September 28, 2009
Multiplatinum-selling and Grammy Award-winning group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is UNI-5, and on the verge of releasing their long-awaited and highly-anticipated album, UNI5: The World’s Enemy, on November 24, 2009.
After nearly a decade of working as a trio and quartet (due to Flesh-N-Bone’s incarceration and Bizzy Bone’s ouster), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is once again a quintet. Bizzy returned early 2008 and Flesh, who spent more than eight years in prison, was released late 2008 to complete the fearsome five. He was welcomed home with hugs, kisses, and laughter by his family, friends, and Bone brothers: Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, and Wish Bone.
With new brand manager Bobby Francis and his Brand Engine team, Bone wasted no time and made the recording studio their home, constantly recording and preparing to unleash their signature quick tongues and harmonic flows. Bone also put joy on the faces of fans by scheduling a few concert dates and fittingly dubbed it the UNI5 Tour (i.e., as in unified).
Pressured by fans to put out a new song or sample, the group released two full-length street singles late February 2009 via their MySpace page: “The Game Ain’t Ready” and “Nuff Respect.” (Both songs were initially singles but did not make the final cut.)
Before these two releases, members were hyped and said they would bring the heat – and “The Game Ain’t Ready” did just that.
The beat is bass-heavy, supported by hard-hitting drums, and each member brings it accordingly. The overall theme of the songs centers on how the music industry is not ready for the hot music they have forthcoming.
The catchy chorus, occupied by Layzie with background support from Bizzy, makes that clear: “The world ain’t ready / the game ain’t ready / these n….s ain’t ready / ‘cause the lyrics heated heavy.”
Bizzy, in his hyperactive voice, starts off the song with an introduction: “Yeah uh yeah, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish-n-Bone, Flesh-n-Bone, and that lil … you know it’s Bizzy Bone.”
That’s all Flesh needed to hear because he drops a blistering verse. If there were any worries of how he would sound and perform due to his long prison stint, some of those worries vanished and transformed into satisfaction, because he attacks the first verse viciously.
Layzie follows with a pristine delivery and with each word being articulated nicely. Krayzie, unsurprisingly, flows pleasantly with his smooth and quick vocals. Despite having the shortest verse (14 seconds), his verse is memorable. Wish, the most criticized member for years, does not disappoint and drops a respectable verse. Bizzy, although hard to understand with his new style at times, wildly ends the songs with a satisfactory verse. Overall, this song is nice.
The second street single, “Nuff Respect,” is not the typical Bone song that people are accustomed to hearing. The weak hook and bland beat are two features that keep this song from reaching the next level.
The rhythm may not be easy on the ears, but the members’ flow and intensity complement the beat well, showing that they can tackle any beat, despite its mediocrity. In actuality, one aspect of this song that makes it attractive is how each member delivers his verse, especially Krayzie.
He begins the song with a verbal onslaught that is quick, robust, and intense. He has a deadly flow and murders his verse from start to end. The way Krayzie swifts and manipulates his voice, switching up his cadence, to match the beat is unmatched by any.
Flesh attacks the second verse with a quick delivery of his own that’s somewhat whispery, but it does not affect his overall performance. Layzie continues the intensity with a clear delivery that is occupied with threatening lyrics if he and his Bone brothers are challenged and/or disrespected.
With Bizzy’s subdued and low-pitched vocals, the mood of the song changes; however, it does not disrupt the intensity of the song but rather brings another dimension to the song that is effective. Wish, who ends the song, drops a Wish-like verse with his signature repetition of words that gets him in trouble sometimes, but he pulls it off with his intense vocals.
If Bone’s vocals were extracted and placed on a different production, it would be a more enjoyable listen.
On August 25, Bone released “D.O.A.” (Death of Auto-Tune) remix; the original song appears on Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 album. The sampled song has been praised by many and received great attention on many hip hop sites. However, like “Nuff Respect,” “D.O.A.” remix has a problematic beat; it is lifeless, annoying, and possibly one of the worst beats that Bone has ever rapped on.
The production was not meant for Bone but rather Jay-Z, so it’s understandable that Bone undertook such project for the sole purpose of promotion. The move was smart because it did garner attention and comparison to Jay-Z’s original.
Excluding the headache-prone beat, lyrically and stylistically, the members are on point and again show that they can deliver and flow on any beat (and sound good). For that reason alone, they get credit for putting life into a song/beat that was initially dead and dull.
There is also an inexpensive “D.O.A.” remix video, showing clips of the recording process.
On September 18, Bone released three more street singles via their MySpace page: “No Mas,” “Wanna Ride,” and “Let Ya Self Go.” These songs are okay and have some impressive moments, but they do not render anything special and are average at best. Moreover, the productions lack significantly.
In general, these five street singles and “D.O.A.” remix are not classics or flawless; not one (with the exception of maybe “The Game Ain’t Ready” ) has a long-term replay value and that unexplainable rawness that only Bone can offer via their unique styles.
However, Bone has made it clear that these songs should not be judged as an indicator of how The World’s Enemy will sound, for these tracks are simply street singles (i.e., throwaway tracks) that serve as teasers to get some buzz.
An artist’s painting should never be judged on the first few days but rather after the painting is completed and mounted – and that’s how Bone’s upcoming album should be treated: in its completed form and when it comes out. Like any other art form, music is an art; it takes time to build a project, select the proper production team, record the vocals properly, complete the mixing/mastering appropriately, strategize a proper promotional tactic, and select a radio-friendly single. These are crucial for an album’s success and are in no doubt being worked on by Bone and their team.
Bone has optimistically stated that they are working to create a classic album. Whether they can produce another classic album or not is debatable, but one thing is obvious: they can still produce a superb album with perhaps a couple of hit singles. The group’s track record speaks for itself, for majority of their albums have been certified gold, platinum, and multiplatinum by the RIAA.
Moreover, being in the music industry for 15 years and selling more than 30 million records in the U.S. and more than 50 million records worldwide is special (and not a fluke). Some artists do not last more than 2 years in the music industry, so for Bone to last 15 years in a cut-throat industry, and collectively drop more than 50 albums (greatest hits, group, solo, underground albums, etc.) is extraordinarily impressive.
The World’s Enemy will be Bone’s eight studio album; it is scheduled to come out on
November 24, 2009 under Warner Bros. Records and BTNH Worldwide, Bone’s independent label. (The album has already been pushed back four times, so the current date is questionable.)
The greatest predictor of the future is the past, which has been very successful for Bone, so their new album has the potential to be remarkable; that is, if each member executes his verses appropriately with quality production.
With so many filth polluting the airwaves and TV screens by today’s rappers, having Bone Thugs-N-Harmony back into the mix is good thing for the music industry.
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Originally published September 28, 2009 via now-defunct Examiner.com.