Newton’s first law of motion states that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, a principle that applies to hip-hop as well. Just take mad rap scientists Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Ever since the quintet first introduced America to their intricately harmonious, spitfire flows fifteen years ago (yeah, that’s right I said 15. Feel old?) Krayzie, Layzie, Bizzy, Wish and Flesh-n-Bone have found themselves embroiled in more drama than a Mexican soap opera. Whether it’s a much published fight with their original label Ruthless Records, a sometimes contentious relationship with Bizzy or the nearly decade long …
Fans can also check out Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's previous albums: Bone Thugs N’ Harmony - Strength & Loyalty
DJBooth Album Review
So when BTHN announced that they were finally united, happy and working on a new album, fittingly titled Uni-5: The World's Enemy, it felt like the laws of physics has ceased to apply; a world without Bone Thugs drama is like a world without gravity. Nevermind. Sure enough Bizzy - who acted a little, let’s go with “erratic”, during a recent press conference - pulled out of their current tour, suddenly making Uni5’s title more than a little ironic and restoring their world to its natural disorder. Unfortunately, that lack of cohesion has, of course, also worked its way into the recording studio, making Uni5 one of the shakiest efforts we’ve heard from Bone in years. It feels like BTNH made this album because they felt like they had to, not because they were inspired to.
With that said, even an uninspired Bone Thug is better than most. Just take See Me Shine, the track that most capably manages to recapture some of that classic Bone magic. While a triumphant beat plays in the background and Lyfe Jennings delivers an uplifting chorus the Bones take turns displaying their dedication to overcoming hardship. Shine places the Bones’ sound in a gospel context, and the result is a nearly religious experience. The effect is similar on the rock/hip-hop ballad Meet Me in the Sky (wait, I thought we were meeting at the crossroads?). Topped off with a soaring hook from K Young, lyrically the Bones take a deeply personal approach to Sky, giving the track an instantly relatable feel. And while the album lacks a true banger in the Bone tradition, I also have to give it up to the pounding Rebirth, which produces the kind of whiplash-inducing, head nodding effect that BTNH built their reputations on. There’s no denying that they invented an entire rhyme style, a rhyme style others have spent more than a decade (unsuccessfully) trying to duplicate. There was, is and always will be only one Bone Thugs.
I hate to do this, I really do, but now for the bad news. Throughout Uni5 the Bone Thugs seem to rely more on their well-deserved legacy to carry tracks than any new found energy. Case in point; Everytime, a song that achieves its mellowed-out mission just a little too well. There’s a fine line between relaxed and asleep, and it’s a line that the Bones find themselves on both sides of throughout Everytime. Actually, Everytime is a musical Red Bull compared to Universe, a track that once and for all confirms that yes, there is a point at which you’re so high you should put down the mic. While the quintet’s ability to switch off lines is admirable, the overall effect of Everytime is underwhelming. Come to think of it, now that I’m listening to the acoustic Pay What They Owe, I’m realizing that if Uni5 is unified in anything, it’s the Bones apparent desire to relax. I don’t need them to make E 1999 Eternal again, I understand that those days are over, but it will be hard for long time fans to listen to Uni5 and feel, however faint, at least a note of disappointment.
In summary, I’ve got nothing but love for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, their music unofficially served as the soundtrack to my adolescence, and it’s remarkable that they’ve survived this long, but there’s no denying that Uni5 isn’t exactly a career highlight. An object in motion stays in motion, unless acted against by an overwhelming force. Let’s just hope the Bone Thugs haven’t finally become overwhelmed. Something tells me this is far from the last we’ve heard from Bone. Until then...
Listen to More: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Written by Nathan S.
BNTH Worldwide/Warner Bros.
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