bone’s younger brother) on his indie label Stoney Burke in 1993. Like so many aspiring rappers around the country, they put in calls to executives at record companies, hoping to find someone who would listen. In hopes of securing a record deal, the group was given an audition over the phone, receiving an unfulfilled promise from rapper Eazy-E to call them back. Determined to reach him, they scrounged together the money for one-way bus tickets to Los Angeles. They left for a three-day Greyhound trek and spent four months on the city streets, putting in frequent calls to find him. Nothing came of their search except the news that Eazy-E was, in fact, on his way to Cleveland for a show.
The quartet returned to Ohio, where Diego Blak (born Diego Hodge), a marketer and promoter who had been co-executive producer of Faces Of Death, introduced them to Eazy-E at a concert he promoted in Cleveland. There, on November 2, 1993, they auditioned for Eazy in his dressing room; Krayzie performed his verse of “Flow Motion” from the Faces of Death album, and Eazy was impressed. B.O.N.E Enterpri$e then traveled back to Los Angeles after the Cleveland show to seal the deal. At this point, Eazy renamed them Thugs-N-Harmony, but as they wanted to keep the bone name, they made their name Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Eazy signed the group (minus Flesh-n-Bone) to his label Ruthless Records.
Released in June 1994, the EP Creepin on ah Come Up was Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s debut with Ruthless. The album’s subject matter was focused almost entirely on violent criminal activity. Peaking at #12 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and #2 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart, it included the hit singles “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “Foe tha Love of $”, the second of which featured a verse by Eazy-E. “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #2 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart, and “Foe tha Love of $” peaked at #41 on the Hot 100 and #4 on Rap Tracks. After a slow start that saw the album’s success limited to gangsta rap audiences, it broke through to the mainstream. The EP marked a major change in style for the group, as they now fully embraced the G-Funk common in West Coast Hip Hop of the time. Beats were supplied by DJ Yella, Rhythum D, and Kenny McCloud, and it was the group’s first collaboration with newcomer producer DJ U-Neek, who would craft the group’s signature sound by producing the majority of their next two albums. For over a year, Eazy-E nurtured their career, continuing to serve as their executive producer and teaching them the business skills he had taught himself over the years. The growing relationship was cut short, however, when Eazy-E died on March 26, 1995, from complications from AIDS. Briefly, the young rappers thought they had lost everything with the loss of their friend and mentor. However, the group’s potential was already apparent, and Ruthless Records continued to support them.
In 1995, the group’s second album, E. 1999 Eternal, was released. It included the singles “1st of tha Month”, which peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 and #4 on Hot Rap Tracks, and “Tha Crossroads”, which reached #1 on both the Hot 100 and Hot Rap Tracks charts. The album generally saw positive reviews from critics as Bone had diversified its content and musical style. A considerable portion of the album’s concept was built upon violent subject matter, yet they also incorporated deeper themes, as its songs dealt with more spirituality and occult mysticism.
The album was produced by DJ U-Neek (with co-production from Tony C. and Kenny McCloud). E. 1999 Eternal also introduced Bone’s trademark tracks devoted entirely to the use of marijuana. The album name originated from one of the street names of a corner (E. 99th street & St. Clair) that was a familiar hangout to Bone members, as well as Eazy-E’s album, Eternal E. Naming it after Eazy-E’s album was just another way of showing respect and tribute to the rapper who had helped them reach success. Also in 1995, Flesh-n-Bone would become the first member of the group to release a debut album, entitled T.H.U.G.S, which was certified gold by the RIAA.
In 1996, due to their success, the Cleveland clan established their own label, Mo Thugs Records, and released the Family Scriptures compilation album to introduce many of the Cleveland-based and other artists whom they were developing. E. 1999 Eternal is the group’s most commercially successful album; it has since been certified 5x platinum by the RIAA. There were plans for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to collaborate with West Coast rapper 2pac on a studio album called One Nation, along with other artists including Snoop Dogg.
In 1997, the group released the double-disc set The Art of War. The album saw Bone further explore a wide variety of subjects and styles, with even more focus on God and family and an overall more ambient, mellow sound. The group still incorporated violent lyrics, however, with a large portion of the album dedicated to what they labeled “clones” who claimed Bone had stolen their quick-tongued rapping style and vice versa. The album had been rumored to be titled “DNA Level C” which is Cleveland backwards. The single “Look into My Eyes” appeared on the soundtrack of the film Batman & Robin. It peaked at #4 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart. “If I Could Teach The World”, the other single from The Art of War, peaked at #27 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Hot Rap Tracks, and won an American Music Award. The album also included “Thug Luv” with Tupac Shakur. The group’s promotional efforts were dampened by the absence of Bizzy Bone from the album’s videos and from large portions of the ensuing tour and other public appearances. This absence eventually fueled rumors of a break-up.
In 2000, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony released BTNHResurrection, featuring the single “Resurrection (Paper, Paper)”, which peaked on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart at #52. The album’s first half featured a slew of hardcore and dark tracks, with the second half being considerably more introspective and soft. Other singles from the album, including “Can’t Give it Up”, failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100, and the big-budget video for “Change the World” failed to receive any rotation. This was their first group album to prominently feature Flesh-n-Bone, whose presence had been limited on previous releases because he had never signed with the group’s label, Ruthless Records. Flesh was convicted for assault with a firearm and criminal possession of a weapon in June 2000. Pleading guilty, Flesh was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
The group again began having public disputes with Bizzy Bone. Bizzy Bone abstained from promoting BTNHResurrection because he felt that Ruthless Records owed him money. He dropped a million-dollar lawsuit he had filed against Sony Music and Loud Records in exchange for a termination of his Sony contract. Three members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony released solo albums in 2001: Bizzy Bone with The Gift, Layzie Bone (under the name L-Burna) with Thug by Nature, and Krayzie Bone with Thug on da Line.
In 2002, the group released Thug World Order. This album, made up of what were described was overly-violent and political songs, saw a drastic change in subject matter and tone for the group. The lyrics were almost completely void of any violence, while a larger number of tracks focused on the group itself. In contrast, several songs originally intended to be included on the album that were leaked after its release portrayed a much different album. The album debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200. The first single released from the album was “Get Up & Get It”, featuring 3LW. The second single, “Home”, which featured Phil Collins performing part of his song “Take Me Home”, peaked at #33 on the Rhythmic Top 40, impacting the charts in a number of countries, most notably the United Kingdom. Bizzy Bone was expelled from the group in January 2003, leaving only 3 active members: Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone and Wish Bone. Thug World Order was also Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s final album with Ruthless Records; after their original contract with Ruthless had expired, they decided they wanted to do their own thing.
Thug Stories, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s sixth album, was recorded on Koch Records and released on September 19, 2006. It marked the first time Bone Thugs had recorded as a trio since they released an internet-only EP album called Bone 4 Life in September 2005. Thug Stories featured a slightly more mature style, and the group leaned more heavily towards its harmonic roots than its “thug” origins. The album sold 38,000 in its first week and peaked at #25 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Independent Albums chart.
Originally to be called The Bone Thugs Story, Strength & Loyalty was released on May 8, 2007 on Interscope Records imprint Full Surface Records. Being their first major album after an absence of nearly five years, the album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, and #1 on iTunes and the Billboard urban music charts. The album contains guest appearances by Mariah Carey, The Game, will.i.am, Akon, Twista, Bow Wow, Yolanda Adams, and Felecia. Producers on the album included Swizz Beatz, Akon, Pretty Boy & Bradd Young, DJ Toomp, Jermaine Dupri, will.i.am, and others. The executive producer of the album was Swizz Beatz. The first single was “I Tried”, which was their first top-10 hit in 10 years, peaking at number 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The second single was “Lil Love”, which failed to reach the success of its predecessor. The album has been certified gold by the RIAA.
2007 also saw the release of the semi-autobiographical film I Tried, directed by Rich Newey, which explored what might have happened to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony had they not gotten their break with Eazy-E. Layzie, Krayzie, and Wish Bone starred in the film, playing themselves. Also in 2007, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony won the American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Band, Duo or Group.
T.H.U.G.S., an album featuring previously-unreleased, largely remixed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony songs that hadn’t made the final cut of the BTNHResurrection and Thug World Order albums, was released on November 13, 2007 by their former record label, Ruthless Records. Although the album embodies old tracks, there are some notable changes: new beats, distorted production, voice manipulation, and new song titles. The sole single off the album was “Young Thugs”, which was accompanied by a newly-filmed music video featuring Krayzie, Layzie, Bizzy and Wish.
In November 2007, Layzie Bone confirmed that he had completed the Bone Brothers III album with Bizzy Bone, spurring speculation about a full Bone reunion. In a video interview, Krayzie Bone stated that they all wanted to reunite but that record label issues might prevent an official reunion. Bizzy Bone had attended a Bone Thugs performance during that time, and he and the three then-active members had a “good conversation”.
After nearly a decade of incarceration, Flesh-n-Bone was released from prison on July 13, 2008. In an interview, Bizzy confirmed his return, the group having reunited in time for Flesh’s release.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s five members officially returned with their new album Uni5: The World’s Enemy, released on May 4, 2010 by their own record label, BTNH Worldwide, with distribution by Warner Bros. Uni5 also marks the return of long-time Bone collaborator DJ U-Neek, who was absent from 2007’s Strength & Loyalty but had produced for the group throughout their career, including on hits “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “Tha Crossroads”. This studio effort leans toward radio-friendly numbers and proper grown-man tracks, with the core four members offering life lessons as Bizzy gives his Biblical perspective. They released the singles “See Me Shine”, featuring Jay Rush and Lyfe Jennings, and “Rebirth”, featuring Thin-C, a member of the Mo Thugs. A third single, “Meet Me in the Sky”, was released on March 22.
Throughout 2011, Krayzie Bone, Bizzy Bone and Layzie Bone spoke about many new projects coming in 2012. Those projects were to include an anniversary album featuring all 5 members; a Bizzy & Krayzie duet album; and compilation albums of unreleased Bone Thugs-N-Harmony material from the mid to late 90’s and 2000’s, prospectively titled Lost Archives Vol. 1. The group put their differences aside to reunite and belatedly mark their 20th anniversary at the Rock the Bells festival series of summer 2012.
During the summer of 2012, West Coast rapper Game sampled Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “1st Of Tha Month” on his new posse cut “Celebration”, with the legendary group’s blessing. Game also posted a picture on his Twitter showing the word “bone” constructed out of cannabis. He later confirmed that he was working in the studio with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on a remix of “Celebration” for his album Jesus Piece.
The Art of War: World War III was officially announced by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in an interview with The Source (magazine) on March 25, 2013. After not appearing on the Everything 100 tour with the rest of the group and Tydollasign, Layzie Bone announced on August 28, 2013 that he would be stepping aside from the group in order to advance his solo career. He stated that, after the completion of a few major performances and a television appearances, he would no longer have any further contractual obligations to the group, and would not appear on their next album. In early November 2013, Krayzie Bone told HipHopDX that the Art of War III album would feature only Layzie, Bizzy and Flesh Bone, and that neither he nor Wish Bone had recorded any material for that album. The Art of War: World War III, which had been rumored to be called The Enemy Strikes Back AKA Uni5: Disc 2 or Recognize Royalty, would be quietly released on December 10, 2013.