Over the better half of the past decade, “mumble rap” has dominated popular rap music and everyday another mumble rapper seems to pop up, looking to capitalize on the style. Personally, I find most of it to be repetitive uncreative nonsense, but there are a few artists/groups who’ve used the style and made some pretty entertaining music. One group that immediately comes to mind are the Migos, who many have called the fathers of the style. But I could make a strong argument that the Migos and mumble rap wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
Originally going by the name of B.O.N.E. Enterpri$e, the five childhood friends out of Cleveland (comprised of Krayzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, Layzie Bone, Wish Bone and Flesh-N-Bone) independently released their debut album, Faces Of Death in 1993. Locally, the album made noise for the group, but they were determined to have their unique style heard by the entire globe. They would pack their bags and head west to California in hopes of impressing Eazy-E with their music and getting signed to his label, Ruthless Records. Legend has it that once BONE arrived in Cali, they begin to stalk Eazy, calling him every day, until one day he answered, and they rapped and harmonized over the phone for the Jheri curled mogul. Eazy was blown away by their performance, so he signed them to a deal, changed the group name from Bone Enterpri$e to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (Thank God!), and they would release their Ruthless debut project, Creepin On Ah Come Up in 1994.
Creepin On Ah Come Up would feature production from DJ Yella, Rhythm D and the newly signed Ruthless Records in-house producer, DJ Uneek. The liner notes read that the songs from this EP were “Ganked from tha upcomin album (Thugs N Harmony)”, although that album would never see the light of day (if it even exists) and none of the songs from COACU would be included on their 1995 full-length Ruthless debut, E. 1999 Eternal (and unfortunately their mentor, Eazy-E, would pass away before its release). Flesh-N-Bone must have been locked up or preoccupied with some other shit when they took the album cover picture for the EP, as the other four members stand in unity on the cover, while his solo pic eerily hovers in the upper left-hand corner. Thanks largely to their hit lead single (Thuggish Ruggish Bone), COACU would sell over four million copies and turn the self-proclaimed Cleveland Thugs in to rap superstars.
It’s been years since I last listened to Creepin On Ah Come Up. Let’s see how it’s held up over the past twenty-five plus years.
Intro – Eazy summons his distorted “devil’s son-in-law” voice to introduce his newfound harmonizing thugs to the world and they give us a little taste of their unique flavor. This intro bleeds right into the next song…
Mr. Quija – BTNH provides us with more of their thug harmony on this one. The five-man crew dabble in the dark spiritual world, as they sing to a ouija board, asking it to tell them if “bloody murder” will be their collective fate. This is some dark demented shit that feels a little uncomfortable to listen to but still catchy and entertaining as hell (no pun intended).
Thuggish Ruggish Bone – This was the lead single from the EP that would introduce the world to BTNH. DJ Uneek lays down a funky synthesized instrumental with a deep bass line, as our Cleveland hosts showcase their distinctive combination of thugged-out rapid-fire flow and melody. Bizzy delivers the strongest performance out of the crew, while Shatasha Williams’ catchy hook and adlibs are the cherry on top of this thuggish treat. This one still sounds as hard as it did in ’94.
No Surrender – Bone builds on the previous song with a clean up-tempo DJ Uneek produced backdrop that Bone uses to give us more thuggish ruggish energy. This was fire.
Down Foe My Thang – Rhythm D gets his only production credit of the night and he makes it count, serving up some heat for our harmonizing hosts to rhyme over. Bone gets into some murderous gangsta shit on this one, and they sound solid over Rhythm D’s dope production (that synth-siren at the end of the song is bananas!)
Creepin On Ah Come Up – BTNH slows things all the way down with this one. DJ Uneek concocts a creepy slow-rolling backdrop for Krayzie, Layzie and Bizzy to each spit verses about murder and robbery, punctuated by a catchy thugged-out moody melodic hook (back in the day I thought they were saying “Smokin’ cat food” on the chorus). I can’t condone Bone’s content, but I commend them for making it sound entertaining.
Foe Tha Love Of $ – DJ Yella hooks up a brilliantly creamy and clean groove (the subtle tickling of the well-spaced keys sounds heavenly) for Bone to discuss the lengths they’re willing to go through for the root of all evil. Eazy drops in and gets off a quick verse, and while his rhymes are not amazing, they work and bring a refreshing contrast to what Bone has given us throughout this project. Once again, Bizzy Bone outshines his bredrin on the mic, but shining even brighter is Yella’s stellar instrumental.
Moe Cheese – Bone liked Yella’s instrumental on the previous song so much they decided to bring it back so you could enjoy it uninterrupted (Kudos on the clever song title, gents!). This time around, Yella adds some slick and sick guitar solos, more smooth keys and Jewell (who was playing both sides of the feud between Eazy and Dre, as she appears on “Fuck With Dre Day” and this song) adds a few more adlibs. This instrumental sounded so amazing to Jewell it left her moaning on the verge of an orgasm, which is completely justifiable.
On Creepin On Ah Come Up, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony won’t bar you to death or amaze you with complex rhymes, but what they lack in substance they more than make up for with style. Bone keeps things gangsta, spewing rapid-fire rhymes and thug harmonies filled with violent tales from the hood. But shinning even brighter than Bone is the production, as DJ Uneek, Yella and Rhythm D lace the Cleveland fivesome with a dope batch of west coast-flavored instrumentals that’ll satisfy your ears, no matter where you reside on the map. Overall, Creepin On Ah Come Up is an entertaining listen and an accurate prophesy from Bone.