by Alex Shtaerman
With millions upon millions of records sold, very few rap groups have ever tasted the type of commercial success enjoyed by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and by the same token, very few have ever faced as much industry adversity and internal strife. Following the tragic passing of their mentor Eazy E, who died of complications due to the AIDS virus in March of 1995, the group’s relationship with Ruthless Records took a turn for the worst. “We went from having total freedom of being artists to being controlled and just being totally unhappy”, explains Layzie Bone. While 2003 saw Bone Thugs-N-Harmony finally parting ways with Ruthless, the group continued to struggle with inner turmoil. With Flesh-N-Bone incarcerated until 2008 on various gun charges and Bizzy Bone becoming estranged from the group following a series of well publicized disputes, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony return as a trio on their latest LP, Thug Stories; out on Koch Records September 19th. Already set to follow up Thug Stories with another release on Interscope Records in 2007, it appears that for Bone, a return to prominence may finally be underway. With the new album about to drop, we catch up with Layzie Bone to get his take on what the future might hold.
Click here to listen to “Just Vibe”, new music from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Thug Stories is your first album as a trio; from a musical standpoint what kind of impact has the departure of Bizzy Bone had on the sound of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony?
LAYZIE BONE: Basically, there’s really no difference because we can all harmonize and hit different notes and things like that. So from a musical standpoint it’s just his voice missing. But the octave that he carries, we can carry it also; so really it’s not too much of a difference. It’s just his presence is not there.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What are some of things about Thug Stories that you feel will please many of your long time fans?
LAYZIE BONE: It’s fresh, the ideas is current, it’s up to date. So it’s not like you getting’ something that’s old and been put out from [our] old record company and it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. It’s very current and up to date right now.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you find it incredible that a group as influential and as commercially successful as Bone Thugs-N-Harmony had to go through some of the worst industry situations ever bestowed on any artist? Bone recorded one of rap’s all time biggest selling albums in E 1999 Eternal, yet following that you were pretty much torpedoed by your own label, Ruthless Records. It almost seems like a situation out of Bizarro world.
LAYZIE BONE: It’s really really unbelievable. We had to man up and stand up to a lot of pressures. Eazy E passing away and then [having to work with other people]. We went from having total freedom of being artists to being controlled and just being totally unhappy as creative artists. Man, [that kind of thing] is unheard of; and then for us to still be standing [is incredible]. I thank you for that compliment and really looking at it like that because a lot of people don’t see the struggle that we put into this to really be here today.
RIOTSOUND.COM: If you could change one decision that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony made as a group, what would it be?
LAYZIE BONE: I think we all would have held off on our solo careers for a little while longer. That was one of the things that really put a big block on us being together and having that creative vibe together. But it worked out, it was a living and it was a learning lesson. Now we know what to do and what not to do but we coulda held off on them solo careers for a minute.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Since Eazy E passed so early in his life a lot of fans didn’t really get to know the real Eazy. What was the real Eazy E like? How do you feel about what he did for you in terms of taking a risk and signing a group from Cleveland at a time when there were basically no groups from that part of the country that were even on the radar?
LAYZIE BONE: Basically that’s my mentor and we forever indebted to Eazy E because he didn’t have to take that chance. But we seen a different side of Eazy E, we know that he loved children, we knew he was really about his business; he was a very very humble guy. He could have a conversation with the leader of the world and he could kick it down in the slums with the Crips and the Bloods. He was just a very versatile, well rounded dude. We got to see his heart. He was a great person man. Just by him taking a chance on somebody from Cleveland, Ohio; that says a lot right there.
RIOTSOUND.COM: I interviewed Bizzy Bone a few months ago and he said that it was Krayzie Bone who was very much influential in bringing about the unique style that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is known for; can you elaborate on that?
LAYZIE BONE: The way I seen our style coming about was [from] togetherness. Us being together all the time [and] healthy competition and also just having the will to sing. We come from a background of singing. We thought it was cool, the more words that you put into a line, that’s what made you a better rapper. The more blank space you left on the track or within a bar, that was like idle time to us. So I think it was the togetherness and us building off each other. That’s really what brought the style about. Krayzie Bone, he is the sensei as far as Bone Thugs-N-Harmony lyricists. So he was the one that focused on everything more and was able to bring it to the light.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Many fans that have followed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony from the beginning would probably agree that Hip-Hop is in a time of need right now. What do you plan to bring to the game in terms of your new album as well as moving forward into the future?
LAYZIE BONE: We just plan on keeping it honest, if you understand where I’m coming from. We plan on keeping it honest and really just being creative and trying to add harmony and style and flavor and real topics and subjects to the game. Some things that’s relevant to what people are really going through. Everybody can’t get their bling on, so we touch on topics that’ll touch your heart.
RIOTSOUND.COM: After all the trials and tribulations that Bone has endured over the years, what are some of the things that you can really be thankful for?
LAYZIE BONE: Having a career and not [just] an album. We can be thankful for our children, our families; thankful to still be here after everything we’ve been through. Just being thankful, period. And just giving it back to the Lord.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You got the new album, Thug Stories; what else should fans be aware of as far as Bone Thugs-N-Harmony goes?
LAYZIE BONE: September 19th, the album will be in stores. Also we got a new situation we just signed with Interscope; we got an album coming out with them probably in the second quarter of 2007. We got a distribution situation for Mo Thugs lined up which consists of Thick C and Thin C, Felecia, Ken Dawg, E-Mortal Thugs; so we got a lot of things coming man. Also be looking out for The Bone Thugs Story, which is the true story of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, the movie. Also a couple of DVDs and different business ventures we doing. Be on the lookout for Bone Thugs and thanks for the support. We plan to be out here in everybody’s face, so the word will be out.