Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Reaching the top isn't nearly as hard as staying there — a fact to which the Bone Thugs crew can attest. The quintet's blend of gangsta rigor and R&B smooth revolutionized the rap landscape when they emerged in the mid-'90s. The rhymes were hard and quick, and they twisted and twirled with impressive vocal finesse around club-ready grooves, proving both street and pop. But their friendship wasn't as tight as their estimable harmonies, and the group fractured under competing egos and agendas. They fought with their label and each other, producing a steady stream of mediocrity — whether solo or in tandem — that teased but rarely fulfilled their promise. In 2000, Flesh-n-Bone was incarcerated, and two years later, the increasingly erratic Bizzy Bone departed. The three remaining members — Krayzie, Layzie, and Wish Bone — forged a comeback with 2006's Thug Stories and 2007's Strength & Loyalty, rediscovering some of the old magic, if alienating some fans with a significantly softer, slicker approach. Two years ago, Flesh was released from jail, and Bizzy also returned to reunite the original quintet for Uni-5: The World's Enemy (out Tuesday). They're unlikely to ever create anything as powerful as E 1999 Eternal, but the new disc is easily their strongest release since.

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