By Niki D’Andrea
Music artist and part-time Phoenix resident Bizzy Bone saw substantial success in the ‘90s as a member of Cleveland rap/R&B group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony -- they pioneered a combination fast-paced rap/jazz scat vocal harmony, won a Grammy in 1997 for their song “Tha Crossroads” (an homage to late NWA co-founder Eazy-E), and sold more than 21 million records. Bone Thugs’ 1995 album E 1999 Eternal is considered by many to be the Midwest rap group’s finest hour.
The group began to fall apart at the beginning of the new millennium, with members Flesh-n-Bone sentenced to 11 years in a California prison for waving an AK-47 at his neighbor, and Bizzy Bone parting ways with the band in October, 2002, after a bad performance at BB King’s Blues Club in New York City. Though Bizzy would reunite with Bone Thugs off-and-on until May, 2005, his life took a completely different trajectory in 2004, when he voluntarily gave up all his possessions and started traveling Ohio on foot, homeless and searching for himself.
When Bizzy resurfaced, it was on the Houston radio show “Damage Control” in October, 2005. He openly talked about his past drug use, his experiences as a vagabond sleeping in bus stations, and most enthusiastically, his newfound love for the lord. His conviction went as far as “speaking in tongues” on the air, and news outlets wondered if Bizzy had lost his mind.
But to hear Bizzy tell it, he was finding himself. That journey has led most recently to his second solo album, A Song for You, to be released April 22 on Phoenix-based Virgin imprint, After Platinum Records. The album, produced by A. Jones and DJ Mr. Lee (the latter helped launch R. Kelly’s career), is saturated with the smooth R&B harmonies that were the signature sound of Bone Thugs, and the lyrical content chronicles Bizzy’s metamorphosis. It also features guest appearances by Twista (“Money”), Joel Madden of Good Charlotte (“I’m the One”), and fellow Valley resident DMX (“A Song for You”).
We recently caught up with Bizzy to get the low-down on the new sounds, P-town, and the religion he found.
New Times: How does this solo record compare to the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony records?
Bizzy Bone: The flow is pretty traditional. It’s a fast flow with harmonizing in it -- the Bone Thugs flow, which many people have adopted and tried, but Bone Thugs brought it to the table. The content is more spiritual -- we have our club songs and our dance songs, but the album is really like what The Book of Psalms would sound like, on record in 2008.
New Times: So you’re still a Christian?
Bizzy Bone: I am in the Temple of Christ. I study Bai’a, and it’s a mix of different beliefs and religions, but it’s focused on worshiping and building a relationship with the one true creator. But I don’t know if I’d use the term ‘Christian.’ I am in the Temple of Christ.
New Times: How did you hook up with After Platinum Records?
Bizzy Bone: They gave us a call. We worked together on some side projects, then they asked for old stuff. But releasing old material doesn’t work until the artist is gone, like Makaveli [Tupac Shakur] or Biggie. It’s not optimum for a living artist to release unreleased material, so we started working on new stuff.
New Times: Tell us about your path to this record.
Bizzy Bone: It was a lot of tears, broken jaws, missing teeth, sweat, and blood.
New Times: What about that period of self-imposed homelessness?
Bizzy Bone: That was more or less the rebirth. That’s how to find the Lord, clean your feet, and learn your spirituality and who you are as a person. It was me walking, watching people drive past me. It’s a whole other world. I spent a lot of time praying. I’m trying to keep it together, to get a handle on my emotions and let the Lord know I love him before I pass on.
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New Times: Anything else you’d like to add?
Bizzy Bone: Tell Phoenix that Bizzy Bone loves them!
Click below to hear the title track from Bizzy Bone’s upcoming album, A Song for You.