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Hanging Around 

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony were the first to popularize singsong hip-hop; now young rappers are catching on

click to enlarge Bone Thugs-n-Harmony help Spokane ring in 2015 next week.
  • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony help Spokane ring in 2015 next week.

The men of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony are in their late 30s and early 40s, but when they first got together in the early '90s — before they famously bought one-way tickets from their hometown of Cleveland to L.A. in hopes of auditioning for gangster rap icon Eazy-E — they were still teenagers.

"We've been here for a long time," says the group's oldest member, Flesh-n-Bone, over the phone. "I tell my kids, my career is older than you. You need to catch up. We were teenagers ourselves when we made it."

Indeed, in 1994, when Bone Thugs' Creepin on ah Come Up EP broke big, Flesh and Krayzie Bone turned 21, Wish Bone and Layzie Bone turned 19 and Bizzy Bone turned 18. Before most of them could legally enter bars, they'd established a career that would see them produce several hit singles ("Thuggish Ruggish Bone," "1st of tha Month," "Tha Crossroads"), take home a Grammy award, sell millions of records and pioneer a style of hip-hop that prominently featured melodic, sung raps and hooks.

"This was our claim to fame," Flesh says. "We were the first rappers singing and tongue-twisting and harmonizing and doo-wopping all in one."

The passage of time has a way of providing perspective, and Flesh says he and his cohorts have a "very profound appreciation" for not only what they accomplished at a young age, but also for the longevity they've enjoyed.

"It was great kicking down the door in [the '90s]. Yes, that's cool. But today it's like, we're gonna be around like the Rolling Stones [are] to rock," Flesh says. "Lucky for me, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony happened to be that one special group, and I feel fortunate because there's not too many like that still around. For us, it's just something far beyond anything you can ever imagine, to still be here like that."

Hanging around is one thing. To hang around and see the influence you've had on others is something else entirely. In the past several years, hip-hop has taken a turn toward the melodic, first through Kanye West and Lil Wayne, and more recently in singsong rappers like Drake, Future and Young Thug. The new sound has Flesh beaming like a proud papa.

"There's a bridge. There's a link. There's a connection there," he says. "When these youngsters are asked about their influences, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony comes up. So with that being a fact, I love 'em all ... Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's sound has been etched in stone. Words can't describe how special that is." ♦

New Year's with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony • Wed, Dec. 31, at 8 pm • $30-$100 • All-ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague • sp.knittingfactory.com • 244-3279

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