On The Phone With Krayzie Bone
There's a Thug On Da Line, but he can't talk long. To put it another way, Krayzie Bone is crazy busy.The head of the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony clan is a studio junkie who learned well the lesson of the late Tupac: when you have free time (i.e., you're not in court, or the joint), record, record, record. So not only does he have his brand-new solo album, Thug On Da Line, ready to go, but the next album is finished, too, and “ready to drop whenever.”
“I'm just a nigga that likes workin',” explains the 27-year-old Krayzie seriously.
He must, because there's also a new Bone Thugs album in the pipeline. That's good news for fans of the melodic, rapid-fire rappers from Cleveland, after Krayzie made noises earlier this year that his partnership with Wish, Layzie, Bizzy and Flesh-N-Bone was in trouble. While he admits there was tension in the Thug camp then, Krayzie says battles with the group's label were to blame.
“That had to be the most frustrating time for all of us. It wasn't us against each other, it was us against Ruthless Records,” he says. “But no matter what moves we was makin', we was getting' f**ked. So right now, we in the process of gettin' out of our contracts.”
Despite those struggles, on his second solo album, Krayzie's rewarded the labels he records for with a feast of distinctive, Thug-style hip-hop. With guest production from the East (Irv Gotti) and West (Snoop's L.T. Hutton), as well as the ubiquitous Neptunes, the disc is full of stick-in-your head melodies and tongue-twisting, dancehall-tinged rhythms. It's also full of guest stars, including heavy input from a posse of impressive females like Kelis and La Reece (who's signed to Krayzie's own Thug Line label). And female gangsta rapper Boss, who'd been MIA for several years, electrifies the album with a cold-blooded cameo on the futuristic funkfest “A Thugga' Level.”
Krayzie hooked up with Boss through a chance meeting with her old producer, Def Jef. “I was askin', ‘What is she doin'?', and he said, ‘Nothin.' She's back at home in Detroit.' So I told him to call her up and get her down to the studio, and she was game, she was pumped.”Meanwhile, Krayzie's rhymes veer between the kind of street-life stuff you'd expect from a former protégé of the late Eazy-E, and thoughtful lyrics about religion and growing up poor.
“I'm still me. I'm just elevatin', talkin' bout what's goin' on, gettin' my two cents in,” he says. “God is definitely important, no matter what you doin', so I'm always gonna talk about that.”
The rhymes get eclectic backing from the guest help and Krayzie, who produced six cuts and boasts that he can flip any track into a hip-hop anthem. While his reworking of the old standard “What A Wonderful World” didn't make the cut here, there are bites of everyone from Michael Jackson (on the cheatin' song “If They Only Knew”) to Sade (“Hard Time Hustlin'”) to Lou Bega's “Mambo #5” (check “Rollin' Up Some Mo'”, another ode to huffing and puffing) “The field is completely open, man,” Krayzie says of his sampling tastes. “I can just hear a beat in anything.”
Hearing that beat helped lead Krayzie and his Bone Thug brethren out of Cleveland in the early ‘90s. They headed for L.A., where Krayzie arranged an audition with Eazy-E over the phone. Eazy was impressed by the group's complex rhymes and harmonies, but when he finally called back, it was with an offer to open for him – in Cleveland.
So the Thugs hopped a Greyhound back east, hoping to arrive by showtime. It was a good thing they had something to look forward to, because the three-day bus trip was, pardon the pun, bare bones. “We busted our asses to get there, and we had no money or nothing for food. For real!” Krayzie recalls. “But everyone was down, man, cause everyone knew if we didn't do it, we was gonna be stuck in Cleveland forever.”
Of course, they weren't. The Thugs' 1994 debut EP, Creepin On Ah Come Up, went multi-platinum, and the'95 followup, E. 1999 Eternal, spawned huge hits like “Tha Crossroad” and “1st Of Tha Month.” A succession of Bone Thugs albums and various solo projects have followed, but despite all the product, Krayzie still doesn't feel the group gets enough credit for its groundbreaking sound.
“The bottom line is, nobody can say s**t to us. Everybody in this business got a Bone Thugs song on their album – even if they ain't admit it,” he says.
“If you ask me, the whole industry is based on Bone Thugs,” Krayzie adds with a laugh, “and you can believe I'm gonna keep remindin' motherf**kas on my albums.” Based on his work ethic, he'll have lots of chances to remind them.
- Dan LeRoy
August 28, 2001
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