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 Bone, 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 couple 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]