In 1996, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's Grammy Award–winning eulogy for Eazy-E, "Tha Crossroads," climbed the charts so quickly that it ranks alongside the legendary triumph of the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" and Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." The double-platinum, Isley Brothers–sampled requiem shot their rap-harmonized sound all the way to Eazy's pearly-gated mansion in heaven. Now the Cleveland-born quintet is touring with all the original members in celebration of their 20th year since forming. Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Bizzy Bone, and Flesh-n-Bone are once again riding united—wizened and doling out their flip-flop flow.
Bizzy Bone has a very vocal quality to his raps—a velvet, burgundy tone. When he freestyles, he goes into a shuffled fever trance—the rap lobes of his cerebral cortex burst words down cranial nerves into the muscles of his mouth for delivery. It's a sight to behold. Bizzy spoke on the way to a studio in Los Angeles. The first thing he said was "Hello SEAtooooown."
What's going on in the studio?
We're working on some new stuff—a single we're putting together. Just getting in there and working. I got a song I'm doing with Jadakiss, and some stuff with guys on the East Coast who I met through Rock the Bells. When you're in LA and you decide to be back out there, everybody opens their arms up to you. Everybody's like, "Where you been? We thought you were messed up somewhere." I'm like, "Naw, nigga, I'm right here doing it." [Laughs] We're so excited because it's all five of us, you know? Krayzie said he's never felt this strong about the crew, since the beginning. It feels good.
How does Bone Thugs-n-Harmony material come together?
When we started out, nobody was rapping like us—so in way, we could do whatever we wanted on a track. Feel me? Then people caught on and got hip. Now we got all the Auto-Tune getting crazy out there, so everything you hear sounds good as hell. You can put out a song, and it'll be its own perfect thing, until everybody else starts doing it.
What's changed for Bone Thugs in 20 years?
I'd say maturity. And Krayzie Bone is back with us and talking to us again. Krayzie don't really talk too much. He's a quiet guy. And when he shares his musical ideas and opinions, it just turns the whole crew into something beautiful. When Eazy died, we were lost; life was messed up. We're back on our feet—the odds aren't stacked against us. As long as we ain't all crackheaded out on some Key & Peele shit, looking all homeless and lost, we're good. We get our publishing. We got granddad money. We are the Beatles, nigga. Take us or leave us, that's what we are. Flat out.
Will the new album be called Art of War III?
That was a tentative title. Everyone was going extra heavy on it, but that's like our past, though. It's not something we're messing with. Now that we're working on our 20-year anniversary, we're walking up to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We've got a five-year plan that we want to get out to the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony people—and to the new people—we've got a plan, march with us.
How do y'all maintain good communication?
Just being healthy. Maybe not doing all the after-parties. Sign all your autographs—put in an honest four or five hours of work after the show if you have to, then go to your room and get some sleep. Go home and have yo dinner. Get some rest and keep it going. When you're healthy and rested, you're less argumentative.
We can be out on the road in close proximity and not have it be too much of a problem. We basically grew up in the same house—we came up all struggling together. We used to stay in the hood, in a little-ass shed in the back of a homie's apartment. We went through the earthquake together in '94. We were all in the same hotel room—I grabbed Layzie Bones' hand and said, "Nigger, it's the end of the world." We didn't know what an earthquake was.
Up in Seattle, we're exploding with Macklemore. You know Macklemore?
No. Inform me.
Rapper out of Seattle. He has a song called "Thrift Shop" that went double platinum, number one song in the world. He did it all pretty much independent.
Independence is good. Eazy always preached that. Anything that's a great idea is a great idea.
What does the new Bone Thugs stuff sound like?
We're going on that Megadeth kinda vibe. That Guns N' Roses vibe. We're comfortable in our position and we're really not listening to anybody talking that crazy talk. We do what we do, we stay in our lane—try to give 'em something beautiful, and just keep going. That's where Bones is set at.
Y'all are doing a tribute to Eazy-E during the show, right?
We always try to. We always want to give tribute to E, Pac, and Big. We listen to their music and give it to the kids out there and keep their legacies going. Eazy's got that timeless shit from one of the most astounding times in hiphop. With all that cursing going on and controversial talk. We give the kids a history lesson. We'll perform Eazy's "Boyz-n-the-Hood." Sometimes we rock "Real Compton City G's." Then we'll go from there into "Foe Tha Love of Money."
I imagine you guys have plenty of tales from the road. What's one off the top?
Okay. Let's see. I had nothing to do with this particular situation, but we got into it with a promoter somewhere and the police ran up into the hotel and we had all these guns. One of the homeboys threw some out the window, but he hid the rest in the back of the toilet where all the water is. They searched the room and didn't find them. That back of the toilet, it's a good hiding place [laughs]. That promoter who didn't pay got touched up a little; there was an ass whupping. You're going to get your bootleg boosters every once in a while, but I don't really judge anybody. As you get older, you start to realize what makes sense and what doesn't make sense.
How do you keep your voice in shape?
I just stay working. We all do. We take care of ourselves and we're not terrorizing our throats with harsh drugs—that adds years onto your life and your career. And we're always doing shows, so our harmonies stay on point. There are different levels to it, like how you rap in the studio and how you rap at a show. And then how you just spit a freestyle. After 20 years of doing it, you learn how to adjust it so everything sounds the same. Like at Game's birthday party, I rapped in a certain style and tone. But in the studio, I gotta do it in a different way to get that same vibe. It's all intricacy on how to work it.
That's technical. Are you a "breathe from the diaphragm" kinda guy?
Definitely. You gotta do your sit-ups. You got to. You gotta push the gauntlet, push the limits when it comes to doing your lyrics onstage. And whatever injuries you got going on, like strep throat, you know the consequences when you step onstage.
You're from Cleveland. I have to ask, are you with LeBron James or against him?
LeBron is my dude. I look at it like when the flood came in and Weezy had to go down to Miami to get his whole Young Money camp together. I have no hate toward LeBron—people in Cleveland didn't, because he got them to the championship. But the man's happy how. He's got palm trees. He's doing his thing.
With Valentine's Day coming up, I wanted you to choose songs that go with this over-the-top romantic day I planned. First, I'll make my valentine breakfast in bed. To wake them up, I'll play my Nature Sounds CD—light wind, a babbling brook, and maybe a small bird chirping. Then what should I play?
I say "1st of tha Month." It goes "Wake up, wake up, wake up, it's the first of the month/To get up, get up, get up, so cash your checks and get up." That's the way to start the day [laughs].
After breakfast in bed, there's the horse-carriage ride to the spa. What do I play in the carriage?
Play "Battlezone," and get some '80s R&B greatest hits going.
What about some Barry White? Barry White is the master.
Oh, yeah. No disrespect to Barry, but it depends on what your man or woman likes. You might wanna get some jazz in there, some smooth shit.
After the spa, there's a long walk on the beach, then dinner. And after dinner, we've got strawberries and chocolate on the carpet in front of the fire. That's the big one. We're at a critical juncture at this point. The wrong song could ruin the whole day. All the months of preparation, the bicep curls, the ab work. Nightcap, firelight, shag-carpet fantasies. I need the perfect song, Bizzy.
You're right. We're at the critical stage here. You got the ripe strawberries [laughs], and you don't want that chocolate too hot. Let me think [pauses]... I got it. You know what you play there? You play DeBarge. Can't go wrong there with DeBarge.
Then my Jungle Sounds mix. And the Sounds from the Amazon Canopy CD. There are toucans.
I've gotta pick that up.