Bone Thugs @ The Middle East
Seeing Bone Thugs in a basement-like venue is both intimate and weirdly anachronistic. It’s cozy because it’s 1000 degrees, the epitome of a sweatbox. Getting a drink spilled on you is inevitable. Then comes the anachronism. Just looking at Bizzy Bone’s style—hoodie with jewels printed all over it, ill-fitting backwards snapback, long cornrows, etc—teleported me back to middle school.
Suddenly, I felt like I was listening to “1st of tha Month” for the first time in my basement, back in the 8th grade. It truly is 1999 Eternal with these guys.
Before the crew from Cleveland took the stage, Michael Christmas gave the show some local flavor. After a snag with the guest list, I made it in to catch his awkward anthem “Michael Cera” and a dope freestyle. He spit some a cappella bars, referencing Brian Scalabrini amongst other things. Christmas has a kooky charisma that’s as infectious as it is offbeat.
Bone Thugs emerged just past 11:30. “It’s hotter than a motherfucker,” said Wish Bone. At that point, the heat had somehow become hotter, but some dudes (and dudettes) inexplicably continued to wear beanies.
Early highlights included “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “1st of tha Month,” which made the crowd go bonkers. Then, the show became a crash course in the Golden Era of hip-hop’s history. Since Bone Thugs is the only group to work with 2pac, Biggie, Eazy-E and Big-Pun, they did a little survey on the classics.
First up was Eazy-E, their mentor. They ripped the first verse of “Boyz In the Hood,” before launching into “Foe tha Love of $.” It was a proper tribute to the man who discovered them and put them on.
Next up was the late Biggie Smalls. After whetting everyone’s whistle with a snippet of “Hypnotize,” they killed “Notorious Thugs.” Bizzy Bone put his machine-gun delivery on full display, spitting the verse of the night: “7 A.M, woke in the morning/with Hen’ and caffeine and green and nicotine.”
They ended their tribute to the great triumvirate with “Thug Love,” their collab with Pac. While it’s my least favorite of the three, it’s still important for historical context.
The show was solid, but the most enduring memory of the night is this one big, burly dreaded-out dude who literally spit every verse, word-for-word. Considering how indecipherable the lyrics can be, this was a feat. The best part: he battled anyone who wanted to test his Bone Thugs knowledge.
He went undefeated.