Gangsta rap dominated the airwaves and album sales in the 1990s as the world was given a raw peek into the ominous world of life on urban streets. This subgenre turned hip-hop artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac and Snoop Dogg into icons.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s own entry into the rap game could be considered revolutionary. They accented their street side testimonies with impeccable harmonies and an intricate, rapid-fire verbal flow that previously had not been seen. Now, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are getting ready to say goodbye with their last release “E. 1999 Legends.” In another move, the group is only creating one copy of the album, which will be sold to the highest bidder.
When Lagniappe spoke with Bizzie Bone, the hip-hop artist exhibited an air of excitement for both the new release as well as surviving 20 years in the rap game.
SC: How does it feel to see Bone Thugs-N-Harmony celebrate 20 years of being in the rap game?
BB: It feels good, man! This second wind is really, really exciting for us. It’s everything that goes with it, from the disbelief of certain people to the belief in certain people. We’re still doing our thing. It has just worked out in every way. From the naysayers to the ones who’ve always been there and always down, it’s just refreshing as a motherf*cker, because it’s a good breath, a clean breath and a sober breath, as far as the entire band. It’s amazing, wonderful and exciting, and we knew that we could do it.
SC: To me, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was revolutionary band. Your style of verbal flow had not been seen in hip-hop, until you guys came into play. I can still hear echoes of it in new schoolers such as Kendrick Lamar. What’s it like knowing that you guys changed the game?
BB: It feels good to be able to come back and still do what we do and not be told that we’re taking anything from anybody else. People can go into the archives and say, “OK, this is the way that they’ve always done it.” Music is a funny thing. Nowadays, people get into hip-hop and don’t dig into what was going on five or 10 years ago. Not a lot of people understand Easy E and Pac and Big, but once they get into hip-hop and get them three names, immediately, they hear Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. We were able to add to the culture by the influence that we were able to put forth in the game.
SC: Your group came out in the height of gangsta rap craze. What do you think about the modern gangsta rap scene? Has it shifted back to the underground?
BB: This is what I think. As far as gangster rap nowadays, the only difference is the heart that they put into it. You actually had to be a gangster in order to do gangster rap. Nowadays, they learn from the older generation, and it’s like, “We don’t have to actually go out and do this sh*t. We can actually talk about it and save ourselves a lot of time, energy and jail time and so on and so forth by just putting it out there lyrically.” What’s really changed is that keepin’ it real has turned into say it on the record, so you don’t have to do it. Back in our day, keepin’ it real meant that if you didn’t do this, then don’t talk about it. That’s what’s changed in the game. We’ve smartened up a tiny notch.
SC: You mentioned earlier this year that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would be doing one last album called “E. 1999 Legends.” Why stop now?
BB: I’ll be honest with you, man. The day and age of CDs are passing us by. Right now, it’s iPhones and iTunes. Basically, we want just to send a goodbye and an ode to the day when you could go into the store and actually purchase a CD. We want to give people that last opportunity. With CD sales going down and the game shifting and changing, we just want to say goodbye. This is how we want to say goodbye to the industry selling CDs and so forth. We’ve seen it happen with VHS going to DVD. We’ve seen it happen with eight-tracks to tapes, then from tapes to CDs. We’ve watched it happen. This is the last transgression of where it’s going to now. We don’t want to miss out, because we’re a part of that. We want to say goodbye properly. I say three or four more years down the line, they will be selling video and music in a different kind of way, and that will be the new thing. So, it’s just a goodbye. It’s one, final golden CD goodbye for these people. It’s some of that original, earthy, down-home Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, originator, innovator cool stuff.
SC: You’re following in the steps of Wu-Tang Clan and creating one copy of the last album, which will be auctioned to the highest bidder. I know that Wu-Tang organized some listening parties for fans to get a chance to hear the sounds on this album. What are the chances that your other fans will get a chance to hear the tracks on “E. 1999 Legends?”
BB: Basically, the Prince of Persia hasn’t shown interest as of yet, but major labels have shown interest. They have a few bids in. The way things are going, the masses are going to be able to hear it. It’s definitely something that everyone is going to hear. It’s gonna be one of those kind of things where someone who bids on it and finally gets it is gonna bid on it and get it not to hide and put it under his bed. He’s going to get it and want the world to hear it. It’s one of those things. Definitely, the masses will be able to hear. We’re going to think of good, creative things to do. We have an auction house that we will be going to and a few different other things that we’re doing in the process of this record. It’s step one through step 10.
SC: You’ve got a ton of talent on this album like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, LeBron James and even Phil Collins. What was it like working with all this talent?
BB: I’ll be honest with you. The best thing about this record is not only growing and not only the star names, but it’s us five healthy Bone members getting back to where we belong in that studio making things together in conjunction with the world tour and the march to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So, it’s such a good movement, and it’s great, man, it’s great.
SC: You’re no strangers to Mobile, but for those who haven’t seen Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, how would you describe the live show these days?
BB: Lots of energy, lots of fun and crowd interaction. They will hear the words to the songs, and it will sound so similar to what they’ve heard on the records. That’s the thing about our voices. They’ve become signature voices, so we sound the same as we sound on the record. Nowadays, they’ve got a lot of auto-tune and a lot of stuff they do with the voice. When people hear it live, it’s not the same. It’s gonna be full of energy, and we’re going to be excited. We give them an hour plus show, and it’s nonstop. We make sure people have a good time. It’s one of those kind of concerts where no one will be disappointed.
Date: Friday, Oct. 3, 9:30 p.m.
Stage: Miller Lite Stage