On this day, July 29, in hip-hop history…
1997: The Art Of War, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s third studio release, was in many ways a declaration of hostilities the title’s name implies. After the overwhelming success of their first two albums, BTNH felt besieged by artists who were copycatting their signature style of fast-paced, tongue twisting raps and decided to strike back against these “clones.” The Art Of War was an opening salvo calling out artists like Crucial Conflict, Twista, Do or Die and Three 6 Mafia for allegedly aping Bone’s style. On “Ready For War,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony even directly call out by name, Majesty of Crucial Conflict, a rapper who actually appears on the album, indicating how serious they were about many of these artists riding their style to commercial success.
The album was also the first indication of growing unrest in the Mo Thugs family, too. In the wake of Eazy E’s death, Tomica Wright, the late rapper’s wife, had ascended to throne of Ruthless Records and the group’s breakout star, Bizzy Bone, had started to buck against the general direction the label was going in under her leadership. Several tracks were altered to reflect those changes and Bizzy started to take offense. He started to miss shows and refused to cooperate with promotion for the album. When it was time to shoot the video for the album’s lead single, “Look Into My Eyes,” Bizzy, along with Flesh-N-Bone, were noticeably absent.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the group, The Art Of War was a commercial success selling 394,000 units in the first week for the double LP. Many of the album’s songs are considered some of the finest in BTNH’s canon including lead single, “Look Into My Eyes,” “U Ain’t Bone,” “Ready For War” and “If I Could Teach The World.” It also includes an original collaboration with 2Pac on “Thug Luv” making Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, one of the few artists to make records with both Biggie and Tupac while they were both alive. The album is considered a classic and would eventually be certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA making it one of the highest selling albums in hip-hop history.