Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
I used to rock with Bone Thugs N Harmony. I generally enjoyed bopping and inventing words to a handful of Bone Thugs songs and even copped the “Look Into My Eyes” maxi single. In fact, I learned Biggie’s verse on “Notorious Thugs” in the seventh grade to impress a girl, and well, you see how far that got me. Here are my thoughts after watching their “Tha Crossroads” video for the first time as an adult.
I. When The Swoop Bang Trio opened the video with that soul-accosting rendition of “Mary Don’t You Weep,” all that repressed fear came rushing back. Their eerie vocal swirls shook me the fuck up then, and it shook me the fuck up just now.
II. As a kid, because of the low-angle and overhead shots, I thought each of the Bones was all like eight feet tall. I figured that was part of the overall “Die Nigga Die” aesthetic. I thought the clip was unnecessarily gloomy and I let a friend convince me that smiling during the video would cause me to spontaneously combust. I haven’t watched it in easily 15 years. This shit is still pretty creepy, though. It still gives me just as many heebie-jeebies as that bedroom scene in Why Did I Get Married? with Tyler and fine ass Sharon Leal. (Dry heave.) The emotional experience involved in the watching of the video is akin to the despair experienced upon encountering a baggy magnum on an otherwise promising dude who just refuses to live in reality. Oh, the horror.
III. I still only understand about 47% of this shit. I reckon that is because I have since studied Spanish plus a smidge of Portuguese and have since been exposed to various accents and unique brands of gibberish. Since this video’s premier, I have lived through five Janet albums and a decade of It’s Ya Boy Lil Jon’s banshee screams. And sticking with Janet through The Jermaine Years has trained me in the art of deciphering the meaning of the most muddled bullshit. But not even mastering Janet’s most advanced Jacksonese could prepare me for the Bones and their rapid-fire pish posh. Looking back, I gather that we all did a lot of posing, emphasizing that one line in Wavy Hair Spice’s verse that we knew.
IV. It could be argued that Creepy McCreeperson, the baldheaded angel of death from this video, was the visual inspiration for Morpheus from The Matrix. And mid-90s R. Kelly was obviously the motivation for the baldheaded angel of death’s dark and stormy steelo. So far, I’m unable to decide who, between the man who killed that couple’s baby in the video and the Pied Pisser who wore this, is the bigger creep.
V. Now, as a likkle yute dem, #TeamNaturalHair Bone’s exclamation, “And I’m gonna miss everybody,” was a celebration. You see, in this popular yet largely unintelligible rappity rap sing-song, those were among of the few lyrics beyond the chorus that my friends and I could agree on. So, I used to rap the entire fuck out of that line, with the most earnest sheltered Black chile’s earnestness, rap hands just a-pointin’ and gesticulatin’, every blessed time. In my head, anyway. #Shy
Listening to that line just now, I asked myself:
Self, is Light-Skin Spice rapping as the spirit of My Uncle Charles, Y’all?
Or, is he going to miss everyone around him, because he is assuming (or knows) they will all die before him, because thug life? Either way, that is damn morbid.
VI. My Uncle Charles, Y’all. I still cannot. When Morpheus walked up those steps and put the two-finger sleeper pon My Uncle Charles, Y’all’s forehead, I would look away, cover my eyes, change the channel, or press fast-forward on the VCR, every time. I am still unsure if it was from tremendous sympathy for this young uncle-less man or from the sight of My Uncle Charles, Y’all’s eyes fading to black. Or perhaps a little hyper-emotional pre-teen queer combination of both.
VII. They all had dope hair. They let you know that living that hard knock life does not mean you can’t prosper via a loving hair care regimen. You can luxuriate with that hot oil treatment while drinking your juice in the hood. These brothers wore twist-outs, French braids, lazy Sunday buns with the deep wave all up and through this video. It’s really a shame the Bones never got their props as Natural hair pioneers, breaking gendered stereotypes, one teased coil and fortified edge at a time.