Twenty years is an incredibly long time to stay relevant in music, especially in Hiphop, where artist turnover is much higher. Maintaining artistic relevance is either done by continuing to create good music, or by having songs so good that people just can’t seem to stop listening to them. Cleveland Rap collective, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony have done the latter with great success. Twenty years ago they were in they hay-day of careers, still riding off of the success of projects ‘Creepin on ah Come up’ and ‘E.1999 Eternal’, they were able to win an American Music Award for Favorite Rap Artists. So where does this leave The Bone Thugs today?
Most recently they have released their project titled ‘The Lost Files’, onto Spotify. Originally released in 2006 as a collection of unreleased songs, it is now available on all major streaming platforms. Along with releasing and updating music, they are also keeping up their stage presence. They stopped at Skyway Theatre for a performance on the 18th.
Opening up for them was local artist Kid Automatic. A young hype rap artist from Pine City Minnesota, he has yet to drop a full length project but has put out numerous singles out on youtube. He came out donned in a vikings jersey, and along with him was a backup vocalist also sporting a jersey. They put on an energetic and explosive performance, running and dancing across the stage while spitting quick verses. The crowd quickly warmed up to these two, singing along with the lyrics and bouncing to the beats. They played about 5 songs before leaving the stage.
Following that set was a group who called themselves ‘The F*** Around Gang’. They consisted of four rappers, a drummer, a guitarist, a trumpeter, and a keyboardist. Two of the rappers wore large gold pendants reminiscent of the bling era. If I had to put them into a category, I would consider them Jazz Rap but they went beyond that as well. They put on a solid performance that flowed very well from verse to verse, and from song to song. The crowd seemed to like the Run The Jewels-esque back and forth the group went through. Their instrumentals were great and really stood out with the live band. During one song they had a woman come on stage and throw their merch into the crowd, which everyone went crazy for. Their set was 8 songs long and by the time they concluded I was left wanting more.
Following them there was a long hiatus where no-one was on stage and people were calling for Bone Thugs to come out. After around 30 minutes their Dj came out and played a couple songs before announcing their entry to the stage. They came out and the room filled with energy. The packed venue reacted to them like it was 1998 again, with screams and cheers of joy and anticipation. They started their set with a lot of the posse cuts, jumping from verse to verse with the help of the crowd. They played all of their hit singles like ‘1st of tha month’ which had a lot of crowd participation as well. Lots of dancing and head nodding went on to the old school hits. The crisp purple lighting made them look almost surreal up there on-stage while they sang their quick rapid fire verses and slowed down melodic hooks. They even debuted new material during their set, another factor that shows their continued relevance in music over the years. As strong as their old work is, they still expand on their own discography and deliver new material for their fans to enjoy. Eventually they went on to talk about Eazy-E and what he means to them, which segued into them performing some songs from his discography as a tribute. It was evident that there was a lot of crossover in fans because everyone knew all of the words to his songs as well. Following this they went on to perform songs by The Notorious BIG as well as Tupac Shakur. These were crowd favorites as well. Their whole set was around and hour and a half and kept people captivated the whole time. They have built quite the cult following since their major successes in the 1990’s and were able to put on an excellent show for everyone.