It’s been one of the most fascinating, yet confusing stories in Hip-Hop history; an unbelievable tale that has been ongoing for more than 17 years. Five street thugs from Cleveland, Ohio, took one-way bus tickets to Los Angeles in order to realize their dreams. They helped transform the genre by mixing melody into their raps at a time when being a “gangsta” reigned supreme.
Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony, among Hip-Hop’s elite, proved that their unique style of rap was far from a gimmick. To date, they’ve over 30 million records worldwide and won multiple Grammys and American Music Awards along the way. In short, they overcame insurmountable odds and reached goals that weren’t meant to be reached by five homeless teens.
In one of the most honest and upfront Bone Thug sit-down in recent memory, Krayzie puts all the rumors to rest and reveals what it’s going to take for his crew to finally write that final victorious chapter to their story.
AllHipHop.com: I’ll start with the project you just put out, the Uni5 album, and a lot of people question the final product a little bit, they heard original tracklists and some of the material being cut off, I know it wasn’t the ideal situation – How did that final tracklist come about?
KB: Well, man, the final tracklist came about…You know, we had picked out our own – like – we put together our album in steps. You know, like, we tried to make sure the album made sense, you know, whether it’s a skit, whether it’s a prelude, you know, like, we try to make sure everything makes sense because each song goes into each other. We originally had like 17 to 18 songs on the album, you know, but due to our publishing situation and the publishing deals we had – you know, an album – most artists only get paid for 12 songs. I mean, you only do 12 songs. Once you do over 12 songs in some publishing deals, once you do over 12 songs you have to eat that. Like so that means it takes you longer to recupe because you have to eat the money from those extra songs, because the label is not paying for those.
So we end up paying for that. So that was one issue. Even though we were willing to eat it, like, we got a lot of pressure from the record companies and even from our representation at the time that it wasn’t a good idea. So we thought about it and we even went back to the label and tried to explain it and we was like, “Its very hard for us, Bone, to put out an album with only 11 to 12 songs on there, because it’s making it seem like we’re giving an incomplete story.” You know, like, our albums are always stories so it’s making it seem like it’s an incomplete story. Even though some of the content of the songs, you know, I wouldn’t have agreed on releasing – you know, but we gave them our tracklist, and like I said, the publishing situation just threw everything off and, I guess the label got tired of us trying to decide how we were going to do it so Warner Brothers decided to just make their own tracklist and run with the album.
And plus, you know, they were dealing with a lot, I’m not going to say that recording this Uni5 album was the easiest album we’ve ever done, because it wasn’t. I’m not going to sit here and say oh yeah everything was just wonderful, we was all in la-la land, everything was just great, because it wasn’t. You know, we were apart for almost 10 years. So everybody coming back together – everybody had gotten used to doing them and not having to worry about, okay, dude in the group ain’t gon’ like this and, you know, I gotta run it past everybody else.
We were accustomed to doing our own thing, so coming back together, you know, it took some time forming that bond that we once had. At least in the studio. I’m not talking like the personal bond to where like we hanging out, just kickin it, homies, homies for life, I’m talkin’ bout like, the creative bond. It took us a while to come together on that, you know, but, once we did everything went smooth. But I guess Warner Brothers were like, “We gotta put this album out, and we’re not trying to wait no more.” And that’s what happens when you are signed to a record company everything is good, but the minute that creative issue comes up they usually are the ones who win it. Because they have everything. They have the power, they got the music, they got the machine, so they can just take it and put it out if they want to. And we can’t really do nothing but sit back and complain and make it look like, you know, it’s the label’s fault. But half and half, it really is the label’s fault. I ain’t gon’ put everything on the label because some was our, Bone’s, fault from internal issues, you know, but, they played a major part in it, too – Warner Brothers.
AllHipHop.com: I mean, from ’92 – we’re talking Faces of Death, maybe until Resurrection – you guys were in the studio together, and then you took the hiatus. What was the most difficult part, creatively, with all 5 of you getting back together, not just the 3 of you in the studio, that made it difficult?
KB: Well, man, just certain things. I’m a keep it all the way real, it was what I’ve learned, since we’ve been apart. Because you know I’ve started studying, you know – I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness – but my parents dropped out when I was very young but I always had those words and those teachings in the back of my mind, throughout my whole career. That’s why it’s always been in my music, because I always remembered what I learned. You know so I’ve decided to pick up my bible studies with the witnesses and started back studying the bible with them. A lot of my views started to change because what I was learning made so much sense. The logic in what I was learning was undeniable to me.
I’ve been researching myself and I was like man – you know, so from that point, our views on life begin to change. We used to all agree with everything even if it was dumb as hell, like, “I’m high ‘till I die”, or “I’ma always smoke weed”. You know, just lil dumb s**twe used to sing when we was young. But now its like, I’m not on that no more. Weed songs is cool you know, but like I said, everything I’m doing now, the music I’m making now, is because of my conscience of the kids that I have. So just dealing with that you know, having to tell them that I really wasn’t down for certain concepts.
When I first laid the chorus down to “Murda On You” – that song was not talking about murdering people. If you listen to my lyrics, I was talking about murdering emcees on the mic. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about going out just murdering people with guns for no reason, I was talking about how I spit like a gun and, you know, how I do all this – it wasn’t about murdering people. It was about murdering emcees. And when everybody else went in, although I went in and laid my verses down first, they all went their own way. You know and it’s only so much you can say about it to where everybody else is going to want to – you know, ‘cause everybody else feel how they feel – so that was one of the like main challenges in the whole process of recording that album.
AllHipHop.com: But from a fan’s point of view, and for the first time ever, since I’ve listened to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, some of the criticism came back on you, you know what I mean? Because you’ve always been the hook guy, you’ve always been very consistent, and very loyal to the group, you know what I mean?
KB: Oh yeah.
AllHipHop.com: So it’s like for the first time, they want to hear that raw Bone Thugs-N-Harmony shit, like – you know how fickle fans are – truth be told they don’t care what you’re going through in your personal life. It’s sad to say, right? But, it’s the reality of the consumer buying your stuff, right?
KB: Yeah, that’s real.
AllHipHop.com: So, if you’re keeping true to yourself, and doing those lyrics, the “Murda On You” lyrics the way you see fit, or “No More (No Mas)”, you know, you did the hook, you didn’t do anything else…Why not put those songs on? Why have any kind of resistance to those songs going on because from your end it’s pure, I mean 2Pac had two sides, you know, everyone says that, everyone has two sides. So that’s the argument to what you’re saying, so how do you respond to that?
KB: It’s also how the record companies look at us. Because the record companies look at us totally different from how the fans looks at us. The fans know us from “Thuggish Ruggish Bone, “ and all this hardcore street stuff. But the record companies know us like the latest artist. All the record companies we’ve been signed to – they don’t dig as deep as the fans. They go by hits. All that was on their minds was Tha Crossroads. And that’s what they tried to make us do every song. Every label we’re good with – they’re searching for Tha Crossroads. That’s why when we signed to Interscope, the first song they wanted to release was “I Tried,” because it reminded them of Tha Crossroads.
AllHipHop.com But that’s the thing that brought you guys back to the mainstream, and mostly due to you, not mostly, all due to you because it was a Bone style song, was “Ridin’ Dirty,” right?
AllHipHop.com: So I mean, from a fan’s point of view, it’s like – and “Ridin’ Dirty” wasn’t a hardcore “Mo Murda” type song, right? Your verse wasn’t that far off, I mean, you would still do that today, I’m pretty sure, so why not kind of gravitate towards that?
KB: Man, like I tell people all the time – I rap, what I write about is the mood. Like, the mood that I’m in, at a certain time. Although nowadays, I try to tone it down as much as I can to get the point across of everything, but it’s not like you know, I’m just going in just all the time rappin’ about happy stuff all the time, because we don’t live in a happy world. So it’s not like I’m just blind and not conscious at all to what’s going on in the world. I feel it’s more important for me to open people’s eyes to see what’s going on in the world than for me to tell them how to shoot a gun. You know like, than for me to tell them how to smoke weed or how to get drunk. I feel like me informing them on something that’s worthwhile is more important than that. So if people don’t agree, well, you know, they don’t have to listen to every song I make. Every song we’ve ever made is not for everybody. Everybody don’t like all of our songs anyway. You know so it’s like, what can you do?
AllHipHop.com: Flesh got out and you are a 5 man group, and I know when I interviewed you back in the day before Strength & Loyalty, before Flesh came out, a big thing was “majority rules”, right? That’s why you, Layzie, and Wish, made a gold record in a time where gold records weren’t being made by people from your era. So now people use that same thing that you said, that “majority rules”, and they’re kind of using it against – you know, I don’t want to say against you, because I don’t think the backlash is crazy like that, but they say “majority rules” so if it’s hard shit that should be on a Bone album, you should agree to it. Now how do you respond to that?
KB: Yeah, but you know that “majority rules” man – when you’re in the group and you’re like “majority rules” – that’s high school. That’s high school stuff. Those are pacts you have when you’re young. When you become a grown man, the “majority rules” – okay, so if y’all want to go kill somebody, and I don’t want to go do it, the majority rules? I gotta go kill him with y’all? Come on, don’t even trip like that, ‘cause that’s not about to happen.
So I feel the same way about other issues that could be like detrimental to our career. Everything to come across the table for Bone is not necessarily good for Bone. You know what I’m saying? And it wasn’t just me that wasn’t feeling the songs because, like I said, if the record label wanted to put those songs out, they would have put them out. We would have had to fight them, and we probably would have still lost because they had the right to put it out when it all came down to it. Trust me, if the record label wanted to put those songs on that album, those songs would have came out. Just like they wanted to put the songs they put out already, and they came out. We really didn’t have too much say-so in the matter. We did in the beginning when they were trying to be nice and campaign. But, you know, record labels are just like politicians, they tell you what you want to hear to get you in and get you signed, and get you to elect them, but then once they sign you and they’re in office, they’re strictly after what they want to do. They don’t care about the people that they’re using. That’s just how it is.
So it wasn’t like all on me. I really had no say-so in the end either. So it wasn’t all me even though I didn’t agree with all the songs they wanted to use. It ain’t like I went up and was like, “Nah, don’t put those songs on there.” Because they wasn’t tryin’ to hear nothin’ we said at all as a group. So it wasn’t just me, you know, so the whole “majority rules” thing, you know, like, it works for some cases that we still deal with, but like I said, I’m a grown man and that “majority rules” is for kids. ‘Cause I’m not going to let anybody lead me anywhere blindly just because I want to follow the crowd. I don’t follow the crowd no more. That’s one thing I don’t do.
AllHipHop.com: And I guess the whole Catch 22 outside of that is when album finally comes out and you got to promote it, you can’t – you know, you gotta do your thing, right?
KB: Exactly. You’re not wholeheartedly in it because you know it could have been better. You know man, I already knew this, me myself personally, like although people put that I picked all those songs – I didn’t pick all those songs, because I felt like the album was incomplete. I’m like, “We need more songs.” This is something we all were in unity on, at the end of the album, is “We need more songs on this album.” You know, we were all in agreeance of that. We were all on the same page for that. And it was like, man, we gotta make it do what it do.
And to me, the issue of why we don’t make hard songs no more, man – I mean, it ain’t about we don’t make hard songs no more, it’s just the level of how hard we make them has changed. It’s like, we would rather talk to the people than scream at them now. At least, I would. Because I’m older, and if I came out rapping about the same stuff, about carrying guns and doing all this…It’s like – see man, our fans are so crazy – it’s like when Layzie Bone put his “If I Can’t Do It video out,” when he put his video out on that website, I went down and I looked at the comments – and this was a hard video, where he was talking about gangsta stuff –You know, and he in there showing a gun and everything.
And I’m seeing comments, people like, “Ah, Layzie, you are too established to try to be flashing a gun in a video now. People know what you did, people know how real y’all is.” I’m like, so what is y’all trippin’ for? I don’t understand it. First people want this and then they want that, and then they want this, and then they want that again. So it’s like, first you know, “it ain’t hard enough”, then when he flashes a gun, “he don’t need to do that.” So it’s kind of confusing. It’s kind of like I’m at the point where you’re never going to please everybody anyway, so do what you do.
AllHipHop.com: You talked about the whole Warner Brothers situation, and a lot of the time, with Bone, I don’t think anybody, since Eazy died, and I think you’d agree, has known what to do with you guys. And you’ve made that known. So you’ve never been satisfied. So now there are rumors rumbling about a Ruthless Records kind of thing. Right?
AllHipHop.com: So, I mean, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, because I know business is business, so if you can’t, you can’t. But, I mean, people say, “Okay, well, they weren’t happy with Ruthless, they weren’t happy with Interscope, they weren’t happy with Warner…” At a certain point the onus starts falling on you even if that’s not fair.
KB: I’m gonna break it down from Ruthless. Ruthless Records was actually the best place for us, because, you know, we originated with them. So they always knew how to handle, set up marketing and promotion, and go after our audience like you’re supposed to. But see, back then we were still very young when we were signed to Ruthless Records, you know what I’m saying? We were still trying to gain an understanding of the business and how it was run. But, you know, we were caught up in being celebrities. You know when you come in and you’re an instant celebrity, it’s hard to slow down and be like, “We need to slow down and handle this business.” You know, so I’m over the days where I totally put the whole blame on the record companies. Because now that I look back, I see a lot of that stuff that we did was our fault. Not necessarily as a group, but it was certain individuals in the group that really wasn’t understanding and wasn’t open to any kind of negotiating or just sittng down listening to it.
You know, like, Bizzy was erratic. He was running around on his Bizzy Bone thing in the very early stages of our career, which was shocking to all of us the way he came out and just separated himself from Bone all of a sudden. That was shocking to us because before we had made it, all five of us was tight. And what he was doing was just shocking, like how could you just all of a sudden – as soon as we get our first paychecks – everything is different. Everything. Like, you don’t hang with us no more, you try to stick the record company up just to come to perform with us when this is supposed to be a group. But man, we wasn’t understanding none of that, like, where is all this coming from? You know, so it was all new, and so we started having problems with him.
And then the problems between us and him started affecting Ruthless Records because they would have to get in the middle and try to play the mediator between us and him. And we were like, “Man, this is our dude, why do we need y’all to try to mediate what we’re doing? We grew up together.” But this is how he was making it. He was making it like this. He was making himself unavailable to us. You know, that’s why us 4 (Krayzie, Layzie, Wish, and Flesh) have always been able to come together through all our history. It’s plain as day, we’ve always been able to come together no matter what kind of turmoil, what kind of disagreement, what kind of fight we had the day before. We was always able to come together, and it’s still that way now. Except for Bizzy. He’s always been like that.
AllHipHop.com: Since Resurrection, it has been the whole Krayzie vs. Bizzy thing amongst fans. You explained it kind of nicely to me off the record. Maybe you could do it on the record, that it’s not a Krayzie vs. Bizzy type thing, is it?
KB: Man, it ain’t a Krayzie vs. Bizzy thing at all like people try to hype the thing up. I could care less what this dude do, man. I don’t go around checking up on this dude, seeing what he’s doing, and then run back like “Ah, I gotta compete with this dude.” Never, never. I’ve never done that to anybody in the group, I don’t even do that to other rappers. I could care less what the next man is doing, because I’m always confident in what I’m doing. So people try to make it seem like that but, it wasn’t a Krayzie/Bizzy issue, it was a Bone/Bizzy issue, because everybody feels the same way I do, no matter what they went out there and said, or tried to make it seem like it was just me, it wasn’t just me. I had the same problem everybody else had with him. He was not a good business man and that’s what we all said. We all said that. Not just me.
And like, my problem came into play – this is the only problem that I had with the whole Bizzy situation – when we first did our solo albums. Bizzy put his solo album out. It did what it was going to do. Cool. I didn’t even initiate the whole solo thing, and Layzie backed him on it because Layzie came to us and was like, “Man, I think if we let him go out here and let him do a solo album he’ll get that out his system.” So I was like, alright, cool, and they was like, okay. So [Layzie], “I’m electing you to go second.” I didn’t say I was going out next. Dudes in the group nominated me to go second because I lived in the studio. So I already had solo songs recorded while I was still working on all these Bone projects. You know, so it was like, since you already got music done you should go next. And I was like, cool, I mean, I’m cool with that.
So with that being said, once the album was released it was all this hype. Like, “Bizzy’s about to come out, he’s about to be on top of the world, he’s about to sell more than Michael Jackson”, this and that, this and that, he’s about to be a star. And then when the album came out, it didn’t live up to the hype. So, to me, that was a major blow, and it made it even harder for him to come back and humble himself to us. So then when I started working on my album, and my album came out and it was successful, and it blew up, and I was out on tour and I had all this stuff going – You know, I’m out on the road one day, promoting my album, it was just getting hot, we was moving in to the second single, “Paper”, which you know the first single was a hit, and I get a call while I’m on the road from Ruthless Records, from Tomica. And um (corrects himself) – no, no, no, no – I actually got a call from Layzie and Bizzy while I was on the road. I’m like, wow, I ain’t talked to this dude Bizzy – this is a kind of strange call. They were like, “You know, we just wanted to let you know that we started working on the next album, which is called Resurrection.”
AllHipHop.com: Right, and that’s why you’re not on it, at least like you should be.
KB: Right, it was like, “We already started working on the next album, and we feel like you need to come back and get in on this album.” I’m like, “Hold on. Dawg. What are you talking about? Don’t y’all see I’m in the middle of promoting my album that just came out?” I’m in the middle of this, I’m like, “You had a chance to do everything you had to do for your album, so just because it didn’t work out, y’all trying to come in and cut me short now, right?” You know, so I guess they went in and the got Ruthless Records behind them, Tomica behind them, and you know, everybody was trying to stop what I was doing.
AllHipHop.com: Well, a Bone album will always supersede a solo album, right?
KB: Right, and they were like um…How I ended the conversation with Layzie and Bizzy, I’m like, “Dawg, I’m out here promoting my album. You had the opportunity to do yours, I should have the right to finish promoting mine and milk what I can out of this album.” And they were like, “Okay, don’t worry about it. What we’re going to to do is, we’re going to record this album without you.” I was like, “What?! Y’all going record the album without me. Okay, fine. Talk to y’all later.” Hung up the phone.
Two weeks later, I get a call from the executives at Ruthless Records telling me that I was going to have to cut my album short. Because at the time, Tomica had the right to cut that album short if she wanted to. They were telling me I had to cut my album short so I was like man, what are y’all talking about? I was furious! They tried to bring it to me like, “The album is not sounding the way it usually sounds without your involvement.” Just basically trying to pump me up, like I don’t see what they’re trying to do, you know what I’m saying? Like, oh, y’all need me? But I was upset about it. All that lil stuff they was doing was not working on me. They had different people call me saying it’s just not sounding the same, the guys need you in there on it. I was basically backed up against the wall, I had no choice, because they told the record company, Relativity Records at the time, that they wanted to cut it short. So I was upset about that. And that’s the problem I had. And that ain’t right, because dude had his chance.
Like, he had all this hype, he was playing the group like he was better than us at the time. And all this, you know – sticking the record label up just to do interviews with us. (As Bizzy): “If y’all want me to do an interview with Bone, y’all got to pay me this and that. AND…I need to be on a separate couch.” This is the kind of stuff that was going on. I’m like, man, who do this dude think he – man, it’s been plenty of times that we was about to jump on this dude. Seriously. Seriously. Because the way he was trying to play us was like he above us. You know, and it was crazy. That’s the only personal thing that I had with him throughout our whole career. Everything else had to do with the way he was doing Bone. Everything else. So that’s how that whole thing played out, as far as that situation, that Krayzie and Bizzy Bone thing. I mean, people could have took it like animosity, but once I got over that, I didn’t really let that stand in the way I went into the studio to record albums. I came into the studio to get on the songs and I wasn’t feeling half the songs. That’s why I wasn’t on a lot of the songs, because I was like, dawg, this ain’t what we do.
AllHipHop.com: On Resurrection, really?
KB: I mean, a lot of songs was changed, when I came in. I’m talking about, a lot of the songs that I wasn’t on, they were kind of done already, and it was like, I didn’t really touch none of those songs because I didn’t really hear none of them. But when I came to the studio they were feeding me all new tracks. Like, “Here, put hooks on this. Do this and do that.” So like, I really didn’t hear those songs. Those songs came into the mix when it was time to put all the songs together: ”Okay, what do we want to put out?” So I was like, man, it’s whatever, I wasn’t having too much input in this album anyway, so I ain’t mad and I really don’t care.
To be continued….