Flesh-n-Bone, aka Stanley Howse, couldn’t help but laugh when asked what he thinks of the sitcom “The Last O.G.” The new Tracy Morgan vehicle is about an ex-con who is released from jail after 15 years behind bars and discovers the world is a very different place.
“I love Tracy Morgan,” Howse said. “He’s hilarious.”
Howse can relate to “The Last OG.” At the height of his Cleveland hip-hop group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s powers, Howse was sentenced to prison in 1998 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and probation violation. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison but was released after a decade.
“What happened to me was very humbling,” Howse said by phone from Los Angeles. “At least I had something to return to.”
Shortly after becoming a free man, Howse contacted his pals in Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Within two years, Flesh-n-Bone — along with Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone and Wish Bone — recorded its comeback album, “Uni5: The World’s Enemy,” which dropped in 2010.
“I don’t know what I would have done without those guys,” Howse said. “Fortunately, I had something to focus on. I didn’t have any distractions. I just called the guys and good things happened.”
Bone Thugs, which will appear Saturday at McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids, was one of the most successful rap acts of the ’90s. “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “Tha Crossroads” were two massive hits that set up a career for the quintet.
“It was an exciting time for hip-hop,” Howse said. “So much was going on with Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. And we were part of that.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
It wasn’t just about commercial success. Bone Thugs crafted albums which were sonically adventurous. The act’s early work was compelling and uncompromising.
“We believed that we could do whatever wanted,” Howse said. “We never worried about what anybody else was doing. We didn’t worry about getting on the radio. We just focused on doing the best that we could do. We always knew that there is no one like us.”
The assessment is spot-on. Bone Thugs at its best combines quick raps with beautiful vocal harmonies. Big hooks, endless swagger and a yen for old school R&B help set the group apart from the rest.
“There are certain qualities that we possess,” Howse said. “You know us when you hear us.”
Expect Bone Thugs to offer a set list of hits and deep cuts. “We mix it up,” Howse said. “Of course we’ll give the fans the major stuff like ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Tha First of the Month.’ But we do our best to mix it up for us.”
A live band is backing Bone Thugs. “That adds a different dimension,” Howse said. “We can do so much more. I feel like Prince or Michael Jackson up there. With the guitars and a drummer, it just takes off.”
Howse believes that Bone Thugs has a long future ahead.
“We have so much more to accomplish,” Howse said. “I’m not saying I’m trying to make up for lost time. But we have so much creativity in us. I’m looking forward to creating more material. We’re feeling it right now. We’ll get to making new songs but we’re focusing on this show and trying to make it as theatrical as possible. We’ll have new stuff out before you know it.”
Part of what makes Bone Thugs relevant is that the group constantly listens to new material.
“The beats today are so dope,” Howse said. “That’s part of what inspires us. It’s a combination of that and the classic stuff. It’s a great time to do what we’re doing. This is a golden era for us.”
WHAT: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony with Naughty By Nature and Coolio
WHERE: McGrath Amphitheatre, 475 First St. SW, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday (7/7)
TICKETS: $35 to $65; U.S. Cellular Box Office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or Mcgrathamphitheatre.com/events/
EXTRAS: Bring lawn chairs for general admission; chairs provided in other sections