Strength and Loyalty

Cleveland’s most thuggish are back with the first Bone Thugs-N-Harmony major studio album in five years. Krazie Bone, Lazie Bone and Wish Bone put forth a solid effort on ‘Strength and Loyalty,’ which is without Bizzy Bone, who was released ‘contractually’ from the group after their album ‘BTNHResurrection,’ and Flesh-N-Bone. Bizzy Bone is currently serving time for violating parole in 2000 but will be free in 2008.
While not all of the original members are on the album, they are definitely not forgotten. In the song ‘So Good, So Right,’ Lazie Bone raps about missing member Bizzy, squashing any rumor that there might be bad blood between them: ‘Supposed to be a new beginning but I’m screaming ‘Where is he?’ cuz I miss him.’
To make up for missing members, the album is filled with guest appearances from Mariah Carey, Bow Wow, The Game and Twista, among others. Akon not only appears on the first song of the album and hit single, ‘I Tried,’ but also produced it.
Akon also appears on another hard-hitting cut on the album called ‘Never Forget Me,’ on which Bone Thugs-N-Harmony show off their well-known original sound. This track is one of the most memorable on the album.
‘Strength and Loyalty’ is a little something for their mainstream audience. The second single, produced by Jermaine Dupri, features Mariah Carey and Bow Wow. The song ‘Lil Love’ is catchy but too soft for true Bone Thugs fans. They even cover Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ for their track ‘Wind Blow.’ Surprisingly good is a gospel song called ‘Order My Steps (Dear Lord),’ which starts with a verse from the Bible (Jeremiah 10: 23-24). On the track, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony get help from gospel legend Yolanda Adams, whose powerful performance on the song makes it what it is. The song is more gospel than hip-hop, but they make it work.
Ironically, after the gospel tune comes ‘Streets,’ in which the group schools newcomers on the rap game: ‘Hate to be a critic but yo’ shit I ain’t feelin’ no.’ Their confidence high, they show other rappers that they have history and are lyrically on their own, superior level. The song features creative content from The Game and producer will.i.am.
Bone Thugs have endured since 1989 because they have stayed true to their style. Their smooth vocal harmonies and fast-paced flow have kept them apart from imitators throughout the years. It is also their group mentality which has kept them in the game, as expressed in ‘So Good, So Right’: ‘Ain’t no ‘I’ in our team. That’s why we’re doing our thing.’
This album follows the more recent, mature sound of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony rather than the group’s original ‘thug’ roots. From the lyrical content of the members themselves to the production of executive producer Swizz Beatz, will.i.am and Akon, to name a few, this album will win over most audiences.
Rating: 3/5