We Don’t Sleep: An Interview With Krayzie Bone of Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony

by | Sep 20, 2010 | HIP HOP & RAP

Here’s a challenge for any person reading this, a challenge that I struggled with for nearly a week while getting ready to write this piece: name another hip-hop group that can rival the one-two punch of bubblegum harmony and filthy lyrics Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony have been providing for nearly two decades. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You’ve got nothing, right? I spent days trying to craft this comparison of sorts, a little Fantasy Rap roster that could maybe provide a clever lead for this story, but I ultimately was forced to abandon this quest–it was futile. Even people who can’t stand Bone (e.g. your mom, in 1996) fucking love “Crossroads.” If you turn on modern rap radio now, you’re doomed to endure many young rappers, drunk on 90’s nostalgia, trying to summon what they hear in their heads when they think of Bone – fluid, double-and-triple speed flows; a mastery of harmonized threats; a self-destructive romance with Mary Jane—and coming up short. (Seriously, I mean that–why are so many young rappers so short?) Now, following Flesh-N-Bone’s release from a nearly decade-long bid in a California penitentiary, and the return of Bizzy Bone to the group seven years after his last appearance on a Bone Thugs project, all five original members of Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony have come together to release Uni5: The World’s Enemy, their first album as a full group in 15 years. The group is also about to embark on a full tour of the U.S., with some Canadian and overseas stops—Amsterdam, duh.

I had the opportunity to speak with Krayzie Bone one-on-one for a few minutes last week from his home, as he prepared for tour.


Here’s a challenge for any person reading this, a challenge that I struggled with for nearly a week while getting ready to write this piece: name another hip-hop group that can rival the one-two punch of bubblegum harmony and filthy lyrics Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony have been providing for nearly two decades. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You’ve got nothing, right? I spent days trying to craft this comparison of sorts, a little Fantasy Rap roster that could maybe provide a clever lead for this story, but I ultimately was forced to abandon this quest–it was futile. Even people who can’t stand Bone (e.g. your mom, in 1996) fucking love “Crossroads.” If you turn on modern rap radio now, you’re doomed to endure many young rappers, drunk on 90’s nostalgia, trying to summon what they hear in their heads when they think of Bone – fluid, double-and-triple speed flows; a mastery of harmonized threats; a self-destructive romance with Mary Jane—and coming up short. (Seriously, I mean that–why are so many young rappers so short?) Now, following Flesh-N-Bone’s release from a nearly decade-long bid in a California penitentiary, and the return of Bizzy Bone to the group seven years after his last appearance on a Bone Thugs project, all five original members of Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony have come together to release Uni5: The World’s Enemy, their first album as a full group in 15 years. The group is also about to embark on a full tour of the U.S., with some Canadian and overseas stops—Amsterdam, duh.

I had the opportunity to speak with Krayzie Bone one-on-one for a few minutes last week from his home, as he prepared for tour.

RVA: Krayzie, thanks for taking the time to talk to me this afternoon, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of stuff to do before you guys hit the road this month. First off, I’d like to say that like anybody else, I’m excited to have this record in my hands and to have a chance to see y’all together again—obviously, with Flesh’s release a reunion seemed inevitable, but what really pushed y’all to get the group back and ready to move forward?

Krayzie Bone: Oh, man, thank you for calling, I’m glad to speak. Yeah, man, I’m glad to hear you say that actually, that the reunion was inevitable, because a lot of people want to see it the other way… [Bone] had a lot of struggle as a group of artists, but ultimately we’re all still brothers, this is still what we do, who we are. We always toured. We stayed on the road. Even before we had a lot of success, we stayed on the road, and that’s the best way to have a relationship with people, the most fun part of what we do. Like you said, it just made the most sense for us to be together and do what we do. The past is the past. [Editor’s Note – Bizzy Bone was dismissed from the group in 2003, allegedly due to his drinking. At the time of his ejection from the group, MTV News quoted him as saying, “I’ll never say never. I won’t burn the bridge. I’ll just walk across the motherfucker and hopefully I’ll see y’all later.”] We’re doing 35 shows this year, not just the US, couple of dates in Canada in December, and then overseas right after the first of the year.

RVA: Awesome. Yeah, we’ll be at the show on the 14th in Richmond, I’m excited.

KB: Yeah, we got some…surprises planned for the tour, it should be good.

RVA: One of the things I really respect about y’all is the fact that no matter what else is happening, you guys work so hard…your output as a group is staggering, year after year. For example, this year you guys have released the World’s Enemy album, but Bizzy also released his rock project Crossroads: 2010, you released two editions of your Tha Fixtape mixtape series in the last 12 months, and Layzie is planning to release his mixtape, Murder on Tha Industry, later this year… Plus there are rumors that Wish is finally going to release Tha Wishmaster, his first solo album, and rumors of another Mo Thugs records release… It’s unbelievable.

KB: (Laughing) Yeah! We don’t sleep! Yeah…thank you. I should add that I’m not going to be on that Mo Thugs project, that’s mostly Layzie’s thing. I haven’t been on one since the second one [1998’s Chapter II: Family Reunion.] But I do have my own label, it’s called Thug Line Records, and actually… (Laughs again) We’re putting out a compilation album in Spring 2011 called Livin’ The Life: Chapter One.

RVA: Whoa. I thought I got all of them. I’ll be sure to check that out… No comment on the rumors about Wish? I wanna hear it man!

KB: Man, who knows, I don’t wanna comment… he’s mysterious.

RVA: Okay, okay… What I wanted to ask you next, and this is a little bit of a Bone fan question, there’s a song on Fixtape Vol. 3: Lyrical Paraphernalia called “What Have I Become,” that played originally in the movie ya’ll released a few years back, I Tried. When I downloaded the tape, there was a discussion board attached to it and there were a lot of people freaking out because it’s a different version than the one in the movie, so I told ‘em I’d ask… what’s the difference?

KB: It’s funny you bring that up, man, we have a message board for our fans and there was some squabbling on it, similar to that, “I heard this version,” and all that… But the fact is that for the movie, I was going to write the whole song and then they told me, “Hold up. We only need to play the first verse in the movie.” So, truth be told, I never even wrote the rest of the song until this year… There were people on there claiming they heard another version in 2007. That’s funny, it wasn’t even a complete song until I finished it this year. And yeah, that song means a lot to me. The fans wanted to hear the rest of it, the completists kept asking me, hitting me up like, “When we going to get to hear the rest?” So there you go.

RVA: My next question is actually about the movie, which I thought was really good, but was slept on even by people who are fans of Bone… Can you shed a little light on that? Like what were you going for with the movie? A lot of people are in it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for one, Hassan Johnson (who played Wee-Bay on The Wire), it even had a little Swizz Beatz cameo. I think it’s a great little low-budget flick, fits in perfect with those kind of old exploitation flicks that are all about surviving against all odds.

KB: (Laughing) Ah, here we go… Yeah, I’m glad you liked it man, but that was one of the hardest things we ever did. Because, to be honest, we always were thinking about like, a movie, thinking, OK, what would our lives be like if we had never met Eazy? But obviously, we could never really tell the story of our lives… OK. We had a couple of ideas, we had just cut Strength-N-Loyalty, and Interscope was askin’ us, like, “When’s the video going to come out?” We didn’t want to just do a video, we were tired of videos. So we proposed the movie, and they had the budget, they were with it, so we went for it. We had the script and such, we were going to shoot the whole damn thing in Cleveland, then we showed up. The day the plane landed it was the beginning of the worst snowstorm in Cleveland in 20 years. We didn’t know what to do. We had to move the whole production to LA, start from scratch, re-write the script…

RVA: Y’all can’t ever catch a break?

KB: (Laughing) No! So we had to move the whole thing over, re-write the whole script, start the whole production over… a lot of people we had wanted to be in it couldn’t because of their schedule… so we got lucky, but it was difficult. I like the movie a lot, but it was very difficult. I don’t know if it got the exposure it could, because of all those difficulties I think [Interscope] maybe had some problems with promoting it.

RVA: …and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

KB: He’s cool.

RVA: Let’s talk a little about the new album, Uni5: The World’s Enemy. You mentioned the album the movie was meant to promote, Strength-N-Loyalty…I like a lot of the stuff on those records without Bizzy, but I think his absence is obvious, and for a lot of that stuff you guys were working with producers other than DJ U-Neek, who has been y’alls primary collaborator on official Bone releases for most of your career. This record has a much more consistent sound. It’s designed to compete with modern radio, obviously, but it’s still unquestionably Bone, and I think that may be largely due to U-Neek’s return as opposed to Swizz Beatz having control over the record, and there being a bunch of other dudes in the booth. You also have producer credit on two of the songs on the album this time out…. Can you tell us a little bit about your process, and what it’s like to be back with U-Neek again?

KB: Sounds like you got beef with Swizz.

RVA: I don’t know about that, don’t start any rumors.

KB: Okay, okay… (laughing) Yeah, it was good to be back with U-Neek, obviously it made sense because it was the five of us, together again, should be him too. When we started we had no clue how to produce shit, how to make…anything, out of anything, we just had the melodies and we knew what key we was harmonizing in… I learned a lot from U-Neek. That stuff is still something I draw from today. When I get an idea for a song it tends to bounce around in my head for a long time, sometimes months, years, until I’m ready to use it. Then when we get together to do the record I hire musicians or whoever and start to orchestrate the production—I still don’t know how to play any instruments, technically, but I show them what key to be in, and we go from there. That’s essentially what we did when we first met U-Neek, and all through E. 1999 Eternal and The Art of War, so in that way our process right now is really not that different from 1994, 1995, and that’s important to us too, honestly.

RVA: Cool. Very cool. So I promised to take reader suggestions for this interview, and I put up some stuff, got some replies, are you down to answer a few of those?

KB: Yeah, man, absolutely. Go for it.

RVA: Okay—here’s the first one, this is from Stephanie Bonham. She wants to know, if there is one, what’s Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s favorite strain of weed?

KB: Strain? Oh, shit. Okay, let me see if I can give an answer to this that won’t get anybody angry at me for forgetting something. Let me say first, I don’t smoke no more, which sucks. But when I did, all I had eyes for was kush. I think Bone will agree, kush. But before I loved kush, when we first came to California, all we smoked was this weed named “E.T.” But then I left E.T. for kush.

RVA: OK, kush it is. My second question is from Tuan-Anh Nguyen. He wants to know, where is the actual physical location of the Crossroads, and how do you get there?

KB: (Laughing) Oh, man… the Crossroads? Where is it?

RVA: He doesn’t want to be lonely.

KB: (Laughing) Okay… I’ll say, I wanna say, it’s definitely in Cleveland, but that’s for me. Everybody else is going to have to find it for themselves. But for me, it’s in Cleveland.

RVA: The last question is from my friend JK. He wants to know where your favorite places to tour are, because he figures they have the best grass, so where are they and is he right? It’s a two-part question.

KB: OK, best places we have EVER played, this is an easy one. First, I’m gonna say Australia—because when we agreed to play there, we had no idea what to expect and actually thought it might be a disaster. You gotta understand, we weren’t sure about Australia. But when we showed up, it was a big festival, and every person there… I mean every person there knew our songs. Line for line. Jumping…piling on, line for line, I mean they knew “Thuggish Ruggish.” So that, any time we get to go back to Australia, put me on the plane. I love Australia. And second place is Amsterdam. But I guess that speaks for itself.

RVA: I thought you didn’t smoke anymore!

KB: Ah, well….

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony perform Thursday, October 14th at The Hat Factory. Tickets are $25, and online purchases require a $2 convenience fee (payable in cash at the door.)

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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