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.

 

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.

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