While rap's bicoastal monopoly is formidable, some lucky group from another corner of the country snatches the headlines once in a blue moon, confounding East Coast and West Coast alike. Arrested Development did it a few years ago with their radio-friendly, Southern-fried sound. Now it's Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's turn.
The group hails from the heartland of Cleveland E. 99th and St. Clair to be exact which they call Land of tha Heartless. Last year, Bone slipped out of obscurity and into the national spotlight with a quadruple-platinum-selling debut EP, Creepin' on ah Come Up (Ruthless/ Relativity). While their slick and lazy G-funk sound leaned heavily toward the West Coast, their acrobatic flow and doo-wop delivery set them apart from other gunslinging griots.
Take their full-length LP debut, E. 1999 Eternal, for example. If you didn't check the melodic chanting on songs like "Mo' Murda" and "Mr. Bill Collector" closely, you would think you were listening to some streetwise R&B singers. Producer DJ U-Neek lays down soulful keyboard hooks (heavy on the piano and mini-Moog) over loping synth bass lines and subtle, spare beats. Tracks like "Land of tha Heartless" bring out the best of Bone's stuttering, almost reggae-style chatting. On the a cappella "Me Killa," they show off street-corner harmonies.
It's almost unreal and funny, in a way how they combine this cheery vocal style with subject matter that recycles the usual fare of guns, drugs and money. As the gangsta-rap backlash heats up, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony will find out if murder still sells. (RS 720)
S.H. FERNANDO JR.
(Posted: Nov 2, 1995)