Interview: Krayzie Bone Proposes Bone Thugs/Wu-Tang LP, Talks Challenging Eminem And $1 Million 'Legends' Album

Krayzie Bone is feeling like a winner. And why shouldn’t he? His native Cleveland is welcoming its freakishly gifted native son LeBron James back to rock the Cavaliers’ crimson and gold. The 40-year-old speed spitter’s long-gestating Chasing The Devil album is set for release tomorrow (July 22). And the final Bone Thugs-n-Harmony double LP, E. 1999/Legends, celebrating 20 years of Bone Thugs, will be sold singular, in an auction beginning at $1 million. The approach mirrors the album release strategy of the same Wu-Tang Clan (Upon A Time In Shaolin) that Bone Thugs usurped in VIBE’s fan-voted Greatest Rap Group (Since ‘93) Tournament.

VIBE stepped into the winners circle with Krayzie Bone, chopping it up about the possibility of a Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Wu-Tang Clan collaboration LP, Chasing The Devil, challenging Eminem, predictions for LeBron’s Cavs and why he’ll be watching the N.W.A. biopic with squinted eyes. —John Kennedy (@youngJFK)

VIBE: First things first—congratulations on Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s victory in VIBE’s Greatest Rap Group (Since ‘93) Tournament! How does it feel to still be celebrated the way you are in the history of rap?
Krayzie Bone: Man, it’s a great feeling and it’s really a blessing for us to be looked at as one of the greatest groups who’ve ever done it. That’s a blessing in itself, because not many groups even exist today. It really makes us feel like what we did and the bricks we laid down weren’t in vain. Because it actually stuck with a lot of people. It actually meant something to a lot of people. It’s like planted in a part of hip-hop history now.

After you guys defeated Wu-Tang Clan for the championship, you posted an Instagram image of artwork for a hypothetical collaboration project with the Wu.
Yeah. It was actually fan-made. After I thanked all the fans for voting for us, somebody posted that and I was like, this is dope. I was just putting it out there so everybody could see it and start wanting it. The response was crazy.

Do you think that kind of project could ever happen?
Man, we have never had the opportunity to connect and do something with Wu-Tang. But I’m good friends with RZA and Method; the other cats I haven’t got to hang out with as much. Met Raekwon a couple of times, he’s cool. Met Ghostface, but you know—every time I talk to RZA and Meth we talk about doing something. It’s long overdue. It’s just getting everyone’s schedules together and actually making it happen. We’ve talked about it; everybody is down. I have ideas, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’d like to start off with a Bone and Wu cypher—get everybody warmed up and just kill it. That’d be crazy.

You’re getting ready to drop your own album, which is also long overdue. What should we expect from Chasing The Devil?
Expect to be educated—the usual from Bone. We gon’ give them some knowledge, we gon’ take it to the street: great stories, concepts, dramatic... I’m putting it together like an audio movie; you can put the CD on and get lost into it. I’m having three volumes and I’m going to release them separately. So it’s going to be different concepts for each album. Everybody is going to be able to relate to this album.

What’s the lead single?
“Chasing Nightmares.” You know the saying, “I’m chasing my dreams.” The song is basically like, I thought I was chasing a dream, but it turned into a nightmare once I caught it. You think everything is going to be pleasant, money is going to solve all these problems but a catch comes with it. This industry messes a lot of people's lives up because they sacrifice and they give their lives up and when they get [success], they’re like, “Man, I did all of this and it wasn’t even worth it.” That’s basically what inspired that song. It’s a crazy one, too, trust me.

Are you looking into any features?
Well on the first album, there aren’t going to be any guests except for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. On the second and third, I’m going to have some features. I talked to Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole, A$AP Mob. I got verbal confirmations from these people so I’m just waiting to see if it goes through and we can make it happen.

It’s so dope to see the mark and influence Bone Thugs has had on today’s generation of artists, from the folks you just named to others.
Yeah, I think that’s important for music. I’ve always felt like the older generation and the newer generations should always bridge that gap in music. I like what A$AP Mob is doing. They even said that they based the whole way that they named themselves and some of the music that they do was influenced by us. I see a lot of people doing our style that I think sound good doing it: Drake, Nicki Minaj. And it ain’t just rapping fast; it’s the harmonies and all that stuff.

What made want to record your own version of Eminem’s “Rap God?”
I’m just a student of hip-hop. I think Eminem is a beast, one of the deadliest MCs you’d ever listen to. A few fans were telling me, “If anybody can rap on [‘Rap God’] and make it sound good, it’s you.” So I did it, let a few people hear it. I was just going to put it in the vault like I do a lot of stuff, but people that heard it were like, “You gotta put this out ASAP.” I’m glad I did.

How does it feel to see your home city welcome LeBron back?
When he just recently made the decision to come back, I was overly excited. It makes the perfect story. As quick as the fans hated him, they love him all over again. All he has to do is win one [championship] and trust me, fans will be happy. And his story will be classic. It will be legendary.

Were you one of the disgruntled fans burning his jersey four years ago?
When he left, I’m not going to lie, I was shocked, upset and disappointed all at once. But I wasn’t to the point where I was out there burning jerseys and all of that crazy stuff. Because after all, this is his life, nobody can live this man’s life for him. He’s making his choice based on his life and the future of his family. But of course I was upset because I’m a Cleveland fan. But I always felt like he would come back. And plus, there were a lot of things the Cleveland team and staff could’ve done to make sure he stayed. But like I said, I maintained being a fan. We hung out in Miami and I told him that wherever you go, bro, I’m representing you. Just like he told us, he was like, Man, I represent Bone all over the world. Everybody that made it out of Cleveland had to leave Cleveland or Ohio to make it. and then go back. We had to come all the way to Los Angeles to meet Eazy-E. So if you from there, you know it’s a city of strugglers and grinders. I totally understood that.

What’s your prediction for the Cavs this season?
They can definitely make a run. I’m not expecting no miracles first season back because we obviously have to put the right team together. But that the way we’re looking right now, there’s potential to definitely make it to at least the second round. I’ma leave it at that.

Are you excited to see the N.W.A. biopic?
Aw, man. I can’t wait to see it. If it’s put together right, it’s going to be amazing. I was a big Eazy and NWA fan, so I’m gonna be one of the biggest critics. I know the movie is going to bring back a lot of memories, when I see certain things I’m going to remember where I was and what I was doing.

Fans of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony are some of the most rabid and supportive. Why do you think you guys have that kind of connection with your fans?
Our fans, it’s like a cult following. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, we went from a great group to a supergroup to a brand to now a culture. It’s because we connected emotionally with our fans. When we came out, we portrayed the struggle. The only way to make it through that struggle was through sticking with your family. Bone was always very family-oriented and the fans connect with that. That’s why when our fans hear that one of us is not in the group or won’t be at the show, they get very upset and start to worry, like is this person out of the group now? They love us as a whole. Fans like to feel like they’re part of what you do. So you have to show them some type of attention, acknowledge them. We never act funny toward our fans, never turn them down for a picture or autograph. We don’t act like we’re untouchable to, because we want to make them feel like they've been a part of what we’ve been doing for the past 20 years.

And you’ll be able to touch them all over the world with the tour next year.
Yeah, we have a world tour coming up in 2015. It’s called E. 1999/Legends Tour. We got like 20 different countries on the table, we’re going to end it in America. And we’re also working on an album titled the same, E. 1999/Legends. 20th year anniversary of Bone Thugs N Harmony’s music. We’re doing a lot. We’re making this push for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just to make sure we solidify the Bone Thugs N Harmony legacy.

See also: Full Clip: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Break Down Their Entire Catalogue

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Photo by Matt Kent/WireImage

'The Last Train To Paris' Turns 10: Revisit Diddy's Aug./Sept. 2010 VIBE Cover Story

YOU EVER WATCH a control freak mellow out? It’s fascinating. When said micromanager is Sean “Puffy” Combs, it’s an enlightening ordeal altogether. Sitting at trendy Asian eatery Philippe Chow in New York City, two days before LeBron James announces that he’s taking his show to South Beach, Combs has talking points: impact and legacy. “This ain’t a regular run,” says Combs of his two-decade laundry list of accomplishments. “I’m saying that in the most humble way possible. I’m me and I’m seeing it. Most times the impact of what you do you don’t even live to see it.”

He’s the only patron seated for the evening, lounging at a table that comfortably seats eight. This is clearly a Sean John zone. His voice remains even, but the arrogance skyrockets. “It trickles over into sports. It goes into the way the free agent negotiations are going. [Athletes] have that belief. But that level of confidence as Black businessmen wasn’t really there. Unforgivable swagger. That shit wasn’t there.”

Translation: Sean believes that his ambition has been infectious. In his “humble” opinion, his drive has taught the have-nots that not only can they have, but they can be gluttonous and acquire wealth rather than riches. Will it ruin his day if people don’t agree? Not really. But he’d still like the legacy to be accurately documented. His reactionary reflexes have given way to him thinking long term, which could be why he’s unfazed by trivial shots like 50 Cent’s claims of having nude pictures of his artist Cassie. He’s more interested in guiding careers—Rick Ross, Red Cafe and Dirty Money, among them. And really, he’d like to do square biz and have your kids’ kids respect him like his contemporaries admire Warren Buffet. That would truly be money in the bank. In the meantime, he wants to mellow with a plate of chicken satay and talk Diddy legacy.

VIBE: You have said that rap’s heavyweight class consisted of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Drake. Do you still believe that?

Diddy: Definitely. I feel like Drake is somebody that entered professionally in the heavyweight division. He didn’t come in as a middleweight, he didn’t come in as a light heavyweight, he came in as a heavyweight. He’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with for a while. He is the definition of a new age musical rapper . . . going forward a lot of rap artists are going to have [singing and rapping] in their repertoire.

What’s the ranking in that heavyweight division?

Jay, Kanye, Wayne, and Drake.

Jay still No. 1?

Hands down as far as worldwide impact and due to this last album [The Blueprint 3]. He’s moved up in the rankings.

People don’t realize that you two are friends and not just industry acquaintances.

Over the years as we’ve grown, Jay and I have needed each other. We’ve needed to be able to pick up the phone and call somebody that can understand what each other was going through. We needed each other to motivate each other; we needed each other to push each other. We needed each other to support each other and also to challenge each other. He’s definitely been a great friend to me. There’s never been anything that I’ve asked him to do or he’s asked me to do that we really haven’t done for each other.

Give an example of when you had to pick up the phone and call Jay for assistance.

I wanted to do something game-changing with Sean John. And I just picked his brain. I did [a fashion line] before him but I think that business-wise he did a lot of things better than me. He picked the right time to get out and get his check, to sell his company. We sat on the phone and talked about itŃput our egos in our pockets. I didn’t see Sean John versus Roc-A-Wear. I just saw that my man over here is doing it [and I had] a couple of offers for Sean John. It was a beautiful conversation, ‘cause we’re sitting down at this restaurant and we’re talking about apparel. We’re not talking about music. It was a beautiful moment. Two quarter-of-a-billion dollar companies—just getting advice from your competitor. It was something that you heard rich White boys do.

Dr. Dre said that the last beat that floored him was “All About the Benjamins.” How does that make you feel?

It’s humbling. I was in the studio with Dre the other day. He started working on a record for me. Watching him as a producer is watching greatness. We had a lot of similar traits. It was like looking in the mirror. He would ask questions like, “How you feel about this?” People don’t really understand true producers want to know how you feel about things. We are some of the most observant people on the planet.

You’re a lot more into the music now than the last time we spoke.

I was waiting to get a lot of inspiration from the outside and it just wasn’t coming. And I’m not knocking anyone’s hustle that’s out there. I just come from musical history that musically people gave more of themselves . . . I was able to go back and listen to all the great records that I made. I ain’t do it on purpose. Like sometimes I’d be in a club and the DJ was just throwing tributes and would go deep in the crates. I would be like, “Damn, I forgot that I made that one.” It just gave me a deep connection and another level of confidence for me to do me.

Are you feeling more comfortable writing on your own?

Yeah. I learned a lot more. I feel a lot more confident and free. On this album, I wrote like maybe two or three records by myself. But I still like writing with somebody. It helps me. Not using it as a crutch, but I get better results from co-writing; having my own feelings and thoughts, and, you know, getting some help with it. I love the feeling of collaboration, community in the studio. I don’t like being the mad scientist and being in the room by myself.

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Desus & Mero Bless A Bronx Bodega With A Year's Worth of Rent

You know them as the hosts of the hit Showtime series Desus & Mero, aka "the greatest show in late-night history, featuring only illustrious guests." These days you might catch them chatting with President Obama, but  Bronx natives Desus Nice and The Kid Mero have never lost touch with their roots as the Bodega Boys.

"On our first podcast me and Mero used to have to ride the train back afterward," recalls Desus. "And basically our conversation on the train sounded exactly like the podcast. And somebody was like, 'Yo, they sound like two guys you hear in the bodega.' Which was true, because when you hear guys in the bodega, they talk very passionately about things. They may not have all the facts, but they're talking with their hearts."

"Their confidence is strong!" adds Mero with a laugh.

"That's just us," says Desus. "We're raised in bodegas. Probably 90 percent of the food we grew up eating was either our mother's cooking or chopped cheese sandwiches."

"Facts," Mero confirms.

Ever since the pandemic hit, New York City's community bodegas have served as a lifeline by providing New Yorkers with daily necessities, especially in neighborhoods where door-to-door gourmet food delivery is not an option. But staying open hasn't been easy—the daily risks of doing business under threat from a deadly virus—not to mention a spike in robberies and violence—has made running a bodega very challenging, to say the least. But day in day out, in good times and bad, they find a way to keep their doors open.

"If your block is the solar system, the bodega is the sun," says Mero. "The hood orbits the bodega."

So when the makers of Pepsi cola decided to give back on the bodega owners who provide life-giving sustenance and ice-cold soda to NYC's five boroughs, they reached out to the Bodega Boys as their official goodwill ambassadors. Today Desus & Mero appear in a short film called The Bodega Giveback, which highlights the way one Bronx bodega overcame extreme hardship—and the way Pepsi is helping them keep going after 2020 comes to an end.

For Juan Valerio and his son Jefferson, the proprietors of JJN Corp Deli & Grocery in the Bronx, 2020 has been a horrible year. Juan still remembers when he came to America with his father in 1990. "To buy a bodega at that time was well over $100,000," Juan recalls in the short film, which you can watch above. "It was a dream that seemed unreachable. I never thought I would achieve it. And now this is what I do. My whole life is here."

Then in April 2020, tragedy struck when Juan's father lost his life to COVID 19. For the first time in three decades, the bodega had to close its doors down briefly. "It’s something very powerful to lose what you love the most in a split second," Juan recalls with emotion as his son comforts him with a hug. "Life goes on. And I decided to come back because he always taught me to work. To stay closed was disrespectful to him."

"He had to shut down for a little bit," says Desus. "But then he reopened cause the community needed him. Cause the lockdown a lot of stores closed down. And in the Bronx, you can't really get stuff delivered. And he's the hub. We heard stories of what he did, so we were like, how can we give back to him? Shout out to Pepsi with the Bodega Giveback. And just giving him a year's rent—that's the most amazing thing you can give a bodega owner. Shout out to Juan and his son. The look on their face when they really get it—you see the appreciation."

"It really hit home," said Mero. "Cause it's like, we're children of immigrants. So that could have been us—if we didn't get seen by the right people and put in the right positions, we coulda been workin' alongside our dad at a bodega. And then watchin' your grandfather pass away and then comin' back because you know how important you are to the community. Like, that's really selfless. It's just a dope story. And those stories occur all over the place, it's just people don't see them. Cause they don't get exposed on a national level. But a brand like Pepsi can put that on a national stage and be like,  "Yo, look—this is a mom and pop establishment for real. And these are the small businesses that you supposed to be supporting."

The release of The Bodega Giveback kicks off a larger holiday giveback from Pepsi this season that includes cash gifts to bodega owners and consumers across NYC's five boroughs.  “Pepsi has so many longstanding bodega partners in New York City,” said Umi Patel, CMO of North Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America. “They are not only pillars of the community, but they have gone above and beyond to take care of their loyal customers during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have worked around the clock to stay open, filling shelves to ensure their customers, friends, and family have the essentials they need to stay home and stay safe. They have even shifted their businesses to meet the needs of the community, offering new delivery options, adding crucial items like masks and gloves, and more, all while dealing with their own personal challenges of the pandemic. We are proud to do our part in giving back to these unsung heroes.”

From now until December 20, Pepsi will also be surprising customers at local bodegas across the five boroughs by gifting pre-paid credit cards of up to $100.00 per customer.

As Juan says in the film, "one hand washes the other, and with both, we wash our face."

Check out our full convo with Desus & Mero above and the short film, The Bodega Giveback.

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Courtesy of Level.com

Level Announces Their 'Best Man 2020 Awards' Featuring Entertainment Elite to Everyday Kings

It is a hard feat for media brands to survive the content landscape these days. To pull off the incredible undertaking of informing an audience as a new publication in the digital space is damn near impossible, yet the team at Medium's Level has done just that. To celebrate making their mark as a one-stop information shop for black men with their one-year anniversary this week, the team of bright and witty editors has launched their first annual Best Man Awards 2020.

The plan to honor the brand that started in December of 2019, focused on the interests of African-American males, has expanded into encompassing the efforts of a few good men during this mess of a year that is 2020. In doing so, those that broke through barriers of personal pain, new business frontiers, and support of others are highlighted and given the rightful pedestals to gain well-deserved props.

Of the 12 awards, esteemed gents like Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and D-Nice are saluted as Quarantine Kings for their Verzuz and Club Quarantine (respectively) social media music creations that entertained the masses during the dogged days of our universal shut-down. There is also a heroic soul of a man who protected a black woman and her family from the surrounding presence of racist neighbors on his own time and dime. They have an award for Father of the Year, where former NBA all-star and champion, Dwyane Wade shines as a glowing example of understanding and ushering in new ways of parenting in today's society.

With the awards being a noble move towards giving Black men some much-needed praise in 2020, Level made sure to round up the last 365 days with themes on "The State of Black and Brown Men" as well. Essays that cover the realms of political ideology, coping with covid among Blacks health care workers,  how Black men fell short of protecting Black women, and exploring what Black men see when they look in the mirror (a piece that is a user-generated content driver/audience-led convo). All hard topics that need to be detailed, yet are rarely in a space for deep-dive convo.

Helmed by former VIBE editor-in-chief, Jermaine Hall, Level's editors explain their thoughts on the special coverage and celebration of their one year old brand:

“With the Best Man Awards, we wanted to lean into people who are doing incredible things to support society and publicly thank them. Anthony Herron, Jr is a hero. He stepped up to protect someone he didn’t know because, as he saw it, harassment is unacceptable. LEVEL wanted to make sure he received a nod for his heroics. But there are also several celebrities who are doing things outside of their jobs. D-Nice, Swizz, and Timbaland helped us cope through music. And it wasn’t a paid gig for any of them. They responded because people needed help healing so they provided care. That’s a strong attribute of the LEVEL man. It’s certainly is the definition of men being their best selves."

Click here to read about these individuals and learn more about the Best Man Awards 2020. Excelsior to Level.

 

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