By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
A better record than either Pain Is Love or The
Great Depression is Krayzie Bone’s Thug on da Line. Krayzie shares with both his peers the inability to see other men as anything besides gangsta niggas, thug niggas, hatin’ niggas, real niggas, bitch niggas, and — for variety — muhfuckas. His obsession with street authenticity and material wealth, and disdain for those who don’t possess them, quickly become tedious; anyone who approaches the disc as text will find himself dodging land mines of banality. But rap is about sound and texture as well as the specifics of lyrical content, and few can touch the underrated Bone Thugs & Harmony crew when it comes to arrangement and production. Their fusion of rap and R&B is both seamless and peerless, giving their work emotional and sonic dynamics that are MIA from a lot of their more successful contemporaries.
Krayzie’s solo set works in the same ways his group efforts do — as R&B, rap and gospel. Thug references everything from Negro spirituals to Michael Jackson’s “Girlfriend,” Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany” to Lou Bega’s novelty hit “Mambo No. 5” (transformed into an ode to getting high). He also has a duet with Sade, having sampled the vocal hook from “Feel No Pain” for “Hard Time Hustlin’.” Not everything works. The Sade duet flattens the poetry of her words with Krayzie’s redundant response to her call; the absence of Bizzy, Layzie and Wish and the interplay of their voices is felt despite the slew of cameo artists, and the whole thing becomes repetitive by track 10, with eight songs still to go. But when the music really works, it soars, transcending — even contradicting — the words within the flow. Taffy-stretched vowels (realcountry grammar) and lightning-fast rapping are balanced out by gorgeous, heartfelt singing that conveys melancholy and a vibrant world beyond consciousness. Death and grief dog him, and so does a boundless sense of betrayal — some of which can be traced to individuals but a lot of which is free-floating. Like DMX and Ja Rule, Krayzie is a black man struggling to build himself from the very clichés that both cripple and enthrall him.
In Krayzie’s music, the sound and the feel of it, there’s a tense contradiction between his pledge of loyalty to thug mentality and his painful awareness that the mindset and lifestyle are certain dead ends. In “Can’t Hustle 4 Ever,” singer Lareece asks mournfully, “Do you know where you going to/do you like the things the streets is showin’ you/Do you know, you can’t hustle forever?” The disc’s showstopper, though, is the airy “Time After Time,” a warning to self that barely contains the tears, that is filled with palpable regret and remorse, and that dulls the bravado of all the violence, machismo and materialism that couch it. Krayzie drops the hard-nigga pose and pulls off a heartbreaking new-school spiritual that’s one of the best soul tracks this year.
JA RULE | Pain Is Love | (Def Jam)
KRAYZIE BONE | Thug on da Line | (Columbia)