Concert Reviews

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Brought a Texas-Sized Hip-Hop Party to The Bomb Factory

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
With B-Real, Scarface, Bun B, Z-Ro, Slim Thug and DJ Unknown
The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Saturday, November 21, 2015

Getting all five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony together is no easy task. The '90s rap legends have had their share of trouble over the years, with internal conflict resulting in a few different members going on hiatus from the group. But when they came to The Bomb Factory on Saturday night, Bone Thugs were the great unifiers, spearheading the third installment of the Texas Takeover, which included not only B-Real of Cyprus Hill but also a host of other Texas hip-hop luminaries.

Scarface, Bun B, Z-RO and Slim Thug were in the building to represent Houston and Port Arthur. Also performing were El Gant, DJ Unknown, Kurtanz, B Real (of Cypress Hill) and all five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Performances by the whole group have been rare in recent years, and without harmony there's no Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

The bill reflected the heartbeat of Texas hip-hop. Scarface's original group, the Geto Boys, debuted in 1988, and Bun B's collaborative albums with the late Pimp C debuted four years later. Those two groups have paved the way for many Southern rappers, earning respect from other early hip-hop artists who witnessed the genre and culture blossom. Hell, Jay Z has solicited features from Scarface and Bun B. The Jiggaman called on Scarface to appear on his compilation album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, on the cut "Can't Be Life," produced by Kanye West. Scarface then recruited Hov and Beanie Sigel for another Kanye West-produced track, "This Can't Be Life."

That's the beautiful thing about hip-hop: The genre has largely outgrown the tumultuous period when you were obligated to support only rappers from your region and feud with those elsewhere. The loss of icons Tupac and Biggie raised consciousness in the hip-hop community, resulting in more collaborations fueled purely by appreciation for other artists' work. Without hip-hop's innovative response to those traumatic events, we wouldn't have been gifted anthems like "Big Pimpin'," the collaboration between Jay Z and UGK. Due to so many artists performing within a short amount of time, the tracklists selected by the acts on Saturday favored their most popular work. The vibe of the night was very laid back and mellow. A subtle two step and head dip were the only dance moves you needed. Scarface kept things sweet as he performed famous tracks "Mary Jane" and "Mind Playing Tricks on Me." The King of the Trill followed suit, coming out with some easygoing numbers like "International Players Anthem" and his verse from "Give Me That," his radio hit with Webbie.

The Big Boss of the North, Slim Thug, came on soon after. The DJ played one of his freestyle raps off the mixtape Before Da Kappa 2K1. It's hard to believe now, but the tape was released all the way back in 2001 as a soundtrack for spring breakers heading south to Galveston for the Kappa Beach parties. Fourteen years later, Slim Thug's supposedly extemporaneous words, delivered over Kioti's "Hooka Hooka" instrumental, still ring bells at Texas concerts. After stopping through with a medley of his more recognizable songs and designating Dallas as his second home, the 6-foot-6 Boss Hog introduced fellow Houston native Z-Ro. Ro had the whole venue singing his hit "I Hate You" and reminiscing about 2004.
B- Real and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were the last of the performers for the night. The Cypress Hill frontman took a break from shooting his web series, The Smokebox, to come to Dallas for the Texas Takeover. "Insane in the Membrane" and "How I Could Just Kill a Man" are necessities on a Cypress Hill member's set list, and of course he delivered.

Once all the smoke cleared from B-Real's performance, the lights dimmed and, accompanied by a "Bone, Bone, Bone, Bone" voice sample, all five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony walked out. It was glorious to have the Cleveland quintet all together on one stage, and they provided a mixture of their well-known pieces. The night couldn't have ended on a more proper note than with the Grammy Award-winning smash, "Crossroads."

The majority of the artists on the lineup emerged during hip-hop's early '90s, mainstream awakening. Collectively the rappers share nearly 100 years of experience in the industry. The ability of these veteran artists to come together so seamlessly after all these years, characterized by countless tragedies and triumphs, felt like a hard-won silver lining. Hip-hop can bring people together, and it did just that at The Bomb Factory Saturday — with a little help from the West, the Midwest and the Dirty South.