Oh, Cleveland. You may sometimes be derided as a desolate wasteland of snow and pale people, but you’ve given us some great things. You gave us LeBron (though you did eventually take him back). And you also helped grow Nine Inch Nails. But maybe best of all you birthed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. With their mix of rugged raps and melodies, the five-man group gave hip-hop a soft spot like no other.
It all started when Bizzy, Wish, Layzie, Krayzie broke the mold in Eazy-E’s dressing room one night in 1993. With the tenacity reserved for aspiring artists, the then quartet rode a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles to perform for Eazy himself. Without an appointment, the young Bones spent months trying to track their idol down. But to no avail. They eventually learned that the rapper was on his way to Cleveland for a show so they headed back home to catch him. Once back in Ohio, the Bones finally met Eazy, performed for him in his dressing room, and impressed him enough to earn a call back, a record deal, and — at Eazy’s behest — the addition of Thugs-n-Harmony to their name.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The rest was a quarter-century of history. With the brief but significant mentorship of Eazy-E, BTNH established themselves as soulful street disciples with gangster and mainstream appeal. Their future looked uncertain after Eazy’s death, but their label, Ruthless Records, had enough faith in Eazy’s vision and BTNH’s potential to keep them signed. They may’ve peaked in the mid-'90s and slid steadily downward since, but with some 40 million record sales, it’s impossible to ignore the prominence and influence of BTNH on the changing sentiments in the hip-hop sound.
Few '90s rappers are still active and considered legit, but BTNH is still all about that paper. Last year, the group announced that their final album E. 1999 Eternal would be auctioned off to the highest bidder, beginning at $1 million. Flesh told us in an interview last year that the winning bidder receives more than just a finished product: "They're going to see all aspects of [album production], from performance to merch, etc. There's a lot of ancillary revenue coming, so that's why it's interesting. It's gonna drive the numbers of the bids. It may get out of hand.” The bidding has yet to explode, but we respect their endless tenacity. And you can pay tribute to the Cleveland OGs this Saturday when they fly down to the Magic City.