What do 2Pac, the Notorious B.I.G., Eazy-E, and Big Pun all have in common? Besides being immensely talented hip hop icons who passed way too early, these legends all collaborated with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony while they were still alive.
Formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1991, under the group’s original name “Band Aid Boys,” and then later “B.O.N.E. Enterpri$e,” Bone Thugs-n-Harmony hustled their way through the music industry trying to get put on.
At one point, they all scrounged together their money for a one-way bus ticket to Los Angeles to find Eazy-E, who they had heard was interested in the group. Although their initial L.A. trip didn’t result in meeting the Ruthless Records founder, they finally had a chance to audition for Eazy-E in his dressing room, on November 2, 1993.
After signing to Ruthless Records, the Cleveland group dropped their debut EP, Creepin on ah Come Up, in 1994, followed by E. 1999 Eternal and The Art of War within a few years of each other. Bolstered by hit singles like “Thuggish Ruggish Bone”, “1st of tha Month”, the Grammy Award-winning “Tha Crossroads” and “Look into My Eyes,” Bone Thugs quickly went multiplatinum and became one of the biggest rap groups of the ’90s.
During their time, they were able to collaborate with legendary rappers who have since passed, including their mentor and the person responsible for breaking them into the music industry:
- Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ft. Eazy-E – “Foe tha Love of $” / Creepin on ah Come Up, released June 21, 1994
- Flesh-n-Bone ft. Fat Joe & Big Punisher – “No Mercy” / T.H.U.G.S., released November 19, 1996
- The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony – “Notorious Thugs” / Life After Death, released March 25, 1997
- Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ft. 2Pac – “Thug Luv” / The Art of War, released July 29, 1997
- Krayzie Bone ft. Fat Joe, Big Pun & Cuban Link – “When I Die” / Thug Mentality 1999, released April 6, 1999
In a 2014 interview, Krayzie Bone talked about how their collaboration with Pac happened, recalling that the group was a fan of the late rapper since 2Pacalypse Now.
“He actually came to Cleveland, and this is when he had just come out of jail and Dr. Dre was just leaving [Death Row], and they did a big Death Row tour,” Krayzie told XXL. “Pac came to Cleveland and came on the radio and said, ‘I want to see these thugs. They Thugs, we Thugs, we need to hook up and talk some business.'”
“We didn’t meet him until California and he was staying in the hotel we were in. We were walking in and he was walking out and we thought it was going to be a drama. But he’s like, ‘What’s up with y’all? Y’all song ‘Crossroads,’ every morning I woke up in my cellblock, I played that song. Not the remix, the original version.’ Ever since then we were cool. We said we need to get the studio until finally one day, him and Bizzy finally got into the lab and laid down “Thug Luv.'”
In a separate interview, Krayzie recounted their studio session with Biggie to record “Notorious Thugs.” While Big was there while they were recording their verses, Bone Thugs didn’t get to hear the Brooklyn rapper’s part until after he passed and the album had come out.
Krayzie Bone: Puff just called up one day while we were out in California, “Come by the studio tonight.” So we went. As soon as we walked in, Big was like, “What y’all eating, drinking and smoking?” It was a shock how down-to-earth he was. Nigga used to floss in his raps big-time, but when you met him he was a real humble dude. There were a lot of things that he wanted to know about us and about our flows. He just wanted to know how we came about doing our style and how we did our vocals. He was watching us do our parts like, “Goddamn, y’all niggas are crazy.”Check Out How Biggie’s ‘Life After Death’ Was Made | XXL