In our constant desire for the next big thing, we sometimes forget recent history and rewrite things from the vantage point of now. The internet only encourages this forgetfulness, especially in the music world. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, the seminal gangsta rap crew from Cleveland that had their start in the early 1990s, has suffered from this digital amnesia, even as its members continue to craft some of the most ambitious and stirring hip-hop music around. Ahead of their Valentine’s Day show at Backstage Live, the Current caught up with Bonesters Wish Bone (Charles C. Scruggs) and Bizzy Bone (Bryon Anthony McCane II) to discuss this and other topics.
“We’ll always be that group who [your favorite rapper] snuck and listened to before making their record,” says Bizzy on the phone from the West Coast when I ask him about Bone Thugs’ legacy. Far from being bothered by the lack of reverence, Bizzy suggests that they have loftier concerns. “We’re goin’ for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame now,” he states emphatically. “What [we] contributed is a moment to go forward exploring new cadences that we made legible to the entire world,” he continues. It’s a brag that nonetheless holds a credible claim. What rap songs can you think of that match the sonic diversity of “Tha Crossroads” or “1st of the Month,” or even later single “Look into My Eyes”?
When I broach the subject of Bone Thugs’ overlooked influence, particularly in the area of sing-rapping, with Wish Bone, he doesn’t miss a beat. “Some people just say things [like they invented sing-rapping] to stay in the media’s eye,” Wish tells me over the phone from Ohio, complaining that any rapper claiming to have invented sing-rapping in the 21st century must be “delirious.”
Far from the teenagers that they once were, both Bizzy and Wish indicate that one of the big challenges to their long-term music careers—and mental stability—has been trying to “age” (these guys are only in their mid-to-late 30s) gracefully both in the industry and in their personal lives.
On their recently released Art of War: World War III, this maturity shines through in the group’s lyrics, especially Bizzy’s. This album, and the crew of hip-hop lifers, will be on display Friday. The set, which I’m told will include a healthy dose of material from across the 20-year Bone Thugs catalog, should gratify long-time fans and re-assert the group’s rightful place among rap’s sonic innovators. It’s a Valentine’s Day hip-hop lovers won’t want to miss.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony feat Caines, Quarter Bird, Philly Phil
7pm Fri, Feb 14
1305 E Houston