AFTER THE STORMMay 3, 2007 at 9:58 pm | Posted in Found At Other Sites, Interviews | Leave a comment
BONE THUGS~N~HARMONY INTERVIEW
Interview by Dominic Di Francesco and Adam Leibrandt
Rhyme & Reason Magazine
In the braggadocio fuelled world of Hip-Hop, the word ‘legend’ is used too often, too loosely and [in a great many cases] is a hollow, self-anointed title. Amongst fans, the debate over ‘legend’ status invites enthusiastic and fiery conversations that rarely lead to a consensus beyond the names: Rakim, Biggie and Pac; although a hand-full of others have surely earned the title, too. Amongst this handful are the often unmentioned Bone Thugs~N~Harmony. With over 35 million album sales to their name, a Grammy Award and a generous stylistic contribution to Hip-Hop [as originators of the widely-borrowed harmonized rap], Bone have grown into the ‘legend’ tag over a +15 year-long career that has seen more twists and turns than the plot of a daytime soap opera. From the death of their mentor [Eazy-E] from AIDS to the jailing of group member Flesh-N-Bone, and the eventual ex-communication of the mentally unstable Bizzy Bone, the dramas enveloping Bone Thugs have long overshadowed the glory of their achievements. However, after every stormy night comes a bright sunny day and the clouds certainly seem to be giving way to sunshine for Bone in 2007. A newly aligned recording situation with super-producer Swizz Beatz, backed by music industry powerhouse Interscope Records, has given rise to the group’s most anticipated album to date, Strength & Loyalty. The aptly titled disc not only marks the group’s return to form, but also looks to trigger a genre-wide realisation of Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone and Wish Bone’s legendary contribution to Hip-Hop.
How does the title of the new album, Strength & Loyalty, apply to Bone Thugs at this point in time?
Wish Bone: It means just what it says, Strength & Loyalty. I mean, we’ve been through a whole lot in the game; losing Eazy [E], then we went through a drought, not putting records out and whatever. So that’s where our strength comes from, our togetherness and our loyalty to the rap game and ourselves. It sums it all up, Strength & Loyalty.
Why did you guys choose to align yourselves with super-producer Swizz Beatz? What does Swizz bring to the table?
Layzie: Swizz brings a whole lot of energy to the table; you know what I’m sayin’? He brings the clubs, a lot of energy. He fits right in with the Bone Thugs ‘cause he’s a musical genius. Bone and Swizz is genius put together and it hits from different angles of the game, so it’s a hell of a chemistry!
So should we expect something different? Everybody loves the old Bone Thugs sound, but now that Swizz Beatz is involved is it something …
Layzie: Nah, I mean, we basically stick to our same thing. Bone Thugs~N~Harmony got a recipe and we basically stick to that, but we always try new stuff anyway, you know what I’m sayin’? You can always expect new stuff from Bone. Even when we were doing Art of War and East 1999 we had different songs on there, like “Evil Paradise” and things like that. So we always ventured out, but we did a lot more club songs, not particularly for this album, ‘cause we did over one hundred songs [with Swizz]. It’s basically the Bone formula and we’re going to continue to grow. It’s growth.
Do you think it’s long overdue that you started working with other producers?
Krayzie: Definitely! There’s a lot of producers out here that are actually making the kind of beats that we can really get down to. We ain’t really gotta stick to one producer. We can venture out and work with other producers, different producers.
So what’s your situation with DJ U-Neek? Are you guys not really collaborating together anymore?
Wish: We still work with DJ U-Neek on a lot of other things. He did a lot of things on the Strength & Loyalty album in terms of skits and making the album come together. He does a lot of stuff on the side, projects with our artists that we have. So he’s still in the picture.
Do you think you had an advantage coming out of Cleveland, without any heavy east coast or west coast influences, in that it allowed you to develop your own unique style?
Krayzie: Yeah, that was major with us, not being labelled as west coast or east coast. We’re all-round artists.
Layzie: Yeah, that was our advantage. When we were coming up, we had Cleveland rappers trying to be like they were from New York, and we had Cleveland rappers trying to be like they were from the west coast. But we just always did our own thing, you know what I mean?
Which is perhaps why you guys were able to work with both 2pac and the Notorious B.I.G. …
Layzie: Right. That was because we all stayed neutral. Plus, we harmonize, we sing. We was rapping doing different s**t on the block, around a burning barrel humming our s**t and harmonizing. We never really took to any different side, or the south. When we were coming up, the south was Rap-A-Lot [Records], the west coast was Eazy-E, and then Russel [Simmons] and Def Jam on the east. And that’s all it really was. We never really followed any of their fads, we liked a little bit of everything.
And why do you think everyone’s getting behind Bone Thugs this time around? You’ve had years where the group has been so quiet and now you have action dolls coming out, a Bone Thugs credit card, etc. Why is it all happening now?
Layzie: It’s the same thing Akon said when he went out of his way to make this situation with the first single happen for us. “It’s like everybody’s doing y’all and everybody’s giving y’all love back. Everybody loves working with y’all, wants to work with y’all. They understand that you gave the game something to grow on.” Akon said, “Y’all are legends and everybody wants to be a part of that. Y’all are just now getting your credit.”
Is there any room for reconciliation with Bizzy Bone?
Krayzie: I mean, you never know. Only time will tell. It ain’t like we hate him or we’re carrying a grudge. He’s going through whatever it is he’s going through and if there’s some kind of way that we can be reconciled, you know, we’re damn sure for it.
Layzie: The only problem we ever had, that never got told, is business being handled. If dude wanna come through and handle his business as a member of Bone Thugs~N~Harmony, and give Bone Thugs~N~Harmony the 1000% attention it needs as a business, he’s always … Bone is a revolving door. He can come and go as he please, as long as he handles his business.
So he was just too disruptive for you all to …
Layzie: Right, we couldn’t sleep at night, my man. It was hard, you feel me?
How much of your job is business and how much is music?
Krayzie: It’s a job; you know what I’m sayin’? It’s really on you with regards to how much business you’re going to do and how much music. You’ve got to balance it out. I mean, being an artist, you have to handle your business but you also have to have your creative juices flowing. You’ve got to be on that level when it’s time to record and make the music. You’ve just got to balance it out.
Layzie: It’s hard to be 50/50 on business and music. You’re either 40% music and 60% business or 40% business and 60% music. It sways in between that. Business is the main thing but we love music, so we’re going to make music if we’re getting paid or not.
Having been key contributors to Hip-Hop’s golden era, how do you feel about the current state of the music?
Wish: Music is evolving, it always changes. You’ve gotta basically change with the music but stick to, like Layzie said, the recipe. Some people don’t like Rap, some people don’t like R&B, but there’s always going to be different stages of it at all times. So we’ve got to adapt and stick with it.
Layzie: Bottom line, you’re always gonna have your great music and you’re always gonna have that bulls**t, period. It’s always gonna depend on the person and what the person’s taste is, but you’re always going to have good music and you’re always going to have bad music. That’s just how it goes. Right now, music’s in a good shape. People are doing their thang!
Who are some artists you’re listening to now?
Layzie: I stay in the old school; you know what I’m sayin’? But I also like T.I., I think he’s a nice lyricist. Lil’ Wayne … I listen to all genres of music, though. I don’t just listen to Hip-Hop.
The new album comes with an accompanying movie. What’s the premise of the DVD?
Layzie: The title is called I Tried, it’s named after the first single. The premise is, like, Bone Thugs~N~Harmony, we took one-way bus tickets to California to try and get on back in the day. The premise is what if we never got on the bus? It’s like, we missed the bus and all hell breaks loose. It’s a 70-minute film.
Aside from the album, you have a stream of other ventures in the pipeline. What should Bone fans be looking out for?
Layzie: Bone Thugs Phat Farm shoes!
Wish: Our watch from Freeze Watches. We’re going to make them real accessible to our fans, so we’re not going to put $20,000 watches out there. We’re going to make them real accessible so that they can fit the budgets of people who listen to our music.
Layzie: They’re going to have real diamonds, so we’re going to hit them for like $700. Believe that!