Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson – Editor
Trading cassette tapes and wearing headphones connected to a Sony walkman was an era when Bone Thugs-n-Harmony rose to stardom. This was a time when music could breathe and be expressed in its true essence. As a fan of music, I can recall the fond memory of the group very well, as my friend tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Put this in your walkman. This is going to be the next biggest rap group in the world!” And it was. I was shocked from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (BTNH) originality as I sat astounded on the high school gym bleachers bobbing my head up and down repetitively, rewinding the music over and over hoping the bell would never ring for first hour class.
Singed to Ruthless Records by Eazy-E in late 1993, the hip hop world was in for a surprise with the soon to be legendary Cleveland, Ohio rap/hip hop group that consisted of Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone and Wish Bone, changed not only the Midwest hip hop scene but also the sound of the industry. Some of their hits include “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” “1st of tha Month,” and “Tha Crossroads” which reached #1 on the Hot Rap Tracks. The group has outlasted its regular fly by night competitors who came and went over the last two decades and has been the only group to have worked with 2Pac, Notorious Big, Eazy-E and Big Pun when they were still alive.
I was able to talk to one of the members of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Krayzie Bone, after a recent show in Chicago. He spoke to me about his latest happenings, as well as new occurrences with one of the most melodic groups of all times, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
“I mainly keep doing what I’ve been doing. The game has changed, but there’s a lot of artist that try to immolate what we’ve created. To be honest, I haven’t bought any new music in a long time; I listen to what’s on the radio. You know, like to me, a lot of it is competitive. I hear some of the same things over and over again. Though, I try to stay away from it, like music people can’t be emotionally attached to,” expresses the platinum artist who sets himself apart from others by delivering distinctive harmonic rhyme flows in his music. The testimony is in the production as he has contributed with the group selling over 50 million albums worldwide, winning 2 American Awards, an MTV Music Award and BET Music Award. In addition, he has won a Grammy Award for “Tha Crossroads” and “Ridin’ Dirty,” as a featured collaboration with Chamillionaire.
It is commonly known in the music industry that from time to time groups break up due to various reasons. Krayzie shares the secret to BTNH’s longevity. “First and foremost, it’s the lyrics that definitely the fans fell in love with, [as well as] the different styles. It’s original; it was very creative. In the end the fans fell in love with us because we represented family, we represented unity, we represented the struggle; we represented life period. I think that’s why people can still listen to us each day.” He continues, “I try to connect with the fans on an emotional level. It’s a struggle day to day, so I just try to keep this music real, as real as possible.”
Up to date, Guerilla Union and Boost Mobile are sponsoring the Rock the Bells Tour where BTNH are celebrating their twenty year anniversary. Currently, they have already sold out shows across the country where fans are ecstatic to see all the members back together on stage.
As a solo artist, Krayzie Bone has released nearly five albums and several mixtapes. Some of his studio titles include Thug Mentality Records 1999, LeatherFace: The Legends Underground (Part 1), and Gemini: Good vs. Evil, just to name a few. Anticipating releasing his EP, The Quick Fix, he decided to push it back due to a number of reasons in hopes of not disappointing his fans as he attentively perfects his project. “[The Quick Fix] actually is what I was supposed to be putting out, but for reasons I had to push it back to get it just like the way I wanted. I didn’t want to just put it out. Before I can release it, I wanted to make sure everything was right from the music, the concept, the situations, so I pushed it back.”
Some of the songs on The Quick Fix include “Apply the Pressure” and “Fly Away” which are a retrospect to the artist life. To make up for pushing back the EP he speaks about his album, Chasing the Devil, that is currently in the works. “I was like okay…see what I’m going to do, I’m just going to put out an album, Chasing the Devil, and that should keep the same settings that I had until the EP [The Quick Fix] comes. So this was just a pacifier until the album comes. I look to release it toward the end of the year.”
As a gemini he has been successful at eloquently expressing the human experience of good vs. evil. Similarly, Tupac embodied the Gemini duality and like Krayzie his music was a reflection of the duality that simply defines life’s constant battles. Digging deep inside his spirituality, Krayzie Bone discusses and describes the feelings that ignite those thoughts, “I think that’s a battle that I think we all face day to day. It’s not just me being a Gemini. We all have that good vs. evil battle amongst our self. Like the bible says, ‘we have to wrestle it against our flesh.’ We are fleshly; we tend to want to do things that we’re not suppose to do, like you’re trying to resist those temptations.” The legendary rapper continues to speak, yet adds on in regards to his will and strong-minded mentality. “Especially in this business, there’s all kind of temptations. You have to safeguard yourself against it because it comes at you from more directions, whether it’s money, women, being accessibly hungry pursuing life materials possessions and things like that. What’s the conscious level I can give myself to keep advantage? Do I not act like somebody’s artist has-been or act like they thou all mighty or they too big to touch? I like to stay posted on the ground. I like to stay down to earth.”
Moreover, life has changed for the founding member of BTNH since dropping the 1994 debut Creepin’ on ah come Up and the 1993 album Faces of Death that many are continuing to gravitate to. Sharing his perspective on how life has changed over the decades since stepping into the music industry is a challenge to not only him, but it’s what many artists have to come face-to-face with someday. “Man it changed me a whole lot, not in a bad way or a way that I think I’m better than anybody. When we first got into this business we were straight off the streets. We were like those thuggish ruggish dudes for real, dusty! (laugh) Dusty like trying to get in any kind of trouble we could get into. It was still in us but as we went on it started to harm life, like okay, these two life styles really don’t go! It’s good, it makes some good entertainment but it eradicates through…we can’t live like that! It makes you want to be successful. In this corporate music business you have to realize your mistakes, like I say, you have to realize when it’s time to grow, and when it’s time to grow up,” says Krayzie as he begins to talk about the social responsibility that he has not only set out for himself, nonetheless for his children and others. “Over the years I’ve learned it’s time to stop thinking young. We ain’t them young dudes no more. That why I chose to change my language [and] life. That’s why I choose The Life Entertainment. I’m a grown man with kids, I look really silly talking about I’m thug this and I’m thug that when I’m trying to teach my kids better than that. That’s going to always be in my heart of how I came up. That’s not nothing I want to teach my kids. That’s why I had to realize and start acting like a grown man and just had to channel things different in myself. It’s been a great experience for me because I learned from experience itself. It taught me to grow up and take life more serious.”
Many times a vast amount of African American males think that rapping or being active in professional sports are their only way out of poverty or underprivileged communities. However, there are some that fulfill that dream to escape poverty and many fall by the wayside. He elaborates. “Well I think that people need to open their mind up more. It’s a lot more that they can be doing. See, we’re living in a time where everybody wants it now; everybody wants their shine…their money now. People are anxious to make it before they actually learn how to do so. People don’t want to wait years living their life, or wait years to see their money, get their big house and their big car. And everybody wants it now and I think that’s really not the way you should go.”
Over the course of Krayzie’s career he has lectured and spoke at many schools and colleges to students about their possible career choices. He elaborates on the possible choices besides rapping and playing sports, while giving insight regarding those professions. “Those are not the only ways out, like being an athlete. It’s some of the easiest ways out. It’s not always the smartest way. There’s a lot coming with it, and you could be taking a dark bath and some people don’t come back from that. You may want to think like maybe you want to get into a business and maybe do something behind the scene or stuff like that. You don’t have to be the star. It’s a lot of things you could be doing or that the younger generation coming up could be doing. It just doesn’t have to be this.”
Growing up and making it out of a disadvantaged East Cleveland area where gangs are extremely active and violence and crime takes a toll on the inner-city youth is evidence that one can come from a harsh environment to creating a name for oneself. With confidence, the Cleveland native shed light on unfortunate situations that he’s been through, empowering at-risk youth who seem not to have any hope of a brighter future as all. “It’s like we’re helpers. We’re gonna have to strive for it. If you saw the Cleveland where we came up from, we thought it wasn’t any hope for us at that time. Everyday aint going to be a good day! Some days you’re going to wake up and feel like you’re gonna make it and some days you’re gonna wake up and feel like it’s useless. But you gotta shake the negativity off because that’s the mess the devil’s telling you ‘you’re not gonna make it.’ You just gotta stay close to God. You gotta roll with it. If you’re gonna go after your dream you gotta go after it. You just gotta be relentless about it.”
There are many rappers who go unnoticed for being recognized as an entrepreneur or businessman. Establishing business along his way as being a successful artist and producer, Krayzie speaks about his clothing company The Life Apparel. “It’s been going strong for like three years now. It’s doing real well. We just opened up a store in downtown Los Angeles like a week ago. It’s going real well.” The entrepreneur also owns a record label called The Life Entertainment, where he is working with various young talents while continuing the BTNH legacy on an executive level. Some of those artists include Caine from Cleveland and a producer/rapper who is a DJ and writer by the name of Pozition who’s from Watts California.
Many artists go into the music industry blind-sided and know little or nothing at all about the music business. For up and coming artist, the icon demonstrates how important it is to own your own label and have control over your own assets in the music industry as opposed to being signed under a major conglomerate. “It’s very important to make sure you have your own [and] that you are in control of your career. We learned it the hard way. It’s like every other big artist that got into the game learned it the hard way. Like I tell artist, experience is the best teacher. You can tell people what not to do and how to do it. They won’t understand it until they actually go through it because it hard to tell someone if they’re struggling for a long time to wait trying to get there; it’s hard to tell them not to sign. When we signed with Easy E we didn’t know much about the business and at that time we didn’t care what kind of deal it was we were taking it.”
Krayzie shares valuable business advice regarding what he and the group once was able to learn from, making the best out of a past situation. “Sometimes experience is the best teacher. However, when you experience it you have to make sure that you learn something; you have to pay attention to everything that you’re experiencing. You have to learn and find a way so that you can capitalize on it. Okay, if we signed a bad deal, but how can we turn this deal around so it’s worth something? And that’s exactly what we had to do. I will tell people to fully understand the business and learn the business. 90 percent is business and 10 percent is music. And if you look at it any other way you will lose!”
As the interview concludes, the creative and phenomenal artist shows continuous love and forever devotion to his fans, knowing and expressing the importance to each of them all.“I just want to thank all of the fans like we always do. Thanks for supporting us for 20 years through all of our trials-and-tribulations and just appreciating the music. We do it all for them. If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t be no Bone; if it wasn’t any fans there wouldn’t be any entertainers. Every entertainer owes their lives to their fans; whether they acknowledge it or not. If there weren’t any fans they wouldn’t have their career…bottom line.”
Visit Krayzie Bone at www.thelifeentertainment.com, www.thelifeapparel.com, twitter @iamKrayzieBone
Press Contact for Krayzie Bone: Abesi PR [email protected], twitter @AbesiPR
Photo credit: Dark Knight Media Photographed by Ray Lopez
Last modified: April 17, 2023