Layzie Bone Talks New Albums, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's Influence On Drake
Exclusive: L-Burna discusses his same-day release of The Definition and The Meaning, and reacts to Lupe's controversial lyrics following Layzie's own Obama reference. 10
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony may be adjusting to life after the lowest selling group album of their historic 17-year career, last year’s more mature offering, (and first featuring all five original Bone members in over a decade), Uni5, but one member of BTNH is refusing to let the currently depressed state of the music market deter his determined grind. So on February 22nd, Layzie Bone will be releasing not one, but two new solo albums: The Definition and The Meaning.
Following a late night video shoot (for DJ Kay Slay’s Layzie-featured “60 Second Assassins” and Layzie’s own “A New Life”) in Las Vegas on Monday, late Tuesday (February 1st) L-Burna spoke to HipHopDX after driving back to Los Angeles “fresh off The Hangover, Vegas thang.” The founding member of the first major group to emerge from the Midwest responded to criticism of the Drake-esque lead single from The Meaning featuring fellow Ohio native Bow Wow. While showing love to Drizzy, Layzie also revealed if that love has been reciprocated and if the Young Money superstar has paid homage to his stylistic forefathers for creating the now omnipresent sing-song delivery in Hip Hop. And finally, L.B. broke down the meaning behind his recently-released reference to “the President doin’ us wrong” before offering up his thoughts on the criticism currently being levied against fellow Midwest emcee Lupe Fiasco for his own Obama reference in-rhyme.
HipHopDX: The first, most obvious, question is why two albums in one day?
Layzie Bone: The main reason is because it’s really been a long time since I did [an official solo album]. When we got to making the record it was like, we got too much music to give to our fans. So, the first album became The Definition, and then once I defined what I was talking about then it was like, Okay, now we need The Meaning of this whole movement. It was just sitting on so much music, and the lapse of time that went by since I did a solo record. I think two was in order, man.
DX: [Is RBC Records] gonna do any type of deal – either at Best Buy or Amazon or somewhere – where people can get both albums for a reduced price?
Layzie Bone: Yeah, we actually gonna do a whole deal for that. You can go to Amazon right now and you can check out the snippets [for] the album. It’s gonna be a package deal on iTunes. Actually, we got some bonus songs for the iTunes purchases.
DX: I just know it’s hard as hell to sell one album right about now, so if you gon’ try to sell two you gotta like bait people in somehow.
Layzie Bone: Well, you know, it ain’t too hard when you in Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and you got good music. Good music always wins.
DX: Speaking of the music, “If I can’t do it, then it can’t be done.” If these two albums don’t sell well does that mean Midwest G shit can’t be a major force in the music biz again?
Layzie Bone: The statement [speaks] for itself: “If I can’t do it, then it can’t be done.” Meaning to say, there’s nothing that I can’t do. [But], the Midwest is gonna be alive and kickin’ for a long time, man.
DX: I just meant if you felt like you could bring back that O.G. Bone sound? If you can’t do it, then it ain’t coming back to the radio.
Layzie Bone: Right. If I can’t do it, then it ain’t happening. So, that’s bottom line. Even though I know a lot of people – a lot of my friends done came out and made noise in the industry. You got Kid Cudi, all them guys. All these guys is doing they thing right now. I’m just making a movement [of my own] for legendary music. If I can’t bring real nigga music back, then we in trouble.
DX: Let me ask though, was the joint with Bow Wow, “Everynight” from The Meaning, an attempt to compete with the Drake-sounding stuff on the radio right about now?
Layzie Bone: Nah, not really, because we was just in the studio – and it was never no competition thing. … It’s not about competing with nobody, man. It’s about being relevant. It’s about creating good content that people can [enjoy]. A lot of people looking at the Auto-Tune [used on the hook], but this really my first attempt at just talking to women. By me being an older cat now, I really felt that. She can get it every night, as opposed to we a blow ya head off every night. [Laughs]
DX: I just think it’s ironic that some people online is trippin’ out about the record when you guys were the ones who invented the sing-song flow.
Layzie Bone: Right. So over time, and hopefully through this interview, they’ll get it. The harmonies in Rap music came really from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. That whole genre, that whole lane, is ours. … It’s really like, minus the Auto-Tune, we been on the singing and rappin’. So to me, everything is coming full circle now.
DX: Just out of curiosity, any of y’all ever cross paths with Drake? He ever like give it up to y’all for being the forefathers of what he’s doing?
Layzie Bone: I never crossed paths with him, but I did read somewhere in an interview where he shouted out Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Or I believe it was MTV or something like that he was on, and he was like, “Yeah, you know, thanks to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony we can get away with rappin’ and singing now.” So shout-out to him. And I love his metaphor play… But he has gave it up. Everybody pay homage to Bone, man. I was just with Treach [from Naughty By Nature] last night, and he had so many salutes for us it was like – When an O.G. like that salutes you, and borrowed from your style, our contribution to music is never going nowhere.
DX: I wanna switch gears here to a little bit more serious discussion…and ask you about a track from your Thug Luv retail mixtape you dropped last month. On “Doin’ Life” you spit, “I been lookin’ at the world from a whole ‘nother angle, since you’ve been gone / Seein’ how penitentiary’s a big business, and the President doin’ us wrong.” I know Obama signed The Fair Sentencing Act into law last year – eliminating the minimum mandatory sentence for simple possession of crack – but you’re saying he still isn’t doing enough to keep folks from doing football numbers for nonviolent crimes?
Layzie Bone: Right, right. I think that whole institution of the penitentiary is not geared really to rehabilitate. And actually when I wrote that song – That [Thug Luv project] that came out I no longer support. I gave that to Siccness.net like five years ago, when my brother [Flesh-N-Bone] was locked up. So that’s how I felt at that time. But it’s really not enough being done to rehabilitate people coming out…’cause they come back to the same shit. And I don’t think I said “the President,” I said “the government doin’ us wrong.”
DX: Okay, I thought it was President, but you’re saying either way you were talking about Bush, you weren’t talking about Obama.
Layzie Bone: Right. Obama wasn’t even in office yet. That was directed towards the Bush administration, flat out.
DX: Just out of curiosity though, you care to offer up any thoughts on your fellow Midwest rhymer Lupe Fiasco currently being criticized by some for calling out President Obama in his new song, “Words I Never Said” ?
Layzie Bone: I mean, I haven’t heard it personally, but…Lupe [Fiasco], he be on that real knowledge, man. So I would have to reserve my rights to hear that, but he probably ain’t lying.
DX: Well I got the verse. He said, “Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist / Gaza Strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit / That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either.”
Layzie Bone: Right. See, that’s real spit right there. Like, if they ain’t standing up on the issues that we need to be standing up on – You gotta understand, we’re up under the thumb of the Federal Reserve, so it ain’t much [President Obama] can do anyway.
DX: Yeah, I noticed you showed some support – I heard from those snippets – for Obama on “The Syndrome” from The Meaning. Do you feel like rappers still should have the right though to fight the power, and still go at the President even though he’s our first black President?
Layzie Bone: I think we should support any "first black" any situation. Because, he did open up the door for a lot of our issues to be heard that wasn’t heard. So, of course, I support him all day. As long as he ain’t doing no Bush shit, like going and stealing from these peoples to keep my car going … I support him, bro’. I see more good than I see anything wrong he doing. Like, I don’t see nothing wrong with funneling money back into the system so we don’t have to be broke. Of course we gotta deal with debt [for] our children, but if we educate them right then China won’t be the superpower.
DX: Let’s move off of that and get back to your music. You got three of the "Uni5" on “Hear Em Knockin” from The Definition. I just wanted to ask though, is the industry still knockin’ after Uni5 didn’t sell that well, or are y’all gonna stay straight independent from here on out?
Layzie Bone: We gonna stay independent, because…it’s just more lucrative that way. But, the industry always beatin’ down our door. Turn the radio on. I was in Vegas last night and damn near every rapper [whose song came on in the club] had an element of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in ‘em. So, yeah, they beatin’ down the door. But, big business and the music business, they want as many [sound-alikes] of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony as they can possibly pimp. But by us being independent, we get to pimp them back. ‘Cause we got the Internet now; we don’t necessarily need them anymore.
DX: I was just curious if after the Warner Brothers situation if it was like, You know what? We’re not doing this again.
Layzie Bone: Warner Brothers was cool. They just didn’t understand how to market Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. ‘Cause we had took the viral route [for all of our promotion and marketing of Uni5], and I don’t think at that particular time that was the right thing to do. But, it was good for the fact that we learned a lot from Niam Ali and those guys over there that’s working at Warner Brothers. But, to be your own boss is so much more vindicating, man.
DX: So with everything that happened with that project, is another Bone album in the works?
Layzie Bone: It’s gon’ always be more Bone projects in the works. When we was young, like 16, 17, we’d probably bang out a record every two years. Now that we older, we got 20 years of music to tour off of. So as opposed to hearing the industry knockin’, all our shows stay sold out. I think they knockin’.
DX: I was just curious if you guys are more focused on the solo stuff for the moment? Like, what the game plan is going forward?
Layzie Bone: Well, my game plan is this: I got Harmony House Entertainment, which is the new refurbished Mo’ Thug Records. So I got Thin C. I got Dub B…Tastemakers Global. I’m putting together a conglomerate of companies [so] we’re not really gonna need big brother record companies. We got Flesh’s record coming. It’s called The Blaze of Glory. Felecia’s record finally gon’ drop. It’s called Before My Time. Me personally, I’m just making the push for the team. Like, it was never really my thing to go solo. I’m a group orientated person. I love collaborating and kickin’ it with my family. So, I got a lot of different things going, with the House... I also got Big Sloan’s record coming. We doing this all independent.
DX: I don’t know if you agree with this analogy, but it kinda feels like you’re doing what Raekwon is doing with the Wu-Tang [Clan]. Like, Okay, the group thing may be to the side just for the moment, but I’ma go out here and keep the legacy alive. I’ma be that person making sure that we’re still out there.
Layzie Bone: And that’s exactly what I’m doing. Raekwon is a great example of what Layzie Bone is doing right now.