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Bone Brothers

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Album Review

Bone Brothers 2, the sequel to Bizzy and Layzie Bone's 2005 collaboration, was released by Real Talk the same week Interscope released Strength & Loyalty, the big-budget reunion album by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony — sans Bizzy, that is, who'd been kicked out of the group and thus relegated to the indie circuit. There's a stark difference between the two albums, with Bone Brothers 2 unfortunately paling in comparison. Not that Strength & Loyalty is a great album — certainly, it's a far cry from the glory days of E 1999 Eternal (1995), Bone's short-lived day in the sun — but it's not without charm, most notably the infectious Akon song "I Tried." Bone Brothers 2 simply can't compare to the high-quality songwriting and big-budget production of Strength & Loyalty. Like most releases by Real Talk, Bone Brothers 2 sounds like it was done on the cheap and quick: the songs are boilerplate gangsta and the beats sound homemade (and not in a good way). Despite these major strikes against Bone Brothers 2, it does have one plus: its Bone-ness. In a marketplace overrun with rappers of all shapes, sizes, and colors, the Bone rappers have a singular style that will forever set them apart from their colleagues, no matter how burned-out they sound with each cycle of album releases. And Bizzy and Layzie do sound rather burned-out here — it's a little saddening, in fact, when you consider their downward career trajectory and never-ending struggles (hence the tragic truth of "I Tried") — yet there are moments when this works in their favor, making them seem all the more otherworldly. "Wake Up, Get Up" and "We Are Warriors" are two of the more effective songs here, as beat-maker Hollis (who produces half the album) employs some eerie synth notes over slow, rolling tempos that are perfect for the Bone Brothers' gentle rapped-sung verses. "One Day" is another highlight — yet another sad song that finds the guys with one foot in the grave psychologically. "Thugs Need Luv" also stands out, and yup, it's pretty sad too. Few rappers do sad better than Bone, it seems. Even their "happy" songs come across as sad (think "First of the Month," a celebration of welfare — how sad is that, really?). In the end, even though Bone Brothers 2 doesn't compare favorably to Strength & Loyalty, Bone fans will recognize that these are very different albums in approach and therefore may forgive the shortcomings of this effort, which suffers from a lack of resources and fresh ideas. That it's a new Bone release that finds Bizzy still alive and kicking, with a few effective songs sprinkled in here and there, is probably enough to make it worthwhile for the remaining loyalists. Everyone else should stick with Strength & Loyalty, if that.


Born: 12 September 1976 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Best known as a member of the Cleveland crew Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, rapper Bizzy Bone began a prolific, risk-taking, and sometimes baffling solo career in 1998. Combining rapid raps and laid-back singing, his soul-searching debut, Heaven'z Movie, didn't sound entirely unlike a Bone Thugs album, but it was obvious that on his own Bizzy felt free to explore his psyche and to go eccentric places his group just would not. The Gift from 2001 further divided Bone fans, with some seeing his confessional...
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