RapReviews | Review: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal

btnh e 1999 eternalHere at RapReviews, we’re not against rap (obviously), we’re not against rappers (again, obviously), and we’re not against those thugs, well at least not THESE thugs. I wonder what Rev. Calvin Butts is doing now. I doubt he ever dreamed that his castigating words against gangsta rap would become one of the most famous song introductions in rap history. “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” helped to thrust the Cleveland natives into the national spotlight, and eventually their debut EP, “Creepin On Ah Come Up” hit multi-platinum status. Bone remained a fixture through the second half of 1994. However, in March of 1995, disaster would strike as their mentor, Eazy-E would die as a result of complications from AIDS. His death left many wondering about the future of the group, but just a short four months later, BTNH would release what many (including this reviewer) consider to be their magnum opus, “E. 1999 Eternal”.

The album’s first single (no pun intended) was “1st Of Tha Month”, which was a feel-good ode to the distribution of welfare checks. The song proved to be a massive hit for the crew and I can even recall the group being interviewed on Yo! MTV Raps by Fab 5 Freddy as he jokingly asked “Where’s Chicken Bone?” However, it was no joking matter when the album hit the street, well at least not my street. Hailing from the same city that the Thugs claimed as their own, we looked to them almost as folk heroes. Cleveland has always had its fair share of people that were accepted in other fields of entertainment, but there had never been any rap acts with the street edge of Bone Thugs. Prior to BTNH, the biggest rap act out of the city was probably MC Brains of “Oochie Coochie” fame. The public seemed to be enthralled with the idea of rapid fire lyrics with a dash of harmonization for flavor, and they ate it up, leaving nothing but bones behind. I apologize for the bad pun, but it was hard to resist.

The album itself had many of the same themes of the prior albums including violence and the occult, but with this release they took it to a higher level with weed appreciation songs and diving deeper into the occult side of things. Within the album credits is an extended backwards cryptic message and a fictional map with street names that reflect important elements of Bone’s career up to that point. For example, there’s Cleveland Blvd., North Eazy St., and even Wrightwoods Drive. Some portions of the album feature the backwards playing music, and there are a few webpages dedicated to decoding all of the elements of the album.

One reason for the great success of this album was the chemistry that Bone seemed to have with DJ U-Neek at the time. U-Neek produced the entire album with co-production from Kenny McCloud, Tony-C, and Bone at times. I’m not sure what kind of weed they were smoking (perhaps it was the hydro they mention), but it made for some excellent soundscapes. The mellowed nature of “Tha Introduction” and the much harder “East 1999” can be sequenced back-to-back without disrupting the flow of the album or losing anything in terms of quality.