When Bone Thugs-N-Harmony came out of the St. Clair Superior neighborhood 20 years ago, the group gave hip-hop a new address, one far removed from the mean streets of LA and New York City. "We did the same thing for Cleveland that N.W.A. did for Compton. We totally came from left field, and it worked," says group member Krayzie Bone, who attended Lincoln West and Collinwood high schools. "Cleveland had a heavy influence on our music. It's what made us authentic." Next year, the Grammy Award-winning rappers are releasing one last album, E. 1999/Legends, by selling only one copy via an auction for at least $1 million. (By September, the album already received a $1 million bid.) Meanwhile, the five original members give props to their hometown with an Oct. 16 tour stop at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium featuring the group's first ever performance with an orchestral ensemble. Krayzie talks about giving back, LeBron James and Bone Thugs' legacy.
Q. You still have a home in downtown Cleveland. How important is it to be performing in your hometown?
A. It's a big night for us and a big night for Cleveland. It's very special with everything that's happening in the city now. I love what they are doing to downtown and the Flats. Cleveland is starting to stand in line with LA and New York, but it has its own niche and culture. Some of the proceeds [from the concert] are going to the Cleveland schools. We want to encourage kids to become dreamers.
Q. What's your relationship with LeBron?
A. I really got into basketball because of him. I talked with him at a party Chris Bosh had last summer, and LeBron said he represents Bone Thugs-N-Harmony all over the world. We're trying to get him for the concert.
Q. What made you decide to perform orchestral arrangements of your songs?
A. People have always told us we could do this with our music because it's so melodic. These songs sound even more eerie with an orchestra.
Q. Does E. 1999/Legends mean the end of the road for Bone Thugs?
A. It's time for us to solidify the legacy and pass the torch to other artists. We were some kids from Cleveland that changed the entire sound of music, not just hip-hop. If you stay out of the box, they can never put you in a box. I'm doing a solo album called
Chasing the Devil. I've been in this business for 20 years, and I've seen what people do for money, fame, power and women. At the end, it's like the devil is holding all these things on a string.