“Bone bone bone bone, bone bone bone bone bone bone bone … Now tell me what you gonna do … ”

You all remember that, right? Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, the best Cleveland-based rap act money could buy, dominating the mid-'90s airwaves with the surprisingly tender “Crossroads,” a rap song featuring gangstas singing about how much they miss their deceased Uncle Charles and group mentor Eazy-E, among others?

No? How about “First of tha Month,” the first popular rap song about the excitement of Welfare payday?

Bone Thugs ruled the mid-'90s popular rap game like few others. They’ve laid low in the 2000s, a tumultuous period for the group full of arrests and departures. What once was a five-member group is now a trio (Bizzy Bone left in 2003 over creative differences, while Flesh-N-Bone is serving an 11-year prison term). But the group has persevered and is set to release a new album, Strength and Loyalty, their debut on Full Surface/Interscope Records, on May 8.

Krayzie Bone told Billboard, “It’s a real versatile album. Ain’t nothing the same on there. Every song puts you in a different zone.”

Bone Thugs also wanted the album to commemorate their 20-plus years together. To do so, they recruited producers Swizz Beats, Neo da Matrix, will.i.am and Jermaine Dupri. They also enlisted the help of Akon, Mariah Carey, Yolanda Adams, Twista, the Game, Bow Wow and many others.

The album’s first single, the Akon-assisted “I Tried,” is currently No. 14 on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart. “This is a song from the heart,” said Layzie Bone. “We write songs that we feel. It’s a song we wrote cause of stuff we was going through"

Of Swizz Beatz, Krayzie Bone said, “Swizz got on our level. He's really versatile, and he actually showed that working with us. He made it comfortable for us to rap over his tracks.”

The group also recently finished filming on its first independent movie, also titled I Tried. “It's a 'what if?' movie,” explained Layzie. “Like, what if Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would have taken that one-way bus ticket to L.A. and never would have got on with Eazy-E?”

One things for certain: The youth of America wouldn’t have the opening “Bone bone bone bone … ” to “Crossroads” permanently seared into their collective memory. Does this mean those same youth would have come up any different without Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in their impressionable young lives?

You tell me.

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