Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
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When Bone Thugs-N-Harmony first exploded on the rap scene in 1994 with their fast rhymes, harmonious choruses, ominous G-funk, and gangsta attitude, no one knew whether the uncanny Cleveland group were for real or if they were a novelty success. After all, at this point in time, few rap groups outside of New York or California had been able to prove themselves on a commercial level. And Bone Thugs-N-Harmony leap-frogged cult success, instantly rising to the top of the charts with their summer anthem "Thuggish Ruggish Bone." By the time their first full-length album, E 1999 Eternal, dropped a year later, it not only debuted at number one but also proved to be one of the decades most important and enduring albums. While other rap groups struggled to break away from the cliches first forged by NWA, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, 2 Live Crew, and LL Cool J in the late '80s, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were one of the few groups able to carve out their own stylistic niche, an inimitable myriad of urban sounds with a strong ghetto attitude. Yet following the unprecedented success of E 1999 Eternal and, more so, the Grammy-winning success of "Tha Crossroads," Bone struggled to meet unreasonable expectations and also struggled with redundancy, having realized their apparent summit on their debut album. Yet even if the group was unable to repeat their success, they remained a vital group as few were able to bite on their signature style.

Conceived in the post-industrial Midwestern ghettos of Cleveland, OH, the Bone Thugs -- Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Flesh-N-Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone -- didn't have good probability of ever being a successful rap group. Until NWA put Los Angeles on the rap map in the late '80s, almost all commercially successful rap had come out of New York. By the early '90s when Bone were doing their best to get a label deal, rap was dominated by the East and West coast, leaving the five rappers without any contacts or chance of getting a deal in the Midwest. In 1993, though, the group took a chance and took a bus ride from Cleveland to Los Angeles to meet with Eazy-E's record label, Ruthless Records. When they returned to Cleveland, they had a deal; plans were in place to release a debut EP to test the market for interest in a non-coastal rap group.

That first EP, Creepin on Ah Come Up, ended up surpassing everyone's expectations, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard charts and scoring two enormous hits, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and "For the Love of Money"; the former song went on to become a major anthem, while the latter featured Eazy-E on guest vocals. As a further testament to the public interest for Bone, when their debut LP, E 1999 Eternal, hit the streets a year later in mid-1995, it debuted at number one, proving that the group was more than a mere novelty. Initially driven by the lingering success of Creepin on Ah Come Up and the first two singles from E 1999 Eternal, "1st of tha Month" and "East 1999," the album was then catapulted to multi-platinum success thanks to the amazing success of "Tha Crossroads," a heartfelt, radio-friendly remix of "Crossroads" from the album; the single was actually so popular that it tied the Beatles' 32-year-old record for the fastest-rising single and remained at the number one spot for eight weeks before eventually winning the group the 1996 Grammy for best rap performance.

In the time leading up the long-awaited release of the double-album Art of War in August 1997 (which found the group without Flesh-N-Bone), Bone broadened their reach, putting out an album as Mo Thugs Family featuring a roster of the group's peers. While the Mo Thugs Family album didn't do that well and neither did Flesh-N-Bone's solo album, T.H.U.G.S., The Art of War was met with mixed feeling by both fans and critics. Fans were happy to have two CDs worth of music to listen to but many were disappointed when the album didn't quite measure up to E 1999 Eternal; similarly, critics found the a
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