Behind The Mic: The story of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony classic ‘Tha Crossroads’
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Behind The Mic: The story of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony classic 'Tha Crossroads'

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was one of the most exciting and unique collectives of the 1990s. Formed in the early ’90s in Cleveland, the hip-hop group were one of the only ensembles located in the Midwest. Initially operating under the moniker B.O.N.E. Enterprise, after acquiring a local buzz, the group looked to secure a major-label record deal.

In 1993, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony signed with Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records. Following this, the group, comprised of Bizzy Bone, Flesh-n-Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, and Layzie Bone, began working on their debut EP, Creepin On Ah Come Up. The project’s lead single was an instant hit. Produced by DJ U-Neek, ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone’ was a catchy and beautifully made G-funk track that peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Following their newfound commercial success, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony relocated to Los Angeles to begin producing their sophomore body of work. Based out of Trax Studios, in 1994, the five-piece outfit began recording a wealth of classic material. After a year of solely writing and crafting their project in July 1995, the collective released their second studio album, E. 1999 Eternal. As soon as it was available for purchase, the project flew up to number one on the Billboard 200 and became a Grammy-nominated project. E. 1999 Eternal was epic. However, one of their singles was outstanding and that’s ‘Tha Crossroads.’

Upon its arrival, ‘Tha Crossroads’ was an instant sensation. Recorded at Trax Studios in LA, the chart-topper was made to honour a deceased friend of the group named Wally Laird III, who was murdered in Cleveland while the collective was in LA. However, when their mentor and associate Eazy-E passed away in 1995, the crew decided to re-record the track as a tribute to him and later released it as a remix. The ode to their Cleveland peer was entitled ‘Crossroad.’ However, the remix produced by DJ U-Neek was named ‘Tha Crossroads.’ Unlike the majority of E. 1999 Eternal, ‘Tha Crossroads’ didn’t have any G-funk elements and was sonically darker and a bit more sombre in tone. Although ‘Tha Crossroads’ was arranged differently than the rest of the album, the project was still cohesive. If anything, the single offset the album perfectly. For this hit, U-Neek (real name Tim Middleton) used the easy-listening, downtempo 1975 Isley Brothers track ‘Make Me Say It Again Girl.’

The album cut sounds like a eulogy to Eazy-E (real name Eric Wright). However, as the collective was grieving, two individuals, ‘Tha Crossroads’, came to represent the unifying reality that mortality is an inevitable fate for ourselves and those we love. The single was meant to be a reality check and a prompt to live in the moment. The track’s lyrics hear each member reflect on their good times with those who had passed. While Bizzy Bone recalls, “I done rolled with blows like AIDS/ Looked at him while he laid and prayed.” Krayzie, too addresses the reality of imminent death by rapping, “Exactly how many days we got lastin’?/ While you laughin’, we’re passin’, passin’ away/ God rest our souls.”

In a 2019 appearance on the ‘KDAY Morning Show’ with Romeo, Krayzie Bone reflected on the day the collective received the news of Wright’s death recounting, “It’s so crazy how everything went down. We were called to the office one day, but we hadn’t seen E in about a month, and it was strange for us because he would contact us every day. We got a call from the office and we didn’t know what was going on because they were giving us our first checks. We didn’t know why Eazy wasn’t giving us our first checks, but we got our money. We got our money and we moved back to Cleveland. MTV News comes on and it says Eazy-E had just passed away from AIDS. We didn’t know anything.”

Although the song itself is sombre and a tad bleak, to say the least, it is legendary nonetheless and will forever go down as a hip-hop classic. ‘Tha Crossroads’ debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified double-platinum by the RIAA. You can listen to the epic track in the video below.