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]

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