Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Plans Think Tank 4 in Los Angeles, CA – 11/27/09

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November 25, 2009


Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s manager Bobby Francis has scheduled yet another think tank for Friday, November 27, 2009, dubbing the event Think Tank 4. Like the prior think tank in October, it will be streamed live via BTNHBoard.com exclusively.

Strangely, it takes place after Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday (one of the busiest shopping days of the year)?

Information for this upcoming event has been kept under wraps; in fact, the location has not been disclosed. This is not out of the ordinary with Bone’s Brand Engine management team, because the prior think tanks were approached and executed in the same manner.

Those who were selected to attend prior events were given a meet-up location on the day of the event and, in turn, were told the exact location of where the think tank would be held.

Despite the lack of information from Bone’s management team, those who attend or watch the live stream can expect a similar show like Think Tank 3 – new songs will be played from Bone’s upcoming album and attendees will give their opinions on a paper that will be collected at the end. (Think Tank 3 was held in Burbank, California on Friday, October 23, 2009.)

In short, Think Tank 3 was a major success – even though it started more than four hours late and ran into the early-morning hours. All five members were present and performed their “See Me Shine” single with a live band; fans even paid homage to Bone by performing their songs. With success, however, came some form of problems by way of Bobby Francis.

This is why the announcement of another think tank caught many Bone fans by surprise, considering how angry and combative Bobby Francis was toward fans after Think Tank 3. Why? Because the 20-plus songs that were played online – via the live stream – were later uploaded onto YouTube for millions to hear.

Bobby, unsurprisingly, started attacking and threatening fans by claiming those who uploaded songs onto the Internet have jeopardized the release of Bone’s new album and will never be a part of what he and/or Bone is doing (if the songs were not removed). He continued his unruliness with the usual “haters” and his “they don’t wanna see me shine” verbiage.

From the beginning of these events, many people were intrigued and questioned the purpose of these gatherings and the beneficial value it would have for Bone, and it continues with Think Tank 4. Some think it’s a great way for Bone to interact with fans (and hear their opinions), while others claim it’s a waste of time. Both arguments make sense: The former is true because it does allow interaction, and the latter is true because it does not benefit Bone in any fashion (e.g., it does not provide promotion).

In truth, fans are the only ones who benefit from these events.

Bone’s new album UNI-5: The World’s Enemy is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. Records on December 22, 2009 – and not one ounce of decent promotion has been rendered. Due to the lack of promotion, a couple of questions must be asked: Shouldn’t Bobby and his Brand Engine team put their energy somewhere that will be advantageous for Bone and their new album rather than executing another think tank? Shouldn’t more emphasis be placed on a broader audience rather than Bone fans who will naturally support and buy the album when it comes out?

These are basic questions that a manager should ask himself/herself when representing an artist, but it seems like Bobby and his team have no answer, or maybe their lack of experience precludes them from finding an answer regarding proper promotion and showcasing it with action. Thus, they organize marketing gimmicks and call it promotion.

Every artist should cater to their fans, but this catering by Bone via Brand Engine has gone too far and is senseless. How many think tanks need to be held by Brand Engine for someone in their circle to conclude that they are not providing any promotion? With one month left until the album is shipped to stores, more emphasis should be placed elsewhere to attract non-fans, for they are the ones that should be catered to and enticed to buy the album when it comes out – not long-standing fans.

More devastating to Bone is the fact that many people have no clue they have a new album coming out, because their “See Me Shine” single has not been consistently promoted on the radio nor with a video.

Record labels are usually the primary advertisers for their artists’ material, which begs the question on Warner Bros. Records’ role in regard to promotion. However, it does not mean that an artist’s management team should ignore promotion by holding events that serve no purpose for its artists – and that is precisely what Brand Engine is doing.

Nonetheless, if Think Tank 4 is anything like Think Tank 3, it will be a success and an enjoyable experience for the fans; however, it will not be a success for Bone because it will provide no promotion, nor will it attract non-fans.

For this reason, it would not be surprising if Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s new album, The World’s Enemy, is delayed and pushed back to 2010.

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Originally published November 25, 2009 via now-defunct Examiner.com

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

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May 4, 2010


Bone-Thugs-UNI5 back coverKnown 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, released on May 4, 2010.

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 music video is shortened and features three members).  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 advantageous to an artist, 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