Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s sophomore album E. 1999 Eternal was inspired by the Cleveland streets that raised them. Nearly 30 years after it dominated the Billboard 200 chart with songs like “Tha Crossroads” and “1st of tha Month,” Krayzie, Layzie, Bizzy, Flesh and Wish Bone are getting their own street at the intersection of St. Clair Avenue and E. 99th Street, appropriately christened Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Way.
Spearheaded by the Spread the Love Foundation, Cleveland City Councilman Anthony Hairston and Ward 10 (as well as sponsors like the St. Luke’s Foundation, Famicos Foundation and City of Cleveland), the street-naming ceremony will take place on August 11 from noon to 2 p.m. local time with all five members in tow.
“Growing up on that street was crazy,” Krayzie Bone tells ROCK THE BELLS. “We had many, many adventures on that street. We got in so much trouble. Our street was 99th and St. Clair, but we renamed our street because of the two nines—the 99—we called it ‘Double Glock.’ I remember we shot the streetlights out on the street so the police would no longer ride down it. At night, they would only come to the corner of the street, shine their lights down there and keep driving past. They wouldn't come down the street. Every time they would have somebody fix the light, we’d take it right back out with either a BB gun or a little .22 rifle.”
There was also a vacant lot nearby they nicknamed the “Boneyard,” where they used to have barrel fires to keep warm in the wintertime. That same scene was later depicted in the video for “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.”
“We kept hustling but had the fire to keep us warm,” Krayzie says. “The police would sometimes make us put it out then chase us off the corner. It was wild.”
"We don't have to be mentioned in every conversation to feel like we're being respected. I know the respect and love is there.”
- Krayzie Bone
Despite the tumultuous climate of the area, it was on E. 99th and St. Clair where Bone Thugs sharpened their rap skills and discovered who they were as people.
“Everything really did birth who we really were in that era,” he says. “We had started rapping together back in junior high school, then it carried over to high school until we got out of school. When we get out of school that's when all of us were on 99th. We was definitely focused on our music around the time we was on 99th for sure.”
After a fruitless trip to Los Angeles in an attempt to track down Eazy-E, the N.W.A co-founder wound up connecting with the group in Cleveland while on tour. He liked what he heard and quickly signed them to Ruthless Records. In 1994, Bone Thugs released the Creepin’ On Ah Come Up EP and made plans to shoot a video in their hometown. But even Eazy-E didn’t know what he was in for when touching down in the Ohio metropolis. Being from Compton, Eazy was immersed in daily street life, but it was nothing like Cleveland.
“Our area was pretty dangerous; it was the middle of the hood,” Krayzie explains. “When we went back to shoot the video for ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone,’ we had actually flew back with Eazy. We was coming to the airport and a young lady who worked there noticed him and got excited, like ‘Oh my god! Eazy-E is in Cleveland.’ She was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ And he told her we had to shoot the video for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. And she went, ‘Oh, yes, that’s right. They from Cleveland, Ohio.’ She was like, ‘Oh wow, where are you shooting it? I want to come to the video shoot.’ He was like, ‘We’ll be at 99th and St. Clair.’ She was like, ‘Oh, hell no. I ain’t going down there.’ Eazy looked at us like, ‘Man, where are y'all trying to take me?’ We were like, ‘Eazy, you’re going to the hood.’
“A lot of people don’t know this, but the day we were shooting ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone,’ there was a shooting on set. Six people were shot. Nobody died, but a couple people we knew got shot. But the video shoot was handled the wrong way. Cleveland is somewhat of a small city and people weren’t used to having celebrities come down and be in their neighborhood, especially somebody like Eazy-E. He and N.W.A were huge in our neighborhood. So when they heard Eazy was going to be there, it’s like the entire city of Cleveland decided to come to our hood, and it was going to be nothing but problems.”
It’s Krayzie’s upbringing that’s made him a quiet observer. If people don’t know him, he can come across as somewhat standoffish, but that’s not indicative of his character.
“When you walking outside in that area, you have to keep your eyes open,” he says. “If it’s not other people running through the neighborhood looking to do something then it’s the police coming and harassing us. It was like a nonstop, 24/7 thing. You had to be on your guard at all times. We had a lot of good times, but you had to be careful.
“I learned to just sit back, watch and observe things, watch my surroundings. I don't speak on things I know nothing about and look like an idiot. I’d rather sit back, observe and learn first before I speak on something.”
Everything will come full circle on August 11, Hip-Hop official 50th birthday. Following the street-naming ceremony, Bone Thugs is expected to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later that same evening. The following day, August 12, Bone Thugs will hit the stage during the Glenville Festival at Sam Miller Park before joining LL COOL J’s The F.O.R.C.E. Tour at the Rocket Mortgage Field House alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff, Z-Trip and several other Hip-Hop pillars.
“Just to see all these things taking place is incredible,” Krayzie says. “Now is the time in our career where we’ve started to sit back and really take everything we've done in and recognize the foundation we've laid down. Other people are starting to recognize who did what and what we really did in this Hip-Hop industry.
“I was never worried about receiving accolades or people not knowing what we brought to the business because it's all in due time. It’s going to come around for Bone. People ask me all the time, ‘Why people don’t show you no respect?’ I tell them I feel very respected in the industry. Just because people don’t mention our name in every best rapper list doesn’t mean the industry doesn’t respect us. When I come across all my peers, colleagues, other artists and celebrities, they all show Bone crazy love—from young to old. We don't have to be mentioned in every conversation to feel like we're being respected. I know the respect and love is there.”
Krayzie credits LL for sparking his interest in rap. In fact, the first song he ever learned was “Rock The Bells.”
“The whole thing with LL COOL J and being able to have to have a part in that is amazing,” he assures. “I tell people all the time LL COOL J is the reason I even started rapping. I wanted to learn his raps so bad, I started writing his lyrics down. Once I saw the blueprint of how to write a rhyme, I was like, ‘Hey, I think I can write my own.’ And I just never stopped.”
For more information on everything this city is doing for Hip-Hop 50, visit the Destination Cleveland website here.