The Midwestern states in the U.S. may be known as the heartland of America, but in comparison to other regions, they don't nearly produce as much viable rap talent. But a rugged quintet from the poverty-stricken streets of Cleveland by the name of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony helped put the city on the map and opened up rap fans' eyes to the musical treasures of the Midwest that had yet to be uncovered.

Comprised of members Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Bizzy Bone and Flesh-n-Bone, the tight-knit group originally recorded under the name The Band-Aid Boys, dropping an indie album, Faces of Death, in 1993, before hitting the road in search of a record deal. They went to Los Angeles in search of Eazy-E and the group's persistence paid off in the form of an opportunity to rap for the mogul. That moment lead to the diminutive mogul to sign the group to his Ruthless Records roster. The Band-Aid Boys were no more. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony had been born.

The world's first glimpse of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was their 1994 EP, Creepin' on ah Come Up, which was powered by the introductory lead single, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone." A Top 5 hit on the rap charts, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" captivated listeners and helped solidify Bone Thugs as one of the more promising new acts in all of hip-hop. The rap pack was proving they had much more in store in the future. But tragedy struck in 1995, when their mentor, Eazy-E, died of Aids, putting the group on shaky ground during what was a pivotal moment in their career.

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's sophomore album, E. 1999 Eternal, was released on July 25, 1995, to great fanfare and acclaim. Their EP may have been a winner in its own right, but this LP turned out to be a monster. Peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the album took the boys from Ohio to the top of the game. Th following year the project was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.

The LP has sold over five million copies in the U.S. and ten million worldwide, making it one of the more respected efforts to come from the '90s. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of E. 1999 Eternal, we rounded up a few music critics to give their take on this classic album.

  • 1

    Brandon Caldwell

    Editor-In-Chief of Day and a Dream

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album

    "The first time I remember hearing about E. 1999 Eternal was the year after it was released in '95. I went to an aunt's house and I remember watching music videos on some channel. The only three videos playing at the time were Michael Jackson's 'You Are Not Alone' and both of Bone Thugs' '1st of tha Month' and 'Tha Crossroads.' You literally couldn't escape it back in 1996. So I eventually doubled back and heard the album in full via a friend."

    Favorite Songs on the Album

    "You can't go wrong with a lot of E. 1999. Weed smokers have their choice with 'Budsmokers Only' and 'Buddah Lovaz' (+1 to the Isley Brothers' 'Choosey Lover' sample) but I still stick with "Crossroad." Still remains one of the best 'miss my homies' records in existence."

    Favorite Beats on the Album

    "Beats wise, a lot of the samples U-Neek managed to nab and twist into Bone Thugs ethos worked. Anytime you get a group built with west coast aesthetics and a Midwest upbringing, the forces usually result in good things. I can't say I have a favorite beat, the shit just rides."

    What Makes This Album a Classic?

    "Is it a classic? Not necessarily. Though it's mentioned as one of the best albums of a year to some people and sold a ton, Bone Thugs rode a formula to become a formidable group. Some may call E. 1999 bloated, it's best songs about weed and common living but it's a good album that won't be placed among essential listening. A group that made great singles yet good albums is the easiest way to describe BTNH."

    Twitter
  • 2

    Beware

    Writer for The Smoking Section

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album

    "One of my best friends used to drive a Saturn Ion, which was the worst, because he had all sorts of gimmicky add-ons, like chrome petals and fake wood-grain steering wheels. He would play E. 1999 on repeat, specifically 'Mo' Murda' and 'Shotz to Tha Double Glock.' He wanted to be so hard, so he felt like those songs were his theme music, even though he couldn't relate at all. That's how influential and aggressive the album was."

    Favorite Songs on the Album

    "'Buddah Lovaz.' Reefer really makes me happy, what else can I say?"

    Favorite Beats on the Album

    "Hard to say which is a favorite, because they're all so nice. DJ U-Neek really laced this album, using his deep minor keys to drive home their murderous styles and complimenting their fast flows with drum patterns that seem ahead of their time in hindsight. My favorite might be 'Land of tha Heartless' though. The production stalks the listener, which is super appropriate for their brutal content."

    What Makes This Album a Classic?

    "E. 1999 is a classic, because it has all the elements of a cohesive masterpiece and set numerous trends. Bone put weed-only songs on the map with 'Buddah Lovaz' and 'Budsmokers Only.' They took the rapid-fire Midwest style mainstream on 'Crossroad' remix, which also made singing in rap popular. The project has plenty of layers, ranging of vicious lyrical murder to extra relaxed, yet the vibes manage to keep pace throughout the project."

    Twitter
  • 3

    Aaron Busby

    Writer for The Rap Fest

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album

    "Listened to the album a few years ago. Back in '04, I believe when I was knee-deep into lyrics and s---. After reading up their lyrics on OHHLA, I instantly fell in love with the album."

    Favorite Songs on the Album

    "Can't go wrong with the '1st of tha Month.' The perfect song to listen to that starts you off fresh for the rest of the month."

    Favorite Beats on the Album

    "'Crossroad.' The beat is haunting but very relaxing in a weird way. For some reason that beat lets me lean back and reflect."

    What Makes This Album a Classic?

    "This album is a classic just off the fact that it showcases that a group can be lyrical and drop dope timeless music if needed too."

    Twitter