By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
A lot can happen in the course of three years: You can go from hopping buses to shop demos coast-to-coast to getting signed, having platinum sales, and touring the country with fat pockets. The formula that brought about this change for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony members Layzie Bone, Flesh-N-Bone, Wish Bone (pictured below), and Krayzie and Bizzy Bone was the way they changed how gangsta rap was performed even as they revived the genre's popularity. Aided by West Coast Kingpin Easy-E--who responded to their gangsta lyrics and funked-up bass beats--the Thugs brought something new to the urban storytelling pioneered by G-funk pioneers like Ice-T, Mixmaster Spade, and of course Easy-E and his cohorts in N.W.A.: harmony. It was one thing to sing-song your hooks--as most rappers did--but quite another to harmonize throughout entire songs like the members of the Thugs were able to do.
In 1993, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were just rap-inspired teenagers from Cleveland, Ohio, who ventured west in order to hook up with the one man who they thought would see their musical vision. Unfortunately, Easy-E was off doing a concert--back in Cleveland. They made it back in time to hook up with him, and their initial release, the 1994 EP Creepin on Ah Come Up--with E at the helm as executive producer--didn't just creep. It shot to the top of the charts, selling an astonishing 3,000,000 copies and becoming the best-selling EP of all time. In 1995 they followed up with E. 1999 Eternal, a quadruple-platinum album that featured the double-platinum single "Crossroads," which garnered awards nominations everywhere, from the MTV Video Awards to the Soul Train Music Awards. Their most recent release, the double-disc Art of War, just came out this July and is already nearing double-platinum status. Much in keeping with the rap lineage they have honored and even extended, the music is real, and the lyrics for the most part angry, holding up to America a mirror that shows her that her once-beautiful face is now--for many of her citizens--ugly and sagging off the bones.
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