Album Review: New Waves (June 2017) by Bone Thugs (Krayzie Bone & Bizzy Bone)

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With more than 30 solo albums combined, Krayzie Bone and Bizzy Bone (recognized by many as the best members) of multi-platinum-selling rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony teamed up to release a duet album entitled New Waves on June 23, 2017 under the name Bone Thugs. While promoting the album, Krayzie and Bizzy made it clear on several occasions via interviews that their forthcoming album would not be the typical Bone Thugs-N-Harmony sound, for they were pursuing a different avenue musically and experimenting with different productions that would yield a modern sound. In one interview conducted by ThisIs50.com, published on its YouTube channel on May 5, 2017, Krayzie makes that clear:

“This album, like I tell everybody, if you think you’re finna go buy a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony album, then that’s not what you gonna get … because this is something different. We’re from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, but we’re trying a different approach. This is more of an upbeat album, not like Bone like where you get the more dark, eerie feel …”

In other words, Krayzie and Bizzy were looking to deliver a commercial album to grab the attention of non-Bone fans – and that is exactly what they accomplished with New Waves.

1. Coming Home (feat. Stephen Marley)
Released as the first single on March 24, 2017 and followed with a music video on May 8, 2017, “Coming Home” represents a pleasant-sounding song that presents a smooth production by Damizza, Avedon, and Clifford Golio. The content of the song concentrates on home and how it will always be the base, despite relocation and necessary travels – a theme that many can relate to if life circumstances have caused relocation to a different city, state, or even country.

The track features a verse by each member but fails to hit the 3-minute mark. Despite the shortness (which seems to be an issue throughout the album), everyone does a good job and delivers a good song. Krayzie vocalizes the first verse nicely with his smoothness and glamorizes about how his city of Cleveland, the place he was born and raised, will always be home because that is origin of his existence. Likewise, Bizzy share similar sentiments by vocalizing his struggles on the streets of Cleveland and how Bone, as a whole, will never forget its root. Stephen Marley blesses the chorus with his singing and comes correct.

2. If Heaven Had a Cellphone (feat. Tank)
Released as the second single on June 9, 2017 in conjunction with a music video, “If Heaven Had a Cellphone” proposes a heavenly question and the action one would take if he or she could connect with a lost loved one (or anyone) in heaven through a cellphone. Backed with a mid-tempo production, this track sounds really nice and presents the usual quick-flow delivery from Krayzie and Bizzy, both of whom delivered a single verse. R&B singer Tank complements the two verses and does a great job passionately singing the chorus, which appropriately fades as the song ends.

In reference to the theme of heaven, this track has “Tha Crossroads” ambiance. After the major success of Grammy Award-winning song “Tha Crossroads,” which sold millions as a single subsequent to its release in 1995, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s major albums have always featured a single (along with a music video) that had a similar vibe as if the record labels were trying to reproduce “Tha Crossroads.” For example, Art of War (1997) produced “If I Could Teach the World,” BTNHResurrection (2000) produced “Change The World,” Thug World Order (2002) produced “Home” feat Phil Collins, Strength & Loyalty (2007) produced “I Tried,” and Uni5: The World’s Enemy (2010) produced “Meet Me In The Sky.”

The aforementioned tracks are superior; however, “If Heaven Had a Cellphone” can be placed in the same category, not in regard to content but in regard to the ambiance that it exudes.

3. Good Person (feat. Joelle James)
As soon as this remarkably tranquil music by producer Avedon begins to play, with the amazing voice of Joelle James, one emotion instantly came to mind: this song could be special – and goodness, special it is. “Good Person” sounds terrific and begins with an appealing chorus:

“Am I a good person / or is it something I’m telling myself to sleep at night? / Please say I’m worth it / ‘cause these demons are not letting go of my crippled mind.”

Krayzie melodically vocalizes his verse like a surgeon and manipulates his style to perfectly align with the beat. Bizzy, with his unmatched voice, glides his words like a sword that cuts through fine silk cloth. Joelle James, who executes the chorus, captivates the soul with her voice.

This track pours out a mellow vibe that strikes the eardrums in all the right places. If it were not for its shortness, it would have been flawless. On a scale of 1 to 10, “Good Person” receives a 9.5.

(I personally had this track on repeat for about 30 minutes after listening to the album.)

4. Fantasy (feat. Jesse Rankins)
Released as the third single on June 16, 2017 and accompanied with a music video, “Fantasy” represents an energetic funk song. This song wreaks a mawkish feel and borderlines corniness to some degree. There are many songs produced in the genre of funk that sound great, but this does not represent one of them. The chorus by Jesse Rankins sounds horrible – not to mention the overall sound of the song. In fact, Jesse Rankins sounds like Cee-Lo Green. If this song did not reveal the feature, majority of people who initially hear the song would think it features Cee-Lo Green, and that is not a hyperbole.

Despite such horrendous song, many people will enjoy its funkiness because it presents a party atmosphere that could be played in any festivity such as a club, a birthday party, a wedding reception, and the like. For that reason, it deserves a thumbs up. Commercially speaking, “Fantasy” could have been a hit had it featured Cee-Lo Green or even a talented artist like Bruno Mars – simply because they are famous artists and have a large fan base. One of their presences alone (specifically Bruno Mars) would have facilitated more views and attention.

5. That Girl (feat. Kaci Brown)
The title of “That Girl” speaks for itself: the theme concentrates on a girl (i.e., a lost girlfriend) whom they wish to reconnect with and regain that love. Moreover, the verses in some part praise and show love to women. The wish to reconnect with a lost love is solidified as Krayzie repeats the latter part of his first verse (after Bizzy’s verse) to show how badly he wants his love. Featured artist Kaci Brown sings well and sounds nice on the chorus. That said, there is nothing exciting to say about this song, for it does not spark any moving emotions. It’s a subdued track but not a thrilling one – and comes off as bland.

However, one message that can be extracted from “That Girl” is obvious: If a man is in a relationship and “that girl” leaves for whatever reason – and he truly believes that she is/was the one – then he should do everything in his power without comprising his self-worth and morals to regain that love. The same message can be shared for a woman who breaks up with her man.

6. Let It All Out (feat. Jazze Pha)
“Let It All Out” makes a strange appearance and sounds out of place, considering the fact that Krayzie (who delivers a nice verse) appears in the opening for 30 seconds and vanishes, while Jazze Pha takes over throughout; Bizzy is not featured. This song, actually, sounds like a Jazze Pha song that features Krayzie. If one enjoys upbeat music that features an artist screaming in conjunction with uninteresting lyrics, then he/she will enjoy this. In totality, this song is horrible and represents a filler track.

7. Waves (feat. Layzie Bone, Wish Bone & Flesh-n-Bone)
From uninteresting to pure satisfaction, “Waves,” which features all five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, represents an attention-grabbing melody that serves as a stimulant to one’s ears. Unsurprisingly, Krayzie opens with an amazing laid-back/harmonizing flow, where he sings in part: “I love this new wave that we’re on right, can we vibe can we vibe?” There is no question regarding likability, for most people will undeniably vibe to this song. It features Bone’s signature laid-back, harmonious, and quick-tongue ingredients, which all collide seamlessly to create a great song. Producer Scott Storch deserves a notable mention for crafting an incredible beat.

8. Whatever Goes Up (feat. Jonathan Davis of Korn)
“Whatever Goes Up” has a semi-rock feel to it, which is appropriate since it features Jonathan Davis of nu metal group Korn on the chorus. It typifies a satisfactory song that will hold the attention of some and dismay others who are not fond of this style of music.

9. Cocaine Love (feat. Bun B & Jesse Rankins)
“Cocaine Love” opens with a few words by Bizzy regarding deplorable women who manipulate men:

“You better never take them panties off this bitch. She’s a blind man’s drug, baby – a hustler’s nightmare. Men sell their souls for one …. She’s known to snatch your spirit out your chest and release you to the dirt from which you come from. Son, you better never take them panties off this bitch.”

Basically, this song concentrates on women (metaphorically, a deadly drug) who may have ulterior motives and take advantage of men via manipulation, which can leave men in a bad position. Yes, she may be attractive and lovely, but her spirit may be wicked and deadly. Women are no doubt men’s biggest enticement and weakness – and this track tells men to be careful, because that temptation may lead to a disastrous outcome.

The message in “Cocaine Love” comes through and the verses by Krayzie, Bizzy and Bun B make that obvious, including the chorus by Jesse Rankins. However, the overall vibe does not break through as memorable.

10. Bad Dream (Feat. Iyaz)
The theme of disgraceful behavior by women continues in “Bad Dream” with candid lyrics. Unlike “Cocaine Love,” which warns men to be cautious, “Bad Dream” holds nothing back and viciously attack foul women with profanity and unpleasant language.

Backed with a subdued beat in the opening, Krayzie starts the song conversing with a woman after waking up from a nightmarish dream: “I had a real bad dream last night, but at least I thought it was a bad dream. But then when I woke … I was laid up next to you, I realize it was that bad dream come true.” Thereafter, the music simultaneously transitions into an up-tempo beat as Krayzie jumps into his verse and makes it clear that he does not entertain conceited women, the “fake hoes,” the “stink hoes,” the “jezebel” and would “rather talk to [him]self” and “walk by [him]self” to avoid any problems in a relationship.

The notable chorus comes in with the following: “I had a bad dream last; you were standing in a different light. When I touch my eyes to wake up, they were open all along; now I’m shaked up. Bad dream, bad dream.” Special is one word that describes this chorus.

Like Krayzie, Bizzy’s verse goes off viciously – but in a more demeaning manner with language such “cokehead slut” and other vulgar language that focuses on a woman that may have done and/or treated him badly through betrayal.

“Bad Dream” does not typify a great song, but it’s okay. One element that strongly shines is the chorus. The chorus gleams with a nice execution by Iyaz; its amazingly catchy melody will definitely have many repeating it from time to time after one listen.

11. Gravity (feat. Yellawolf)
The production of “Gravity” has a lot of clamoring instruments, which makes it strangely interesting. The verses in succession by Krayzie, featured artist Yellawolf, and Bizzy are good, but it does not have a remarkable replay presence. Nonetheless, “Gravity” represents a tolerable song that one could listen to here and there without pressing the skip button when it appears on the playlist. The female singer, believed to be Shaunice Jones, does a nice job executing the chorus.

12. Bottleservice
The only song on the album that does not feature an artist, “Bottleservice” represents an up-tempo, happy-filled party song. It’s conceivable to pass by a club and hear this track loudly blasting while club-goers are crazily dancing, drinking and having a great time. Rather than getting high with weed, Krayzie and Bizzy want to get high with alcohol as Krayzie melodically vocalizes: “We’re just trying to fly through the sky, come let’s float; we’re trying to stay high rise way higher than most, rise way higher than most.”

Again, as mentioned prior, if one enjoys upbeat club music, then he/she will find this track appealing. If one does not enjoy club music, then he/she will not find it enjoyable.

13. Change the Story (feat. Uncle Murda)
“Change the Story,” an upcoming single that has a corresponding music video, touches on dead souls – a theme that Bone members in general have always touched on in their songs. Unlike “If Heaven Had a “Cellphone,” which concentrates on speaking to dead souls in heaven, this song wishes it could change the outcome of one’s demise and hope he or she was still presently living. Unsurprisingly, Krayzie delivers on the chorus as usual with his rawness. The verses by Krayzie and Bizzy are enjoyable and well executed.

Uncle Murda, on the other hand, sounds out of place and does not blend well with neither Krayzie nor Bizzy. Moreover, his rapping style does not complement the nice production by Avedon. While the styles of Krayzie and Bizzy present a serene approach, Uncle Murda’s flow presents a harsh tone. If he had elevated his verse and delivery, the song would be much better.

14. Ruthless (feat. Layzie Bone, Flesh-n-Bone & Eric Bellinger)
“Ruthless” stands as a robust track that pours out a fervent message of support for a loved one that is going through hardships. The amazing chorus says it perfectly:

“When the world has you cornered / and you can’t make a way / ‘cause time is growing shorter / not much more you can take / and oh when they’re gunnin’ with you in their sights / I’ll be your fighter, I’ll be ruthless for you / I’ll be your fighter, I’ll be ruthless for you.”

Lyrically and stylistically, Krayzie, Bizzy, Layzie and Flesh deliver noteworthy performances – not to mention Eric Bellinger who passionately croons the touching hook. “Ruthless” is so smooth throughout that it will capture most listeners’ attention once the song begins and after it ends.

15. Don’t Let Go (feat. Rico Love) Album Bonus Track
The album ends with another happy-thumping, upbeat, positive-thinking song that delivers the following message: love life, live freely, refrain from troubles, avoid negativity, enjoy every moment and opportunity – and never take life for granted, for each person has one life to live. “Don’t Let Go” represents another track that could be played at a party.

16. My Way (feat. DB Bantino) Digital Bonus Track
A nice bonus, “My Way” can only be obtained through digital download. Excluding the horrendous chorus by DB Bantino, which sounds like the current nauseating style adopted by many rap artists today, Bizzy and Krayzie deliver a hardcore, fast-spitting performance that will instantly grab the attention of long-time Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fans. The energy, the flow, the production, and the execution are on point. Krayzie and Bizzy definitely bring the heat. “My Way” could have been special, if not for the chorus. It’s hard to listen to such style of rapping from the current “hip-hop/rap artist” and not be turned off and disgusted. Nonetheless, it represents a very good song. Knowing the Bone community, an edit of the song – with the exclusion of the chorus – is probably floating around somewhere on YouTube.

Being that this is a bonus digital track and does not fit with the core sound of the album, it’s a pleasure that Krayzie, Bizzy, and their team decided to offer this rather than keeping it under wraps in a vault somewhere.

As expected, the album delivers something different and features various genres of music such as funk, R&B, techno, pop-rap, electronic and other forms. The overall sound can be characterized as friendly, upbeat, and feel-good.

New Waves is not groundbreaking, but it is a decent listen.

That said, the album presents two main issues: the brevity of songs and the overwhelming features throughout.

In regard to brevity, 9 songs (including the bonus track) on the album are less than 3 minutes. Out of those nine songs, “Coming Home,” “If Heaven Had a Cellphone,” ‘Good Person,” which are all noteworthy fall in that category. If these songs were longer, it could have propelled them to another level. It is also important to mention that both Krayzie and Bizzy deliver one verse on each song (excluding “That Girl” where Krayzie repeats the latter part of his verse, and the absence of Bizzy in “Let It All Out”). This tactic is unusual. Moreover and shockingly, the album does not feature a back-and-forth harmonious connection between Krayzie and Bizzy; instead, the songs are executed with a verse-chorus-verse-chorus motif.

In regard to features, the album features an artist on every song, with the exception of “Bottleservice,” another approach that is uncommon. Because of this, the duet-album label stands questionable, because it feels like a collaboration album and not a true duet album. Make no mistake, some of the features are great (e.g., Joelle James, Tank, Eric Bellinger, Stephan Marley, and Iyaz), but the bombardment of features can not go unnoticed.

As a whole, New Waves has some good songs, but the long-term replay value may be questioned. Will some enjoy the album from start to end? Yes. If one enjoys dance music, club music, electronic music, disco music that have an upbeat feel to it, then he or she will certainly enjoy the album. If one does not fancy such style of music, then he/she will enjoy a few songs on the album. The album produced enough styles for anyone to select a single song or multiple songs that are enjoyable.

If people can enjoy trash music from the likes of Migos, Future, Young Thug, Lil Yachty and all the current artist that share the same rapping motif, then there is no reason whatsoever for them not to enjoy this album, for it is musically better – and features two legendary artists who are actually rapping/singing rather than talking and mumbling their gums on beats.

Nonetheless, the songs that are memorable are as follows: “Waves,” “Good Person,” “If Heaven Had a Cellphone,” “Coming Home,” “Ruthless,” and “My Way.” From this list, “Good Person” stands firm as the best song on the album.

In closing, New Waves is not a bad album or a great album; it falls in the middle as a decent album with some good tracks. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s manager Steve Lobel should be applauded for bringing Krayzie Bone and Bizzy Bone together to deliver an album that thumps a different sound.

On a letter-grade scale, New Waves receives a deserving C grade; commercially, it receives an A because they accomplished the sound they were pursuing that will grab listeners who are not the long-standing Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fans.

 

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Poetry Analysis: “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound

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Ezra Pound was a rebel and wanted to do things his way in regard to poetry – and so he did.  In the introduction of The Norton Anthology of American Literature (Volume D), it states:  “Pound first campaigned for ‘imagistic,’ his name for a new kind of poetry.  Rather than describing something – an object or situation – and then generalizing about it, imagist poets attempted to present the object directly, avoiding the ornate diction and complex but predictable verse forms of traditional poetry.”

Pound’s 1913 poem “In a Station of the Metro” demonstrates his imagistic motif in a couple of lines:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

This short piece illustrates his imagistic talent because the entire poem deals with images alone.  It is not complex; rather, the two-line poem is straightforward and to the point.  The brevity of the poem intrigues with a deep message regarding the beauty and diversity of human beings.

One word that overshadows all the rest in line one is apparition.  The word apparition alone means a ghostly figure, something strange or unusual that suddenly comes into view.  Pound may have seen different faces in a Paris subway and defined the “faces in the crowd” with the illustration of pure beauty or images of flawless human beings.  The reason for formulating such assertion is because of this:  with the meaning and usage of the word apparition, it enables Pound to convey the expression of shock and awe once he steps into the metro station.  It’s almost as if he discovers the faces in the crowd surprisingly.  More important, he may have not seen the faces clearly and saw only a blur that he interpreted as a vision of attractiveness.

The second line of the poem renders one word that overshadows all the rest:  petals.  Petals are vibrant flowers that have different colors and represent beauty when blossomed, which he identifies as the “faces in the crowd.”  Additionally, petals are flowers that come in various shades, sizes, shapes, and so forth – akin to human beings.  Therefore, Pound perhaps envisioned the people in the crowd as beautiful, for the diversity they embodied.

In all, the poem is incredibly short – but meaningful – and takes the meaning of short poetry to its purest form.  However, the images are captivating and make the poem move beyond the literal, for the two images that stand out are apparition and petals.  When one thinks of apparition, the first thing that comes to mind is a ghostly figure.  When one thinks of petals, something soft and delightful comes to mind as a floral.

Thus, Pound takes the two words and morphs them together as one to get a greater effect, meaning that when he witnessed mysterious faces in the crowd with various colors and shapes, it rendered a good-looking sight in his eyes.  The poem shows that whatever color, size, or shape a person embodies, he or she still has some characteristics of beauty – regardless of his/her outer appearance.
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[Originally Written January 18, 2008]

Album Review: Uni-5: The World’s Enemy (2010) by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

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Bone-Uni5Known for their lightning-swift and harmonious-flow delivery, legendary rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is back with a brand new album, not as a trio, not as a foursome – but as a quintet.  After ten-plus years of working primarily as a foursome, the original members – Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, and Flesh-N-Bone – reunite to present their eighth studio album titled UNI-5: The World’s Enemy.

1.  THE LAW (Intro)
The introduction begins with a guy named Jared Scott, possibly with a manipulated foreign accent, defining what the world’s enemy is; in part, he states:  “What is the world’s enemy?  Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Uni-5 – the world’s enemy.  The world says, ‘don’t be surprised my brothers if the world hates you, because we have not perceived the spirit of the world but the spirit who is from God.’  Anyone who loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

The spoken words have some biblical references, which are good – but the intro is forgettable.

2.  REBIRTH (Featuring Thin C)
Bone’s albums always start off with a fast-paced, hardcore song to get the mood going and “Rebirth,”  released on February 16, 2010 as the second single, does just that with an energetic beat that Bone attacks viciously and appropriately.

Featuring all five members, “Rebirth” represents a time-consuming song; in fact, it is the longest-recorded song by Bone – registering at 7 minutes-and-15 seconds long.   The length, however, is not a negative but rather a positive, giving each member ample time to address the song’s theme in his verse, while showcasing the ever-present quick-tongue delivery.

The theme of “Rebirth” focuses on artists using Bone’s speed-rapping flow mixed with its harmonic-sounding style – and the chorus (executed by Bone’s affiliate Thin C along with Krayzie’s background vocals) makes that clear:

“Everybody wanna sound like, sound like, sound like, Bone Bone Bone!  Everybody wanna rap like, rap like, rap like, Bone Bone Bone!  As we continue to pick up the pieces, they follow us Kings till the sundown – deadly issues of telekinesis, better show love or lay down (2X).”

The chorus alone is powerful and audacious, but it is hard to argue that the group’s entrance into the music business in 1994 did not influence future artists – because the Bone signature style has been influential then and now.

Overall, “Rebirth” showcases its rawness on many levels – it comes off fast, lyrically aggressive, hard-hitting, and brutally honest.   Positioning it as the opening song was the right choice, for Bone delivers by ripping it up – especially Krayzie and Bizzy.

3.  SEE ME SHINE (Featuring Jay Rush)
“See Me Shine” is a nice song that highlights the harmony side of Bone.   The melodic flow is present from Layzie’s beginning verse to Bizzy’s ending verse.

The theme of this song concentrates on haters (i.e., people who don’t want them to succeed but fail) as the chorus states:   [Krayzie] “Why they gotta hate (hate), steady hatin’ mine (mine), smilin’ in my face (face), fakin’ on the side?  They wanna see me shine (2x).  [Jay Rush] ‘Cause they don’t wanna, they don’t wanna, they don’t wanna see me shine (2x)!”

Krayzie and Jay Rush (Bone’s affiliate via Thugline Records) sing the chorus well and sound great; it could not have been rendered any better.

“See Me Shine” really shines and each member does a fine job with his verse and flow.  It was actually released as the first single on October 27, 2009; and without a doubt, it was a perfect choice as a single because it is well executed on all fronts.

4.  ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME
“Only God Can Judge Me,” which features Krayzie, Layzie, and Flesh (but excludes Bizzy and Wish), is boring and has nothing great about it.  Surprisingly, the chorus is weak and does not stand out, something that is out of the ordinary because Krayzie is the mastermind of chorus-making, but he does not shine on this one.  The members’ verses and delivery are good; however, the same thing can not be said about the beat by L.T. Hutton, which can be described as simply dry.

L.T. Hutton is an incredible producer and has worked with Bone in the past with group and solo albums, but this production is not memorable.  The song simply has no flavor.  It’s like eating a chicken without any salt or any other seasoning whatsoever; it’s flat-out bland and distasteful.

The phrase used in the chorus – “Only God can judge me.” – has been used so many times, and thus become a hackneyed phrase, causing it to lose meaning despite its powerful overtone.  A new phrase using the same overtone could have definitely aided this song.

The overall aura of “Only God Can Judge Me” is boring throughout, and the beat and chorus are two disadvantages of the song.

5.  WANNA BE
“Wanna Be” literally knocks the wind out of the album.  It makes one pause in amazement and ponder. Some may even ask themselves that obvious question – “What were they thinking”? – a fitting question indeed.

It doesn’t get worse than “Wanna Be” because this song is bad.  It seems like Bone is portraying and ‘wanna be’ something the group is not – a pop group.  “Wanna Be” sounds pop from start to finish.  The pop-inspired beat is awful and the chorus performed by a guest feature sounds even more terrible.

Bone talks a lot about being unique and not conforming to the mainstream music, but this song contradicts their position regarding nonconformity – because it sounds purely pop.

The sad thing about “Wanna Be” is that the verses sound great; unfortunately, they stand alone without any supporting cast due to an overall poor execution of the song.  If this song were recorded on a different production, it would be a pleasing listen.  Nonetheless, the beat and the agonizing chorus make it unbearable.

6.  MY LIFE
Quiet-sounding, melodious, and nice are three adjectives that can be expressed when listening to “My Life,” produced by Thin C.  The chorus by Krayzie is nicely sung and meshes well with the beat.  There is not too much to say about this track, because it gets the job done and sounds good.   It’s not one of those Bone tracks that present that wow, chilling factor – but it does not matter because it sounds pleasing.

Basically, “My Life” represents a chill-type song, allowing one to sit down or lay down in a relaxing manner and listen to tranquil Bone music.  Overall, it’s an enjoyable listen, thanks to a smooth production and smooth delivery.

7.  EVERYTIME
“Everytime,” another L.T. Hutton production, sounds decent and is listenable.  However, similar to “Wanna Be” and “Only God Can Judge Me,” the beat does not help the song at all and is a weakness.  The production of “Everytime” is not as bad as the aforementioned tracks, because they belong in their own category when it comes to lackluster horror – especially “Wanna Be.”

“Everytime” simply sounds weird and juvenile; actually, the beat sounds like a cartoon production that was intended for a movie created by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

With that said, the verses are great and all five members come correct with a firm delivery.  If this song were graded with a letter, it would pass with a B minus.

8.  FEARLESS (Interlude)
Again, Bone feels the need to define the title of the album via the same voice in the intro:

“Who is the world’s enemy?  Someone who doesn’t conform to the world’s ways but with a sound mind and invents a new way.  Who is the world’s enemy?  Someone who thinks outside the box, passionate … and upright.    Who is the world’s enemy?  Someone who’s Christ-like and the world does not like.  We are the world’s enemy. “

This interlude is pointless.

9.  GONE (Featuring Ricco Barrino)
“Gone” sounds awful and does not represent the kind of music that Bone is accustomed to making; it’s definitely out of the group’s character and appears like it was rendered to attract a mainstream/pop audience.

Attracting a different audience is to an artist advantage, but this song has gone way too far and seems forced.  The beat sounds like it was done for an artist like Sean Kingston and given to Bone at the last moment to record in chase to find a hit song.

“Gone,” which features all of the members except for Bizzy, is all over the place.  According to the lyrics of the chorus, the theme allegedly focuses on death, but only Krayzie’s verse stays on topic while the other members rap about whatever they please.

Moreover, the beat is dreadful; the chorus (executed by Fantasia’s brother Ricco Barrino) is a migraine and weak; and the overall ambiance of the song screams out pop music.  It’s one of those songs that will make some stop the CD, remove it from whatever device it’s playing in, and throw it across the room or outside the window due to its headache-prone ambiance.

The most surprising element about “Gone” is the fact that it was released as the fourth single on April 13, 2010, solidifying the notion that it was only released to capture a pop audience that would not necessarily listen to Bone.

“Gone,” an ear-annoyance, is neither single-material nor album-material – and the worst single ever released by Bone.

10.  MEET ME IN THE SKY (Featuring K Young)
From uninspiring music to brilliance, Bone presents “Meet Me In The Sky” produced by LT Hutton.  Released on March 23, 2010 as the third single, “Meet Me In The Sky “typifies a remarkable song.  The harmonies, chorus (executed by K Young), verses, smooth production, and togetherness of all the members really make this song what it is – a classic.

Classic is such an overused word that people throw around for any and every song, but “Meet Me In The Sky” is truly a piece of music that most people will listen to, love and enjoy at first listen.  More important, it has that enduring appeal and that is why it is a classic (not classic in terms of selling millions of records alone – but classic in terms of long-term replay value and being remembered years from now).

Is this an exaggeration?  Absolutely not.  “Meet Me In The Sky” is over five minutes of refreshing music that tickles the eardrums into ecstasy – so smooth, so relaxing, and such a pleasure.   Bone has produced another classic and timeless song.

11.  UNIVERSE
“Universe,” produced by Bone’s longtime producer DJ U-Neek, contains an interpolation of Al Green’s “I’m Still In Love With You.”

By definition, universe denotes the cosmos and everything that deals with space.  In Bone’s terminology, “universe” denotes a new rapping style where each member shares one verse: one member raps/sings a few lines, which is followed by another member and so forth.  It’s basically a chain-rapping approach.

This style was constantly mentioned by Bone while recording the album; fittingly, most people anticipated the best and even suggested it would be one of Bone’s greats.  Unfortunately, this song is neither great nor interesting, because Bone recorded a not-so-good song.

The new style is a great idea and Bone should definitely use it in the future, but (for this song) it was not executed in a manner that would blow people’s minds to make them say, “This is one of the best songs recorded by Bone,” because it’s not.  “Universe” is more like a sleeper-song that facilitates one to fall asleep due to boredom or skip the song to the next track.

12.  A NEW MIND=A NEW LIFE (Interlude)
Once more, Bone provides a few more definitions regarding the world’s enemy:

“Who is the world’s enemy?  That athlete or entertainer, who rose from the concrete streets of the ghetto, avoids the pitfalls and trappings of society and prevails to accomplish his dreams.  The world’s enemy?  That millionaire with no diploma, no degree, who has more assets and money that most people would see in a lifetime.   Who is the world’s enemy?  That convicted felon with two strikes, a menace to society, transforms his life and overcomes.  Thank God for hip hop.”

According to this language, an athlete/entertainer who grew up in the slums and found success in a sports league or entertainment business is the world’s enemy?  If this is true, majority of sportsmen are enemies of the world, for being an athlete was their ticket to success which allowed them to leave the ghetto behind.  With success, these athletes have become admired and loved by many, not only in the states but worldwide.  And they are the world’s enemies?

Moreover, according to this language, one who is degree-less but wealthy is the world’s enemy?  If that is true, billionaires Bill Gates (chairman of Microsoft), Steve Jobs (chairman/CEO of Apple), Michael Dell (CEO/founder of Dell, Inc.), and many more are the world’s enemies because they dropped out of college?

This is another meaningless and mumbo jumbo interlude that serves nothing to the album but album space.

13.  PAY WHAT THEY OWE
Released as the fifth single on April 20, 2010, “Pay What They Owe” represents a great song that presents the Bone sound and flavor.  In other words, it actually sounds like a Bone song and not some pop-conforming song like some of the prior tracks.

The all-around smooth mixture (e.g., chorus, production by DJ U-Neek, verses) makes this song favorable and enjoyable – not to mention the chorus which actually overshadows the verses.

The harmonic chorus, executed by Krayzie for the most part while Flesh briefly appears in the second leg with his crooning melodies, sounds amazing and symbolizes one of those classic choruses that Krayzie is known for delivering ever since his inception into the music business.   Krayzie murders the chorus with his smooth tongue.

This song is such a great listen and sounds like it was recorded in the mid 90s, so much that it could easily fit in the tracklist of Art of War (1997) without any interruption of flow to that album.

14.  FACTS DON’T LIE
Also produced by DJ U-Neek, “Facts Don’t Lie” is what this entire album lacks.  This song is nowhere near excellent, but it’s a very good song that comes off hard, aggressive and the members’ flows and delivery are on point.  The beat by U-Neek sounds mysterious and feels like an old-school production, and Bone delivers by making “it do what it do” and “cut[ting] off [the] effing light, switch!”

Bizzy, who does not have a verse but is featured in the latter part singing “these are the signs of the times (the times),” would have elevated the song if he had a verse.  Nonetheless, “Facts Don’t Lie” is a good song and has a stimulating rhythm that will cause many to vibe to the song by moving his/her head up and down.

This song ends the album nicely, but it does not make up for the mediocrity of the album.

There are many issues with this album, but only five will be touched on:  (1) interludes, (2) choruses, (3) production, (4) song-transition (and flow), (5) aggressive-less.

Firstly, the two interludes on this album are a waste of time and pointless.  They could have been placed in the introduction of the album instead of having a separate track, because they sound exactly like the intro.  The interludes sound as if they were a part of the intro and were broken up separately to make the album longer.  The interludes are nothing more than album-fillers.

Secondly, some of the choruses on this album are lacking.  “Wanna Be,” featuring an unknown artist, and “Gone,” featuring Ricco Barrino’s nauseating screams, are prime examples.  A chorus is supposed to be an element of the song that really stands out, because that is what most listeners remember when they think of a song they like.  Unfortunately, these choruses are not standouts; neither is “Only God Can Judge Me.”

For some reason, Bone looked outside of the group for their choruses, which is odd because Bone’s choruses are usually done within the confines of the group, specifically Krayzie.  Looking elsewhere for choruses is not problematic if the artist performs it well, and K Young is perfect example because he does a great job on “Meet Me In the Sky,” but the same can not be said about the other features.

Krayzie and Bizzy could have collaborated on both “Gone” and “Wanna Be” and come out with something much smoother and better.

Speaking of Krayzie, the man typifies a genius when it comes to chorus-making and chorus-execution and is the Beethoven of everything dealing with chorus, so it’s surprising that he did not take the lead.

Thirdly, there is no other way of putting it; the production on this album is tremendously weak.  Most of the beats are downright awful and sound pop-ish.  With the exception of “Meet Me In The Sky,” there is not one beat that can stand alone as an instrumental gem – not one.  Bone has a tendency to rap on any beats and make them sound good, but even Bone’s style does not complement some of the beats on this album – because they are substandard, specifically the pop-like beats.

Fourthly, the song-transition sounds out of place.  Bone’s albums typically flow like a novel; for example, every song that comes after the other sounds like it was meant to be there.  On this album, that is not the case.  UNI-5 actually sounds like multiple albums put into one without any attention to the placement of each song.  In other words, it sounds like it is set on shuffle and each song appears randomly.  It just does not flow.

Fifthly, Bone’s aggression is definitely not showcased on this album.  What happened to that fiery aggression that used to wow people?  What happened to those blistering, fast-spitting lyrics that used to make people rewind a song to find out what was said?  This album has a subdued and laid-back ambiance throughout.   The hardcore/hard-edged sound is missing.

When the word “hardcore” is used, many think it denotes songs that concentrate on mo murda, gun-affiliated, and street lyrics akin to E. 1999 Eternal.  That is not the case.  Those days of suchlike lyrics are gone (and can only be revisited by listening to the younger Bone), because Bone is not in that position anymore.  They are grown men in their mid 30s, thus reverting to those prior lyrics would be fake.

Hardcore simply means a song that sounds hard (in correlation with a great instrumental; hard thumping or soft-smoothing) and Bone delivers by executing it in an aggressive and rugged manner, such as “Flow Motion,” “Bump In The Trunk,” “The Originators” (featured on DJ Khalid’s We The Best), “Ain’t No Hoes” (featured on Twista’s Adrenaline Rush 2007), etc.  These are the types of tracks that are nonexistent on UNI-5.  Although “Rebirth” and “Facts Don’t Lie,” the only two aggressive songs featured, come off hard, they don’t have that impressive feeling like the prior tracks mentioned.

UNI-5 has some great moments but, in general, it does not capture that Bone essence, sound, and flavor.  Bone’s aura is obviously present, but the personality and characteristics are not.  It’s too relaxed, flat and boring.

There used to be a time when listening to a Bone album would bring pure excitement and phrases like “This album is raw as hell!” or “This song is off the chain!” would constantly be said.  Those same sentiments can not be said for this album, because it has no wow factor.  Moreover, it has little to no replay value.

A song that will be remembered years from now is “Meet Me In the Sky,” the best song on the album by far.

Ten years of waiting for an album with all five members finally arrives, but it fails to bring the goods.  Loyal fans, however, should definitely pick it up.

After supporting this group since its 1994 debut with Creepin On Ah Come Up, this latest release takes the unpleasant honor of being the weakest group album ever released.  Thug World Order (2002), Thug Stories (2006), and Strength & Loyalty (2007) are much better albums than UNI-5: The World’s Enemy.

From a scale of 1 to 10, UNI-5: The World’s Enemy gets a 6.5, and that’s being generous.

Nonetheless, it’s great to see all five members at full force making music.  Despite this latest mediocrity (which is better than most trash released by some artists today), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony typifies a legendary group that still has what it takes to produce another great or classic album.

***
Originally published May 4, 2010 on now-defunct Examiner.com

Album Review: Creepin On Ah Come Up (1994) by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

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In 1994 the music industry was introduced to a new group – via Eric “Eazy-E” Wright who passed away in 1995 – that brought something fresh, unique, and simply amazing.  Originating from Cleveland, Ohio, the five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony quickly made a name for themselves.  The quintet (Krayzie Bone, Layzie BCreepinone, Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, and Flesh-N-Bone), usually a foursome, excluding Flesh-N-Bone, hit the scene with a stand-alone style that caught the attention of millions worldwide.

These youngsters that used to run the streets of Cleveland became instant celebrities.

With their distinctive rapid-fast raps and smooth harmonies, some probably thought they had an extra hidden tongue or a special pallet, allowing them to rap so quickly without taking a breath.  That’s how different they were.  Their style was purely awe-inspiring, and it resonated through their multi-platinum first album, executive produced by Eazy-E.

Released under Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records on June 21, 1994, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s debut album Creepin On Ah Come Up is not a lengthy album; rather, it is an 8-track EP album.

Track one, “Intro,” is a really great introduction and starts the album off perfectly.  The beat sounds smooth and subdued but ominous.  As soon as the intro begins, the listener hears guns clacking (i.e., unloading and reloading) with a muttering voice that shortly becomes apparent with a gloomy laugh, followed by a formal introduction:  “I’m back.  Straight off the … streets of Cleveland, five true thugs from the double glock, Bizzy, Wish, Krayzie, Layzie and that nigga Flesh…”

With 40 seconds left in the intro, the members join in with their harmonies:  “East 99 is where you find me slangin’ that yayo, Cleveland is the city where we come from so run run.”  Over a leisurely dark drumbeat, this chant is repeated four times, and ends with the ominous laugh of euphoria.  This opening track (1:25) flows beautifully into the following track as if they were one piece.

In fact, track two, “Mr. Ouija,” is an extension of the intro – and serves as a second introduction.  However, “Mr. Ouija” is a different track.  It is not a song but rather a harmonizing a cappella that truly shows how talented they are collectively.

Track three, “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” represents a song that remains in one’s mind due to its catchiness.  The song begins with the voice of Pastor Calvin O. Butts who states the following:  “We’re not against rap.  We’re not against rappers.  But we are against those thugs.”

Thereafter, the song officially starts with Shatasha Williams who lends her vocals to the chorus and sings it beautifully.  All the members deliver amazing verses with their own unique style and flow, but Bizzy – who delivers the final verse – really stands out with his fiery verse and unusual but effective delivery.  Nonetheless, they all do a wonderful job and render their verses accordingly, thanks to their main producer, DJ Uneek, who sampled and crafted a pleasant beat.

In all, “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” typifies a classic song.   In fact, this song was the first single released by Bone and became an instant hit.  Not only was it a major hit, but it sold more than 500,000 copies alone, reaching gold status – something that was unheard-of at the time and even today for a single song.

Track four, “No Surrender,” is one of those songs that calls for a repeat after the first listen.  The production by DJ Uneek reaches top-notch status and Bone’s rapid-fire flow complements the hard-hitting beat nicely.  The theme of the song centers on police – mainly the hatred they have for cops due to the mistreatment (i.e., brutality and killing) of people.

Track five, “Down Foe My Thang,” has a simple but fascinating beat produced by Rhythm D.  Bone really takes advantage of the beat and just tears it up.  Their gangsta persona is clearly present in this song, supported by the chorus: “Bang bang gotta get down for my thing …”

Track six, which shares a similar title with the album, begins with a nice prelude:  “Right about now, Thugs-N-Harmony is on ah come up, so to all you bustas out there – beware.”   Considering the previous tracks, this
statement is fitting.

Produced by DJ U-Neek, the beat presents a mixture of calmness and darkness, complemented with Bone’s gloomy lyrics.  This song is literally a story.  All the members share a piece of their life story/crafted story of their troubled past, and what immoral act they would like to undertake.  First, Krayzie shares his wicked thoughts with an interesting verse.  The others also share similar sentiments:  Layzie comes in with his wicked ideas, followed by Bizzy who ends the song on a right note.  “Creepin On Ah Come Up” presents wicked lyrics, but the story-like song delivered by Krayzie, Layzie, and Bizzy is amazing – not to mention the catchy chorus line.

Track seven, “Foe Tha Love of $,” is purely amazing, raw – and downright incredible.  Producer Yella gets a lot of credit on this song, because his mesmerizingly hardcore and hard-hitting production is an inferno, allowing Bone to add more fuel with their quick harmonizing tongues to start a firestorm.   This song is without a doubt a pure classic and the members murder this song, including Eazy-E who is featured on the track.  Everything about this song is flawless, as well as the video.

Moreover, “Foe Tha Love of $” was chosen as the second single for the album, and it was a big-time hit, selling over 500,000 copies alone and reaching gold status, similar to “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.”

Krayzie does the honor by ending the song with a c
ouple of references and the mention of his Bone brothers:  “Yeah Bone in the … house for the nine-quats ….  Yeah, rollin’ with Ruthless in this …, my … Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone and Flesh-N-Bone, and I’m that … Krayzie Bone in the … house.”

“Foe Tha Love of $” is so amazing that the final track, “Moe Cheese,” continues with its instrumental, which is actually a perfect choice, considering its high-quality stature. Producer Yella also incorporates a few add-ons to make the instrumental more interesting.

As a whole, Creepin On Ah Come Up (1994) represents a timeless piece of greatness.  Bone effortlessly murdered this album from its commencement to its ending.  The producers (DJ Uneek, Yella, and Rhythm D) also deserve a bulk of the credit, for their production of beats were outstanding, including Eazy-E who takes credit for executive producer.

Unlike other albums, where one has to skip songs to find the one he or she likes, this album represents a skip-free EP; no songs deserve to be skipped or bypassed.  The album should be placed in a CD player and played throughout, from beginning to end.  Skipping a track on this CD would be a sin, for every single track is a standout.

The manner in which they collectively rap and maneuver their fast-flow lyrics in conjunction with their smooth harmonies is an unmatched talent that only they embody.  It’s simply crafty and stands alone.  Ever since their inception, their unique style – so infectious – inspired many artists to imitate, but none has been able to equal their stylistic manner of flow.

For a debut album, Creepin On Ah Come Up (which only has 5 full-length songs) cannot get any better, for it is flawless.  In fact, it sold 4 million-plus copies in the United States, rendering it quadruple-platinum status.  Moreover, it sold 5 million-plus worldwide.  Incredibly, the album garnered two major hits with “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “Foe Tha Love of $,” which went gold (500,000 units sold) on their lonesome as singles.

In the early 90s, such accomplishment was unheard-of in the hip-hop/rap genre, but Bone was different and made history.  Their history-making and success would continue in the following years.

All in all, this EP album is a perfect ten – not to mention a classic.  Bone Thugs-N-Harmony entered the scene with a bang and that is why they are currently active in the music industry and planning to release another album titled The World’s Enemy late 2009.  Being in the industry for 15 years – and selling millions worldwide – is why they are considered one of the greatest and influential groups of all time.

***
[Originally published February 28, 2008 on now-defunct Examiner.com]

 

Album Review: A Song For You (2008) by Bizzy Bone

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With more than ten solo albums under his name, most of which are not noteworthy, Bizzy Bone (formerly of the Grammy Award-winning group Bone ThBizzy-A Song for Youugs-N-Harmony at the time of this release but rejoined the group months after) has added to his catalogue with his highly-anticipated new album, A Song For You, released on April 22, 2008 through After Platinum Records.

After releasing several mediocre to pathetic albums on many independent labels, Bizzy’s new album is very different and was given the much-needed attention to reach its peak.  But did Bizzy bring the goods?

Like every artist releasing his or her newest album, Bizzy claimed that this album would be one of his best and would be something like his second album The Gift (2001).  Was he accurate with such proclamation?  Absolutely not!  However, he was correct on the former, because this album is one of his best compared to his prior stinkers.  But he was dead wrong on the latter, because this newest release doesn’t come close to how superior and amazing The Gift is.  They shouldn’t even be put in the same category.

Nevertheless, A Song For You is a good album but has a dual personality, which is not always a good thing.  In more concrete language, the album starts off very promising – with some incredible tracks – but falls flat at midpoint which carries to the latter.

1. PRELUDE
The album opens with a 52-second well-known instrumental that serves as the intro to track two, which shares the title of the album.

2. A SONG FOR YOU
“A Song For You” features DMX and Chris Notez.  It samples rock singer-songwriter Leon Russell’s original 1970 version, written and performed by him.  This song would later become popularized by Donny Hathaway’s 1971 version and considered one of his signature songs.  In fact, this classic song has become one of the most sampled songs in music history, covered by more than 20 artists (on albums or live performances). 

So how is Bizzy’s rap version?  It’s decently good, but it doesn’t have that moving vibe like prior versions.  Accompanied by the beautiful piano arrangement to begin the song along with DMX’s growl, singer Chris Notez starts off nicely with the famous lines:  “I love you in a place, where there’s no space or time / I love you, for the life, you’re a friend of mine / And when my life is over, remember when we were together / We were alone, and I was singing this song to you.”

Bizzy comes in thereafter and delivers a muttering (a problem that shows up in following tracks) but respectable performance in verse one.  With his rugged and growling voice, DMX follows and his presence is forcefully felt.  Even though Bizzy’s and DMX’s style differ, they do a good job together and complement each other well.

However, because this song is so richly famous and covered by many, the comparisons to other versions will obviously be made, especially when the chorus and instrumental are exactly the same, excluding the verses and the few tweaks.  Honestly, Bizzy’s version does not stand a chance to most of them.  Whitney Houston’s live version in March 1991, performed for the troops and their families returning from the Gulf War, is by far one of the best ever, if not the best – including Christina Aguilera’s (via Herbie Hancock’s 45th album Possibilities) and Ray Charles’ versions.  Their versions are so touching and heart-felt, and that is what Bizzy’s version lacks.

But taking only Bizzy’s “A Song For You” into account and ignoring the fact of many other versions, this latest cover is good but doesn’t have a long-term replay value, thanks to Bizzy’s muttering.  Those who are not accustomed to Bizzy’s fast-spitting style will pick up a few lines, but will be clueless to what he is saying.  Even long time listeners will have a fairly hard time trying to decipher what he is saying; however, it doesn’t take away from the good nature of the song.

3. I’M THE ONE
This track is where the album really comes alive with the energy that Bizzy brings.  He drops a fire-style delivery due to his quick-tongue gift.  In addition, Joel Madden of Good Charlotte is featured on this track and lends his voice to the chorus – a very effective and lively hook.  If listeners are not fond of or stimulated by the previous track, this song will surely awaken them, caused by the hard-thumping/rock-like arrangement and Bizzy’s rapid-fire raps.  Energetic and upbeat, “I’m The One” will have the majority bopping his/her head with contentment.

4. MUDDY WATERS
The temperature continues with “Muddy Waters,” a touching and inspirational track where Bizzy takes the time to croon about the perils and pains of life and what people go through daily.

Instead of using a fast flow, he presents a slowly harmonious vibe with incredible lyrics that state in part:  “Your girl is cheating on you, you finna go to jail / now you just lost your job, your house is up for sale / your friend just passed away, before you said good bye / your son’s going to war and you still don’t know why / your mom contracted aids and right before she died, she couldn’t speak a word but she can blink her eyes / see she was paralyzed and you so scared to cry / you wanted to show your strength and tell her the LORD provides / the church is taking money, selling granny a dream / she wanna go to heaven, think she can get in with green….”

This song can touch every single soul, for what he states in his lyrics is very true and relatable.  If one does not relate to some of what he mentions, the theme of struggle can not be refuted, because everyone goes through struggles.  Everyone will have bad days (or face the constant struggles) and deal with the most painful situation because that is what life renders.  His verses are spectacular and realistic in the world today.

 This song is profoundly deep.  Lyrically, “Muddy Waters” is one of the best performances by Bizzy.

5. MONEY
The temperature of the album continues to rise with the leading single “Money,” a track that features one-time Bone Thugs-N-Harmony foe, Twista.  Squashing their beef, Twista appeared on Bone’s 2007 gold album Strength & Loyalty (“C-Town”); thereafter, Bone appeared on his 2007 album Adrenaline Rush 2007 (“Ain’t No Hoes”).  And again, Twista collaborates with another Bone affiliate and he brings it accordingly.

The fine rhythm (rough guitar cords) and chorus (very catchy) are invigorating, but Bizzy does nothing to aid them and starts off the song awfully sloppy.  His verse makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, nor does it have any merit for evaluation.  It’s purely nonsense.

Twista, who is also known for his fast raps, surprisingly jumps on verse two with a rather slow flow, but quickly switches up to his usual speed-bomb style to drop an amazingly blazing verse.

Bizzy redeems himself and concludes the song by dropping a soundly quick verse himself.  Considering the swiftness they present, people may think that they are trying to outdo each with their quick tongues, which is questionable.  If they were trying to outshine each other is irrelevant because one thing is clear:  Bizzy is fast and Twista is fast; they complement each other adequately well and executed a very good track.

6. WHAT HAVE I LEARNED
At this juncture, track six rises the album’s temperature to a deadly level that would assure death to anyone who encountered such heat.  This song is truly a beast and Bizzy brings his finest by delivering a verbal assault.  He is on point and in no way does he disappoint.

This song has three outstanding verses with a few spiritual overtones that some would be unaware of unless they listen closely to his velocity-driven rhymes.  This is the type of energy long-time fans have been waiting for, and Bizzy delivers the goods with a near flawless execution.  “What Have I Learned” is a raw, gangsta, and tight track.  In slang idiom, this track is OFF THE HOOK!  From Bizzy’s lyrics to his flow, from the production to the overall vibe, everything about this track is perfect and could not be any better.

How good is this song?  It is contagious enough to cause a paralyzed person to find some way to shake a leg; that’s how powerful this track is, so don’t be surprised if you put it on repeat and let it ride.

7. MERCY MARY
Mercy…Mercy…Mercy.  This is where things start turning bad, bringing the album’s good vibe to a halt.  He clearly struggles trying to find his once exciting fast flow that he once embodied, a unique style that was so pure and refined.  The fast rapping on this track is sloppy and rushed.  For the hook, he combines two old songs: “Mercenary,” an unreleased track, and “Carry My Baby” from his 2005 album Speaking In Tongues.

He stumbles, sputters, and mutters through majority of the track.  The first verse is nearly impossible to ascertain what he is rapping about.  This song is bad but Bizzy thinks otherwise.  After he completes his incoherent nonsense, he states: “I like this sh!t, man.”  He later shouts out Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (mentioning of all the members), 7th Sign, Mo Thugs, etc.

If this track had a voice, it would beg for mercy.  If this track had legs, it would run away as fast as Bizzy raps and escape his painful delivery.

8. I TRULY BELIEVE
“I Truly Believe” is no better.  It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not a good song.  He sings (or tries to) on the track but fails to capture that pleasant vibe, which shows how much he has declined vocally through the years.  He struggles to find his smooth voice that made him popular and unforgettable.  The only bright spot comes via a female vocalist with a lovely voice, singing in background.

At the song’s closure, Bizzy starts laughing out of control for some unknown reason as if somebody is tickling him, which raises the question:  How serious did he take the song when recording it?  Who knows?  But one thing “I Truly Believe” is this:  he toyed with the song and thought it would not make the final cut.  At best, this track is average.  Two words sum up this track:  boring and insipid.

9. BALLIN’
“Ballin” is surely better than the two prior tracks, but it does have one major problem – caused by the guest appearance of Jim Jones who delivers a slobber of mess.  He doesn’t ruin the entire song, because Bizzy’s overall performance is commanding.  However, he does ruin the center of the song with his garbage verse and lethargic delivery.  It’s really a tragedy.

What is more devastating is the fact that Trae, originally featured, was removed for the likes of Jim Jones.  And that choice was a big mistake – and a blatant disrespect to Trae.  This is a great track with Trae and the verse he drops is lively, but it diminishes with Jim Jones.  Those who collectively made the choice and allowed him to even breathe on “Ballin” should be embarrassed for such decision.    

Removing Trae’s verse was fatuous and ill-advised.  With the additional of Jim Jones, a once great song is reduced to a good song.

10. I NEED YOU
What was Bizzy thinking?  “I Need You” is a pop-ish rendition of the soul classic song “Try Me.”  The song fails and the sample renders no help.  In fact, the sample is an annoyance along with Bizzy’s voice.  He sounds dreadful; he lollygags and whines throughout.  The chorus is unbearable and a headache.  This is one of those songs on an album that people usually skip due to its annoying and uninteresting nature.

As a result, the song flops.  Is it really that bad?  Yes.  It is the worst song on the album.     It is too pop-like and corny.  In brief, this track is pathetically bad and needs no further evaluation.

11. HARD TIMES
Featuring Chris Notez, who delivers a soulful performance, “Hard Time” represents a nice track.  The arrangement of piano chords, backed up with a subdued drum rhythm, presents an ambiance of calmness.  This track has a nice feel to it, but Bizzy tries to ruin that by screaming out and giggling in the background with no provocation.  An unknown artist(s) also shows up on the track momentarily.

Bizzy is not impressive, but he’s okay enough.  What makes this song pleasant is the bridge by Chris Notez (his singing is smooth), backed with a serene production.

12. MEMORIES
The laid-back production continues on “Memories.”  And yes, this track is very touching and heart-felt.  He takes it to a personal level, a level that deals with his early years in Cleveland, Ohio with his Bone Thugs-N-Harmony brothers.

Rather than delivering a conventional hook, this track is embedded with three different hooks (from an old interview) that deal with his memories.  This song is really a Bone tribute and Bizzy makes that clear with the unique hooks.

The first hook concerns Flesh-N-Bone:  “This dude on the bus and … was effing with me ‘cause I was young, and you know what I’m saying? Flesh um stood his ass up.  Flesh is like crazy, you know what I’m saying?  He did about 15 years in prison and he’s still doing prison time.  Flesh sat his ass down … pulled the seat back … and this is a big [expletive].  Dude didn’t say a [expletive] thing.”  Bizzy’s animated voice is quite funny.

The second hook concerns Krayzie Bone:  “Krayzie Bone, I love that dude and he’s always been like my favorite rapper, when we were walking the streets it was him and I together.  We were the only people that would walk and everybody else was in the house.  My people say he couldn’t stay over there; he didn’t want to go to his house, so we walked the streets and drunk … the entire night.  I don’t know if you remember that …. so it was a beautiful thing.”   

The third hook concerns Bone as a whole and Jay-Z:  “One time, E kidnapped my ass and he took me to New York.  He took me to a casino and I had the opportunity to battle Jay-Z.  And Dame Dash was there, and I said Krayzie Bone’s lyrics.  And we was battling for $30.  Dude said I ain’t never heard no … like this before; take the money.  And he said who the eff are you.  I said man, we Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (double echo).”

 After reminiscing about his past memories, he gives a shout out to his Bone brothers:   “Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Flesh-N-Bone locked up in jail, I love you, baby; I see you when you get there …”

What really make this song appealing are the different breaks, aided by segments of an old Bizzy interview.

13. REAL (freestyle)
The parenthesized title says it all, freestyle.  Supported with a simple beat and a featured singer, Bizzy’s freestyle is actually decent.  His verses are delivered with an angry voice.  The chorus itself is catchy and forceful:  “I’m a real [expletive] ‘til they kill me!”

Interestingly, he sounds like the late Tupac Shakur to some extent as he screams out.

Given the freestyle nature of this track (that is, unprepared verses), “Real” is a bit sloppy and shouldn’t be on an album, but it’s decent.  Had he delivered conventional verses, the possibility of it being a good track would be evident.

14. CROSSROADS (Outro)
This closure to the album is quite somber and intriguing, and once again Bizzy throws another shout out to his Bone brothers.  Thereafter, he harmonizes, “they keep on telling me that I’m gone gone gone.”  With the numerous mentions throughout the album, it is safe to say that he is trying to reach out to his Bone Thugs-N-Harmony brothers.

After careful scrutiny, Bizzy released a good album.  The strength of A Song For You comes from track 2 to 6; thereafter, the album has its own multiple identities with a few unremarkable tracks.

This major release reveals one thing: the possibility of Bizzy ever releasing an outstanding solo album again is very slim.  The reason stems from his occasional muttering style.  He has been stricken by something I have termed, The Utterance of Detrimental Mutters.  What is it?  In brief, it simply means that his mutters are detrimental and damage the overall nature of the song.  Moreover, his mutters bring about a confusing delivery of lyrics, making it hard (and at times impossible) to understand what he’s saying.

With that said, the effort that Bizzy presents on this album is great, but he is not that outstanding artist he once was.  He will deliver that brilliance occasionally, but a constant barrage of brilliance throughout an entire album seems unlikely.  One of the best tracks is “What Have I learned” (Outstanding!); the worst track is “I Need You.”

Bizzy’s discography is rather lengthy with more than 10 albums, and A Song For You is a very good addition.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this recent release receives a 7.

Anyone who claims this album is excellent (or praise it too highly) is crazy and fails to take into account the dreadful style that Bizzy renders on a few tracks and the questionable songs that made the album.  Nonetheless, the album is good and gets a thumbs up.

***
[Originally published April 22, 2008 on now-defunct Examiner.com]

 

Album Review: Gemini: Good vs. Evil (2005) by Krayzie Bone

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Released on February 8, 2005 by newly formed record company Ball’r Records (which is currently defunct), Gemini:  Good vs. Evil by Krayzie Bone of Bone ThGood vs Evilugs-N-Harmony represents an incredible piece of work.  This solo release marks Krayzie’s third studio album (seventh solo album to date, counting his two underground releases, The Legends Underground (Part 1) and Streets Most Wanted, and his two mixtapes, Fixtape 1:  Smoke On This and Fixtape 2:  Just One Mo Hit).

1.  GET ‘CHU TWISTED
The album starts off on a fast note, literally.  Krayzie Bone, known for his quadruple-time rhymes, does just that.  The beat by Lil Jon is first-class and Krayzie destroys it. He raps so fast that he decides to take a breather (verse 3) and continues on viciously.  Everything about this song is perfect, from Lil Jon’s production to Krayzie’s mesmerizing quick tongue.  The chorus speaks for itself:  “Bone Bone Bone Bone Bone, let me get ‘chu you twisted man.”  The catchy chorus is fitting because it will get ‘chu twisted.  The hotness continues with the following track.

2.  THAT’S THAT BONE
“That’s That Bone” features fellow Bone member, Wish Bone, and he does not disappoint, for his flow and multiple verses on this song are outstanding.  In fact, Wish starts the song with energy and heat, followed by Krayzie who delivers a viciously outstanding verse to remember that starts with lava-like heat:  “You motha…uz better / wake up and smell, the marijuana inhale / a little ganja, and realize you dealin’ with a monster / mastermind of rap and crime, I’ll blast your mind / I’m so sick, but no need to call a doctor / ‘cause you won’t find a cure for this / besides, I don’t need no remedy, I’m already fixed….”

The beat, rendered by 5150, has a hard-edge thump that just keeps one bouncing his/her head, tapping the feet, moving hands in contentment, or any other bodily movement that one prefers.  That’s the cause and effect this song has because it is so amazing.

Wish is the most criticized Bone member, but he does a remarkable job (he doesn’t overshadow Krayzie, however).  He and Krayzie trade verses back and forth fluidly and accordingly, as if they were battling to outdo each other.  This formula was correct because it makes the song more interesting; the normal formula verse/chorus, verse/chorus, verse/chorus wouldn’t have such effect.

“That’s That Bone” is one of the best duet songs executed by a Bone duo.  Krayzie and Wish render an electrifying track.

3.  PUT IT ON Y’ALL
Track three, “Put It On Y’all,” represents another exciting track, produced by Dillio.  Once more, Wish appears on this track and he does well.  Needless to say, Krayzie drops a wicked verse, followed by Wish.  “Put It On Y’all” basically states that they will put it on anyone (i.e., haters and troublemakers) and put the situation to rest if need be as the fascinating chorus claims:   “Won’t weep no mo, won’t speak no mo, won’t beef no mo, once we put it on y’all / won’t weep no mo, won’t speak no mo, won’t beef no mo, once we put it on y’all.”

Exciting as this track is, the brevity (and two verses) really kills it.  It’s simply too short.

4.  INTERVIEW (Skit)
This brief interlude-interview is quite interesting.  The interviewer, Chuck Foolery, asks one simple question:  What’s up with the new album, and what’s up with you – Krayzie Bone the artist?  Thereafter, he shares his thoughts.

In brief, he basically talks about the new album and sheds some light regarding his good side and bad side.  Moreover, he contends that sometimes his bad side seems to override his good side, but he strives to make some changes to ensure that his good side overshadows his bad side – and one way to accomplish those changes is through God.

5.  NUTHIN’ BUT MUSIC
“Nuthin’ But Music” represents a tribute song.  In this track, Krayzie pays homage to the old- school rappers such as Too Short, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Jam Master Jay and Run-DMC, Fat Boys, etc.  He also names many songs that he enjoyed in the past from old-school rappers.  The production by Fredwreck is decent but doesn’t have that wow factor; however, considering the atmosphere of the song, the beat is fitting because it has that old-school vibe to it.

6.  ALL I’M HEARING
“All I’m Hearing,” produced by Krayzie himself, is a smooth song with a lot of truth and meaning behind it regarding the music industry.  This song begins with radio reverberations, (i.e., one who is searching for a radio station that interests them to no avail).  The harmonizing chorus by Krayzie declares:  “All I’m hearing on the radio, same thing / and all I’m seeing in the videos, same thing / same old song far from original, gotta maintain / we’d just like a breath of fresh air so here we blow.”

After he delivers two verses over his serene production, he takes the time to speak about the music industry with about 1 minute and 15 seconds left in the track; he declares in part:

“Man, when I turn on the radio today, you know what I’m saying, it’s like, it’s like man, I’m hearing the same thing over and over again; you know what I’m saying? Constantly being drilled with the same style, with the same, with the same beat, with the same everything, you know?   It’s like a lot of things done changed about the music ‘cause the music game ain’t original no mo’….”

This statement was very telling in 2005, including today, because it is very true.  The music industry today, especially the Hip Hop/Rap genre, is basically a joke.  Many artists release music for the hell of it; this is one reason why album sales continue to decline.  As a whole, “All I’m Hearing” signifies a very good and truthful song.

7.  LET’S LIVE
“Let’s Live” represents an inspirational song where Krayzie professes his love for life and encourages people to embrace life to the fullest.  On this track, Krayzie does not use a fast flow; rather, he uses a melodic flow which fits nicely with the serene production by the Platinum Brothers.

8.  CHAOS (skit)
Produced by Drone One, this skit has an apocalyptic nature to it, where listeners clearly hear people screaming, crying, and running in the beginning and the midpoint of the song as Krayzie raps.

9.  DON’T KNOW WHY
“Don’t know Why” typifies a very dark song, which samples “This Time” by alternative rock/metal group Depswa.  In fact, Jeremy Penick of Depswa lends his vocals to the chorus as Krayzie delivers two sinister and dark verses – story-like verses where he doesn’t know what has happened as part of his opening verse claims:

“Woke up this morning in a cemetery kinda weary / Looked over my shoulder and I seen / somebody just been freshly buried / Was kinda scary ‘cause my shirt was soaked in blood man / Shovel in my hand so I had to be the one that dug that / But I had no knowledge / I don’t remember even leavin’ the house man / Can’t explain how I got here / It’s like I was walkin’ but I was unconscious…”

This fabricated story-like song is quite interesting and eerie, to say the least.

10.  MANGLED
This song, semi-song for a better term, is good.  Two words describe this song:  vicious and raw.  Krayzie violently attacks this song instantly as the beat drops and delivers a raw verse, with the help of the Wunda Twins who provide their production skills.  However, “Mangled” is one of those songs that will make people ask one simple question:  why so short?

Considering how good this song is at its current state, the running time (1:56) does not justify its fine nature, including the single verse. The briefness of this song makes it impossible to understand any logical reason for ending it so suddenly, especially when the potential was there to make it an incredible song.  Nonetheless, the song will satisfy listeners.

11.  LOCK DOWN LOVE
On “Lock Down Love,” Krayzie dedicates a wholehearted performance to all of those who are incarnated and doing hard time in prison, in conjunction with a nicely calm production by Femi Ojetunde, where Krayzie uses his harmonious voice to render a good song (free from profanity).

12.  SLAVE (skit)
This slave skit is rather strange because Krayzie, who plays a slave, makes the choice to remain in captivity while another slave reveals that he is escaping, and tries to convince Krayzie to come along, but he refuses.  All in all, this skit is pointless and serves as a filler-track.

13.  I REMEMBER
L.T. Hutton, who has worked with Bone on many occasions (group and solo projects), lends his production prowess on a heartfelt song that Krayzie dedicates to his Bone Thugs-N-Harmony brothers.  Taking into account their problems in the music industry (especially with their label and internal strife within the group), this song is fitting.

Starting with a verse that concerns Flesh-N-Bone (incarcerated in 2000 but released from prison late 2008 to rejoin his Bone brothers), he shares his pleasure in reading letters from Flesh which are broader with vocabulary, and shares his sorrow for not being able to talk frequently: “It’s been a minute since I saw ya / I hear your lawyer still tryin’ to get that appeal for ya, / Wanted to holla and tell you what’s poppin’ but you probably / Already know we’ve been going through problems….”

Verse two concerns Layzie; in this verse, Krayzie basically shares his thoughts on how they were very close as youngsters, but it’s just not the same anymore as he puts it:   “Those days, it ain’t the same no more / We don’t even hang no more / We let the fame destroy, / Something that’s worth way more / ‘cause friends / Kinda hard to come by…”

Verse three concerns Wish; in this verse, Krayzie shares his old memories on how he mistakenly shot Wish with a shotgun and refused to reveal to the police what really occurred, but he was still shackled:  “Rushed to emergency, coppers came and arrested me, even though you told ‘em I didn’t do it, they cuffin’ me …”

Last but not least, and appropriately, is verse four which concerns the fiery and mysterious Bizzy.  In this verse, Krayzie shares his memories of the good times (that is, when they used to walk the streets together, eat and starve together, and sleep outside in Cleveland’s below zero temperatures together).  But their relationship became gloomy, and because he and Krayzie are the most popular members, critics and fans argue that the group’s problems stem from them as Krayzie alludes to: “Now how did it all of a sudden get so cloudy? / They say Krayzie got problems with Bizzy that’s why they (they) breaking up / Only problem I had was you running out on the band / But you explained to me deeper and now I understand….”

The overall theme of “I Remember” is outstanding and one of the most heartfelt songs by Krayzie.

14.  HI-DI-HO
“Hi-Di-Ho” has no fixed chorus or verses.  In other words, there are no formal choruses and verses, presenting a no-structure delivery.  Krayzie simply speed-raps to the beat and takes a temporary break before continuing his rap.  It’s like he delivers one long verse throughout.  In the latter, he chants continuously until the song concludes.  However, that doesn’t mean the song is bad or outstanding; it’s only a decent song that appears to be unfinished and too short, running at 2 minutes and 42 seconds.

If this song had a recognizable chorus and some verses (and longer), it would be a very good track, especially with Krayzie’s aggressive lyrics – not to mention L.T. Hutton’s great production.

15.  MURDA MUSIC
For some reason, “Murda Music” produced by 5150 sounds like an introductory track rather than a song.  Being that this song appears at the latter of the album is good, because it somewhat serves both as a prelude and closure for the final track.

16.  GET ‘CHU TWISTED (Remix)
“Get ‘chu Twisted” opens the album with an amazing solo by Krayzie, and the album ends with its remix featuring Krayzie’s Bone Thugs-N-Harmony brothers, Bizzy, Layzie, and Wish.  It is nowhere near exciting as the original because Krayzie simply destroys it on his lonesome.  However, “Get ‘chu Twisted (remix)” is a great song.  It’s basically similar to the original version, but the chorus is a bit different with the following: “Let me get ‘chu twisted man / Gimme some Hen’, gimme some gin.”   In sequential order, Krayzie delivers the same verse as the original version; Wish delivers a good second verse; Layzie does his thing on the third verse; and Bizzy ends the song with his hyper-active vocals.  This final track closes the album perfectly.

Generally speaking, this 16-track album is remarkable; its deserving grade is a B+ and highly recommended.  It will not disappoint.  Gemini:  Good vs. Evil is definitely a must-have album.

The album also comes with an interesting teaser-DVD (containing the video/single of “Get ‘chu Twisted” and mini interviews), which features all the members, excluding Flesh.  The full-length DVD was expected to hit stores months after the CD’s release, but because newly formed Ball’r Records quickly folded, the full-length DVD failed to come out.  So, it is safe to say that after three years, it may never see the day of light.

Krayzie Bone is currently working on the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony group album, The World’s Enemy (due out November 24, 2009), and his forthcoming solo album called Chasing The Devil (due out December 2009); most likely it will come out in 2010.  The title does not mean he is chasing the devil.  According to Krayzie, the album’s title is a metaphor, meaning the wrong choices that people in life undertake by chasing the devil (selling drugs, chasing money, chasing sex, etc.) which ruins and corrupts their lives.

***
[Originally published March 24, 2008 on now-defunct Examiner.com]

Album Review: T.H.U.G.S. (2007) by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

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Tomica Woods-Wright’s Ruthless Records, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s former label where the group spent eight years of its career, released a 13-track album called T.H.U.G.S. on November 13, 2007.

THUGS

Ruthless Records

T.H.U.G.S. is dubbed a new album, but the fact is obvious:  the album is not new at all.  The songs were unreleased for many years and were recorded for Bone’s 2002 album Thug World Order but failed to make the final cut.  Thereafter, majority of the songs were leaked onto the Internet and made their way to underground CDs, so Bone’s fans will notice that the tracks are five years old.

Although the album embodies old tracks, there are some notable changes:  new beats, distorted production, voice manipulation, and new song titles.  Sadly, these new changes did not help at all; they actually downgraded a few tracks.

With any album, the norm is to position a good opening intro/track that sets the pace for the following tracks, but the album fails to capture that.

1.  T.H.U.G.S.
The opening track, which shares the album’s title, is just boring.  The track is not a song.  Rather, it is a long and drawn-out-sermon-like speech where each member takes time preaching, yelling, and sharing their thoughts on many subjects.  The track (5 minutes and 58 seconds) is simply a waste of album space – and tiresome.

2.  UNSTOPPABLE
“Unstoppable” is a good track, but the original version is much more pleasing.  This new version is completely watered-down, thanks to the revised production.  What really hurts this track is the newly slow beat that doesn’t compare to the original, energetic and hard-hitting beat.  This new version is an injustice to the original track, which is flawless.

3.  NATION OF THUGS
“Nation of Thugs,” originally titled “No Love 4 Da Law,” has a new designed beat and also falls victim to a new production.  The original was very energetic and executed appropriately.  Compared to the original version which thumped an upbeat production, “Nation of Thugs” is a letdown and a step-down.  The track is all right, nonetheless.

4.  WILDIN’
This song has an upbeat and feel-good nature to it.  Considering the title, it shouldn’t be a surprise – and yes, their verses, filled with club-like lyrics, are energetic and wild with the main purpose to get the listener hyped-up.  Bone, in their career, really hasn’t made any club songs, but “Wildin” shows that they can touch on any subject.  According to a portion of Krayzie’s verse, “Make sure you bring your Mary Jane and personal lighter” when going clubbing; the other members share similar sentiments in their verses, which is no surprise since Bone and marijuana go hand in hand.

5.  NOT THAT NI&&A
“Not That Ni&&a” represents a nice, hardcore and raw track that disclaims any rumors, what they are not, what they will not do, etc.  The chorus and verses by the foursome speak for themselves.  This track was left as is and was not tampered with.

6.  BONE THUG SOLDIER
Every album has an uninspiring track (or a least favorite) that has people scratching their heads and “Bone Thug Soldier” is that song.  It is a bad track and the overall production is sloppy.  Layzie uses a half recycled verse from a previous song called “Gunline,” released on Mo Thugs 3:  The Mothership in 2000.  The track seems incomplete and is meshed together badly.  Their voices do not complement the beat at all.  Moreover, the verse/chorus transitions are pathetically awful.  This track has no synchronization; it’s all over the place.  If the track had a voice, it would scream “Help me, please!”

7.  I’M BONE
“I’m Bone,” a track that featured Bobby Brown in the original version, is a major step-up.  Brown is omitted from the new version for good reasons; his appearance lent nothing special at all but many screams and annoying noises.  The original track is almost un-listenable and outright pathetic.  With a new beat, the song is listenable and has a smooth vibe to it – it somewhat sounds like a West Coast production.  Although the voice manipulation (high deep voices) makes them sound inhuman and distorts their true sound, it’s a major upgrade.

8.  SWEET JANE
Majority of Bone’s albums (group and solos) have a weed track and this album is no different with “Sweet Jane,” a track that is weakened by a new and inferior beat added with uninspiring verses by Wish Bone and Layzie Bone.  The original version, rendered by only Krayzie Bone and his three great harmonizing verses, complemented with a relaxing beat, was top-notch.  Weed-smokers won’t be disappointed, nonetheless, because the track is still soothing.

9.  EVERYDAY THUGS
“Everyday Thugs” represents a great track.  The choice to leave this track as is was a good choice, for it is nicely put together.  Hearing Krayzie Bone harmonize the chorus “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday thugs / everyday thugs we be / Bone Thugs ah” is just amazing and a breath of refreshing air.  Each member did a good job with his verse.

10.  DON’T WASTE MY TIME
“Don’t Waste My Time,” originally titled “Stay Outta Mine,” received a major upgrade, probably the best improvement of all the tracks that were retouched.  The beat is amazingly soothing and beautiful.  The hook master, Krayzie Bone, has murdered every chorus throughout his illustrious career and this chorus is no exception – just outstanding!   The track is exceptional and flawlessly executed.  The man ought to be crowned the best hook fabricator of all time.

11.  YOUNG THUGS
“Young Thugs,” which samples an old track called “One Love,” is a good track with a smooth, flowing beat – as Krayzie and Bizzy simultaneously share in the chorus time.  Even though Bone was not under contract with Ruthless Records, the members agreed with Tomika to shoot a video for the song.  At this time, Bizzy and the three other members were not in good terms, so the video was filmed separately:  Bizzy appeared at a location, while Krayzie, Layzie, and Wish appeared elsewhere.

12.  REMEMBER YESTERDAY
“Remember Yesterday” is tweaked somewhat and has an added verse from Wish Bone, which makes one wonder if his verse was actually intended for this specific track or another track.  The original version had only two members, Krayzie and Bizzy, and appeared to be more together.  Nonetheless, it’s a good track. (Layzie is not included in this song.)

13.  SO MANY PLACES
Harmony is embedded with the group’s name for a reason and “So Many Places” clearly typifies their harmonies.  This track is nice, smooth, and has a delightful beat.  The members deliver their vocals comfortably and correctly.  This track is an appropriate closure to the album.

All in all, T.H.U.G.S. is not spectacular, but it’s a good album.  A more appropriate title for this album, however, should have been Thug World Order Collection:  Unreleased Tracks, because that’s what the tracks were intended for.

The only new tracks on the album are “So Many Places” and “Wildin’.”

The album, at the time of its release, was new but the tracks were old and had been circulating around the Internet for more than three years.  In fact, Bone’s main producer (DJ U-Neek who has been with the group since they released Creepin’ On Ah Come Up and aided with their success)  had put together an underground album called The Lost Files: The Unreleased Hits and planned on selling it via the Internet, but the project was suddenly scratched.  However, because several copies were already pressed, they made it into the public.

“Everyday Thugs” and “Don’t Waste My Time” (best track on the album) are stand out tracks.  Had “Unstoppable” been left alone, it would have easily been the best song on the album.  The common saying puts it perfectly:  If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.  Well, that saying was ignored because the track was retouched and suffered a traumatic heart attack.
“Bone Thug Soldier” and the opening intro track are the worst tracks on the album.  They render nothing and should have remained in the vault.  They don’t even work as filler tracks.

T.H.U.G.S. is neither impressive nor is it great – and people shouldn’t have such expectations because, technically, it is not a “real” Bone album where they went into the studio and worked on for this specific release.  Nonetheless, it is a decently good album.

Since Bone started its career with Ruthless Records in 1994, which released majority of all their albums, it is safe to say that T.H.U.G.S. is just the beginning of more albums to come by Mrs. Wright – even though Bone is no longer under contract.

The final album under Ruthless was Thug World Order (2002), but the plethora of unreleased tracks during their combative and turbulent time with Ruthless (rumored to be in the hundreds?) will likely be released in the future.  Interestingly, video clips of Bone recording Thug World Order made their way into the public via the Internet, so a DVD may also be released in the future.

Bone has been the primary income for Ruthless (selling 50 million albums worldwide and counting) and Mrs. Wright, the chief, will most likely take advantage of that and release their unreleased materials and studio/concert footages.

The biggest letdown with this Ruthless release is the fact that it comes out after and the same year as Bone’s major album, Strength & Loyalty (released May 8, 2007), under Swiss Beatz’ Full Surface/Interscope Records – a great album that was rendered by three members (minus Bizzy Bone, the on-and-off member of the group, and Flesh-n-Bone who is currently locked up in prison).

This release is not a must-have album.  If you are a Bone fan, it would be a great addition to your Bone collection.  If you are not a Bone fan but follow the group from time to time, listen to it from a friend who has it – and if you enjoy it, then purchase it thereafter.

T.H.U.G.S. at its best is a good album; at its worst, it’s an okay album.  What it is not is a bad album.  Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and bad albums do not go together.  The overall aura of the album is okay to good.  Nothing special.  Nothing spectacular.  As a whole, it does not have a long-term replay value; nonetheless, the album is a good collectable.

***
[Originally published November 14, 2007 on now-defunct Examiner.com]