Dozens of people accepted an invitation to be initiated into the “Bone Thug Club” by dancing on the stage of Crossroads KC at the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony concert on Friday. Based on the uninspired performance of the rap group, judicious members of the capacity audience of 3,000 elected to decline the offer.
Emerging from Cleveland in the 1990s, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony elevated the city’s music scene in much the same way LeBron James made Cleveland the focal point of professional basketball a decade later. The ear-tickling musicality of the quintet’s flows and the striking combination of gangsta rap and R&B on the 1994 EP “Creepin On Ah Come Up” and the 1995 album “E. 1999 Eternal” became touchstones in popular music.
Nostalgia for the classic sound was soured by the glaring absence of the quintet’s most prominent member. Flesh-n-Bone, Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone and Wish Bone didn’t even acknowledge that Bizzy Bone wasn’t present during the desultory 75-minute outing. Without Bizzy’s distinctive mosquito-like rasp, renditions of the group’s biggest hits were like meals served without a primary ingredient.
Only a few of the affiliates of the incomplete version of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony who stood at the back of the stage throughout the show bothered to feign interest. Most seemed more interested in the action transpiring on their phones than in the music being performed directly in front of them. Similarly, fans who also opted to treat the performance as lively background music likely had a better time than more dedicated fans.
Acting as the primary emcee, Wish attempted to overcome the absence of the charismatic Bizzy and the lack of production effects by engaging the crowd with patter like “how many of you remember that government cheese (stuff)” in his introduction to “1st of tha Month,” a hit partly about government assistance.
Bizzy wasn’t the only notable missing person at the concert. In its prime, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony served as a nefarious Greek chorus on raps by 2pac, Eazy-E and the Notorious B.I.G. The recorded voice of each late star rang out with eerie authority. 2Pac’s “Thug Luv,” a song with gunfire for a hook, was particularly effective.
Another old-school California rapper proved he was very much alive. W.C., an illustrious collaborator with Ice Cube in Westside Connection, revived several gangsta rap classics. He closed his 35-minute set with “Gangsta Nation,” an assemblage that included 3,000 temporary citizens on Friday.