“We were staying at the [Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the] Arcade when they won,” says Newfang. “We ran out in the street with our cameras and were able to capture the feeling of that evening. I’ve lived in LA for a long time, but I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Earlier that day, Newfang, his crew and Bone members Krazyie Bone and Bizzy Bone had filmed scenes in the East Cleveland neighborhood that spawned one of rap’s most unique sounds over two decades ago.
“Seeing where those guys grew up was shocking,” says the director and co-producer of Sons of St. Clair, which screens April 7 and 8 at the Cleveland International Film Festival. “It really rattles your cage a little bit.”
The film follows Krayzie and Bizzy as the duo records the 2017 album New Waves while also chronicling the city’s influence on them as men and artists. Newfang spoke with us about Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s unique sound, its new music and the group’s unbreakable bond with its hometown.
Q: What was your inspiration for this documentary?
A: I grew up in Texas, and I definitely enjoyed ‘90s hip-hop. I listened to a lot of the Southern guys, then the West Coast guys like NWA, Dre and Snoop and then the East Coast guys. I’ll never forget the first time I heard Bone. My buddy had No Surrender, and I was mesmerized by how different it sounded from everything else. It was its own original sound.
Q: What set Bone Thugs-N-Harmony apart from other rap artists?
A: A lot of their influences came from people outside the hip-hop world. Krayzie loved Michael Jackson and Prince. But back then you were either a rapper or a singer — you had to choose which side of the fence you were on. In a lot of ways, Krayzie made it acceptable to be a singer and a rapper. It wasn’t like they were cramming (the music) down your throat. They were painting a picture of what they were experiencing in their neighborhood. It was a kind of poetry.
Q: What was it like to document the recording of “New Waves?”
A: I was so impressed by their talent and skill. A lot of artists at the top of their game make incredible music and then sort of fade away. One thing about Bone that blew me away was seeing that they had not lost a step. They have a lot left in the tank. I don’t know if there are any rappers alive who are able to best them.
Q: How important was it to show Bone’s connection to the city?
A: A huge element of this was me wanting to show Cleveland as a character in the movie. I knew from listening to their music how important Cleveland was to Bone, whether it was their lyrics or their clothes. When they were younger, there was some dark stuff going on in their neighborhood. Bone has lived and learned. They are not those guys on the corner any more. I think they’re open to trying to make a difference in the city.
Sons of St. Clair is being shown Saturday, April 7 at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday, April 8 at 4:20 p.m. during the Cleveland International Film Festival.
film & tv
9:00 AM EST
April 5, 2018