Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Street Poetry With ‘Art of War’
Each of the Bone Thug members holds something against the tides of time. During their peak in the late 1990s, the group masqueraded themselves as slick gangsters and gold-chasing Bediouns.
Looking at their earlier work from an objective standpoint, it’s clear that there is much more than the exterior imagery they displayed, having a good reason to why they still are mentioned in Hip-Hop’s dialogue to this day.
“Gangsta Rap” was the prevailing platform for Hip-Hop music at the time, as many stars competed on who could articulate the most violence with the most lyrical wit and anger.
Bone Thugs approached the genre’s stage with a different style. The overall style consisting of sped-fast wordplay with intricate stories on crime, anguish, anger and in the end, positivity.
They controlled their attitude most of the time. They expressed their poetry not through revolting angry but through lyrical stamina. The first thing listeners notice about the group is their ability to spew phrase after phrase in an intricate amount of time, all without the need to take a breath.
Their previous album, E. 1999 Eternal, introduced the world to their poetic street language After the immense success of that album, the group followed up with the effort entitled Art of War two years later.
Art of War is the album that proved them to be the griots of the genre at the time. Each of the members holds their dialect strong while expressing their stories of murder, sorrow, and strength with controlled vigor and hope for the times.
Art of War is divided into two compilation discs. World War 1 is made up of thirteen songs, as World War 2 is made up of fifteen tracks For the sake of this write-up, it will be treated as one period piece.
The tracks range throughout an emotional spectrum. The stories can be eerie, thoughtful, arrogant, and poetic. With so many songs that compose the album, the most conspicuous ones are tracks such as Thug Luv, Hatin’ Nation, Mind of a Souljah, It’s All Real, and It’s All Mo’ Thug. Although different in sound, these tracks especially add a lot of potency to an overall commanding album.
In the song Hatin’ Nation, all the members of the group are present in this song (Except for Flesh-N-Bone), sharing their perspective on the envy that arises from their ostentatious display. There is a controlled form of paranoia that arises from this song, especially from Layzie Bone’s verse.
“Before I had a little money, niggas was hatin’ me just for nothing. Breaking my gear and thinkin’ it’s funny. Get around bitches and niggas be frontin’, but I’m hustling, struggling, jumping, with a lot of frustrations.”
The last verse comes from perhaps one of the greatest lyrical poets, or rappers, ever to appear in the Rap scene. Bizzy Bone, at the tender age of twenty-one, holds a lot of gripe with a sense of confidence with his verse.
“Nigga, there’s far more pictures of the scriptures. Missed them cause they’re despicable. But, Bitch, I’m making millions off my physical residuals. Traditional, but mystical, where were you at when pistols blow?”
A song like Hatin’ Nation follows along a smooth stride into a topic that usually surmises anxiety and despair. The song It’s All Mo’ Thug follows a similar route. The track starts off with a verse from Flesh-N-Bone, followed by Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, the ending with Bizzy Bone.
Krayzie Bone may be the other Bone member that could almost be on par with Bizzy Bone’s
“In God’s name, I pray. The devil, he be bringing me down. I can feel him cause he’s pulling me now. I’ve been blessed with an incredible style. Where there’s pushing, just try to stay separate and break all this down. Now ain’t that foul?”
Bizzy then ends the song with a punctual verse that yearns for assurance but at the same time acts under the confidence of a real committed street runner.
“And that I can’t kiss my kids goodnight. Put’em to bed, tuck them tight, and catch some sleep and that’s all right, yeah that’s all right. I’ll get mine, yeah I’ll get mine. It’ll take time, minimum crime. Weed and wine, it’ll be just fine.”
Art of War shows no mercy when it comes to the lifestyles of the griots who have found success at this point in their life. All the stories of greed, envy, and wrath all come full circle here.
Through their poetry, these stories seem gritty on paper. Although, they articulate them with such poignancy and maturity that it doesn’t even come to mind that these were once street dwellers with a knack of talent.
With the media lasering on their image, it seems that the world is once again pressing down on the Bone members. It is essential for them, as they know and well aware, that staying strong and committed is the only answer to the evil surrounding them.