Layzie Bone — a founding member of Cleveland's Bone Thugs-n-Harmony — will release a pair of new albums tomorrow, The Definition and The Meaning. The latter includes “The Game Ain’t Ready,” a tongue-twisting track featuring the other members of Bones; The Definition boasts cameos from Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, and up-and-coming Cleveland rapper Caine. Bone fills us in on the new albums. —Jeff Niesel
What inspired you to want to release two albums on the same day?
Initially, it was just The Definition. I kind of felt like I had to define what I meant about it, so it turned into two records. The inspiration came from just wanting to make more and more music. I cannot define the meaning.
Does writing come easy to you?
Everything don’t come easy to me. I am so group-oriented. A lot of my songs are a struggle for me. There are so many characteristics of myself that I’m trying to define and I want people to understand the meaning of what I’m doing. It’s all a push for Cleveland. That’s where I’m from. East 99 and 105 and St. Clair.
Explain their titles.
I’m just trying to define a place and time in my life where I’m making the solo push and I’m telling people that I can really rap good. I’m good with word play most of the time. I ain’t saying I’m perfect. With this new change with the Internet and all that, I feel like Bone Thugs can become an industry within ourselves.
You have a number of guests on these albums. Who was the hardest guy to nail down?
Nobody. There’s no process to the progress. Bow Wow called me. He needed me on a record, and I was like, “I need you on this record called ‘Every Night.’” We did a swap so quick. Bow Wow even co-directed the video for it. We got our Ohio thing swinging right now. Chamillionaire came to the table like a true champion. He rocked out. Too Short came to the table. He was probably the most hardest because he was on tour at the time.
He’s great. He’s been around as long as you.
As long? Try 10 years before me. That’s our OG. It was pretty much secure. My new management really digs me and they want to see my vision come through. That’s the difference between being a new artist and being 18 years in the game. Shout out to Knuckles Entertainment. I feel like we can’t do nothing but win.
You’ve been involved in hip-hop for about 20 years now. What has been the biggest change?
The biggest change is the Internet and the ability for artists to promote theirselves once you got branding down. That’s what I would advise Clevelanders to do. Read the immutable 22 laws of branding and marketing. They’re immutable. You have to learn it. I got a wealth of knowledge. I got more knowledge than I got money. Now, I’m trying to get money. It ain’t even about the money, but respect is everything, especially in your home town. I put the city on in damn near every rap.
What was the key that enabled the group to break out of Cleveland?
I heard my calling. So many gunshots had rang out on East 99 that I was like, “We got to leave here.” It’s time for us to go. This rapping thing we doing over the fire barrel, let’s go try that in Hollywood. Let’s call Eazy-E 50 times a day. Determination wins. If you put your mind to something, you can definitely do it. Especially with practice. Practice makes perfect. You got to leave Cleveland to make it, but if you don’t come back to put some integrity into the hood, it ain’t worth making it.
What initially inspired you guys to combine rapping and singing?
Well, you got to understand that I was born in ’74. So before rap came out, it was Michael Jackson and Off The Wall. We grew up off our parents’ music when they used to play rap only on Saturday. I grew up in that era with Bobby Jimmy and “Roaches.”
Did the last Bone Thugs’ album, Strength & Loyalty, live up to your expectations in terms of reestablishing the group?
I would say so. To have a platinum ringtone and for the record to shoot the gold. I think we were in a good place. We accomplished what we set out to do. We unified ourselves and when Flesh came home, it got even better. And Biz got through his mental stress. The main important thing about Clevelanders is that if we stick together, we can do it. Divided we shall fall. I don’t just mean LeBron James.
What is the future of Bone? You going to put out more records?
Of course. We are going to fulfill our obligations as men and respect our brand as Bone Thugs N Harmony. I’m 36 now so we’ll probably do five more albums together over the course of another ten years. I ain’t going to be rapping in ten more years. I’m going to be sitting back collecting checks.
How often do you come back to Cleveland?
Sometimes I got a desire to see my mom and I just fly in and don’t tell nobody. I just make sure she ain’t wilder than me and I’m out.
Hope to see you on the tour.
When we start the official tour, we’ll start in Cleveland. I’m not sure what the date is yet but follow us on all our sites. I’m making the push for my group and the push for the city. I ain’t never been a selfish person. I just want to see every light shine. Well, you know, write up my albums real neat. Dissect the whole thing. If you don’t give me no good review, I’m coming to get you.