Layzie Bone on New Mixtape, Legacy, and Expungement

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony co-founder Layzie Bone discusses his new mixtape Smoke With Me Vol. 1.
Courtesy of Layzie Bone

Just in time for the holiday, Layzie Bone—a living legend as a founding member of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony—is dropping Smoke With Me Vol. 1 on April 20, a new mixtape composed entirely of weed-themed tracks, which is free to download. Smoke With Me is one of the highly anticipated projects Layzie will be producing this year, released under his private label Harmony Howse Entertainment

Layzie, born Steven Howse and also called L-Burna, recalls the early days when gangsta rap went fully mainstream: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s debut full-length album E. 1999 Eternal topped the Billboard Hot 100, going beyond the hip-hop and R&B charts. They topped the charts several more times in the following years. Perhaps more impressive than their often-duplicated rat-a-tat rapping style was their vocal range, creating a natural harmony.

How did this all start? About 30 years ago, N.W.A. had outgrown itself, and group members had moved on to discovering new talent instead. Eazy-E gave his last final parting gift to the world before dying of AIDS: the discovery of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Who could forget the heavy rotation “Tha Crossroads” video received, their way of mourning Eazy-E. MTV called them “the most melodic hip-hop group of all time.” Layzie’s older brother Flesh-n-Bone and cousin Wish Bone, a baritone, joined as well. Most of us know the rest of the story.

Now Layzie is the mentor, blazing the way for younger artists who are following on the same path. As a lifetime smoker and familiar with history, he reminds us that “America was built on marijuana.” He’s also trying to expunge his own record. In 1999, for instance, U.S. Marshals arrested Layzie in his home on warrants for federal cannabis-related charges.

“I got something called Birthday Cake right here, man,” Layzie says as he hits a vape pen and exhales a large cloud that fills the room during our interview. “My homeboy’s brand called Jumbo Joose, you know? I usually vape it up early in the day.”

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were as closely associated with weed for a reason: They churned out many cannabis anthems like “Buddha Lovas,” “Weed Song,” “Budsmokers Only,” “Blaze It,” “Weedman,” etc. With multiple eras of weed songs, where does one even start?

Now there are more songs to add to the group’s already-large weed song repertoire. Layzie, along with Wish Bone, Krayzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, and Flesh-n-Bone, performed at the 2018 Amsterdam Cannabis Cup. Layzie begins by saying he “always got time for High Times.”

High Times: As you know 420 is coming up and word on the street is that you’re dropping a new mixtape Smoke With Me Vol. 1? Can you tell me a couple of the highlights that we can expect on this upcoming mixtape?

Layzie Bone: I mean, well, you know, it’s heavily featured with my brothers, you know what I’m saying? We got so many weed songs already out but more that the world haven’t heard yet. So I’m really excited about a few songs that I got with my bomb brothers that didn’t make projects in the past that we revised. So I’m happy, I’m happy to be able to give the world something new from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. But um, you know, it’s all this on the weed tip. So you know, man it’s just a stone cold groove. You know, I mean, I, it’s hard to put into words. It’s relaxing. It’s exciting. And it’s just, it’s just the way you feel off a great sativa. You know?

Photo courtesy of Harmony Howse Entertainment.

Are there any special guests on this mixtape? Do you want to mention any by name?

Like I said, it’s really just about those in Harmony. You know what I mean? I would like to leave a few guests that I have as a surprise, but it’s a few surprises on there, you know, vocally-wise. But really, I’m really excited about what I got coming from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, I think we got some, I think we got some harmonious songs that we’re really going to appreciate.

As I understand, you’re going to be performing live on April 20. Is it true that you’re going to be performing with Ice Cube?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Man, our New Mexico show will be with Ice Cube. We gettin’ it in, man. Also we got a few shows coming up with Ice Cube specifically on 420 this year, we definitely hitting the stage with Cube, a host of other acts as well. It’s a really big show. So yeah, man, we’re gonna spend this year with you.

It’s been 30 years since Eazy-E signed you guys up—we have all heard the story. Back then he was a mentor, but now you’re the mentor. So tell me how it feels to be stepping into those shoes of being a mentor.

Wow. I mean, I’ve always had younger artists have been to me and, and sort of mentored them to, you know, through their careers and, you know, my, my younger generation, my brothers and most of my family. And, you know, now being with Sakoya [Wynter, daughter of K-Ci & JoJo’s JoJo Hailey] mentoring her, you know, it’s, I think it’s something that’s just natural for you to reach back and, and help those that need guidance, you know, that to help people not make the same mistakes that I’ve made, just to smoothen out the playing field and make it easier for the next generation. I think that’s a natural thing for me.

So Logic just recorded a cover of “Weed Song.” Can you tell me what’s one or two of your favorite cannabis anthems of all time?

Well, probably up there. Top three would probably include Bone Thug-N-Harmony’s “Buddha Lovas.” We saw the “Weed Song” one that Logic just did over and Smoke with Me, this new one that I’m about to put out is really gonna be revolutionary on weed songs you know that will take you there—like a weed-mushroom high. I will say Bone Thugs-N-Harmony by far for weed songs’ top three. You know Missy, […]. Scarface got a weed song that is called “Smoke with Me” as well. So you know, Scarface man I go back with the old school. Snoop’s got a lot. All of Snoop’s songs pertain to weed with numerous references. Just that whole album The Chronic—you could smoke too, you know I’m saying, like with him and Dr Dre. So that was the one that was the beginning of—not the beginning but when we really [started] making weed songs. So yeah man I just listen to anything Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Those are the songs I usually gravitate to.

And so are you going to be releasing Smoke With Me Vol. 1 on Harmony Howse Entertainment?

Yeah, Harmony Howse Entertainment. That’s my imprint. That’s my entertainment company. And yes, absolutely. It’d be released on Harmony Howse—probably distributed to TuneCore. And yeah, man, I’m looking forward to it. Smoke With Me Vol. 1 is off the hook. Like my whole theme of this album is you know, everybody has a favorite holiday, which mine is these days, 420. It used to be Christmas and I used to love to listen to all the Christmas music and enjoy the holidays with my family and you know and feel that nostalgia. Nowadays it’s 420 with the weed becoming you know, [mainstream]. I’m putting these weed songs out to become the foundation for that holiday for songs to be played for years to come.

Can you tell us a little bit about Harmony Howse for those of us who don’t know?

The Harmony House, first of all. My last name is Howse. You know anybody doing business with me knows me as Stephen Howse. And so Howse is my brand, my family brand. And Harmony Howse consists of Rocky Rock, [Big] Sloan, my children and […] Trinity, Dice. You know, I’ve got a few artists on there that I represent in Harmony Howse, really derived from when I had most of the records back in the ’90s. So I felt like most of the records, you know, when when the industry changed over, I felt like the records thing was gone—like it was really no more records. So I felt like reviving my company into an entertainment company, to where you know, I’m not just doing music, but you know, taking, doing all my content myself trying to get into my movies and things like that just becoming a full-fledged entertainment company. So yeah, that’s what Harmony Howse is. It is another branch off the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony legacy, you know.

Courtesy of Layzie Bone.

“… When I was coming up, you know, I caught cases for marijuana. It’s things that I’m trying to get expunged.” – Layzie Bone

Does cannabis enhance creativity in the studio? Because some people use it as a reward after work and some people work and get high at the same time.

Yeah, I will say for me it’s an enhancement of creativity. It really depends on you know, what cannabis you choose at the time. You know as for myself [I smoke] before I start my sessions I like to smoke a little bit and and I prefer a sativa when I’m being creative, you know what I mean? Like if I’m watching the movie or chilling at home and just relaxing or reading prefer like an indica but on the creative side, I definitely blaze before, during, and after but I prefer sativa when I’m recording and when I’m creating.

Those heavy strains can slow you down.

They slow you down, put you to sleep, you know, relaxation type of vibe, but the sativas for some reason, keep me up.

You guys have been sending the message about weed when it was still taboo. But that was over 30 years ago. How things changed for you since then

I mean, well, I’m just so free with it. These days, I forget, sometimes I go somewhere and weed is illegal. You know, but back in my days, when I was coming up, you know, I caught cases for marijuana. It’s things that I’m trying to get expunged, because of marijuana cases and things like that. So it’s totally different man. It’s like back then, you had to hide. You had to, you know, go to the moon to smoke a joint. But now you could be out anywhere in California, you can basically blaze up, bam, you’re anywhere. So do you know, that’s the big difference, the freedom of it, like, you don’t have to watch over your shoulder looking for the police like he used to.

And, you know, it’s interesting that you bring up expungement because, you know, so that’s something that has affected you personally. Because on one hand, you have people selling cannabis, but at the same time, there’s still people that are sitting in jail right now for it. So how does it feel to you since you’ve been personally affected by the War on Drugs?

I mean, I just feel like it’s America, you know what I mean? Like America is, how do I explain it, America. You know, it’s legal one minute then illegal, the next minute. Some might thrive off the situation. Some might be stereotyped and, you know, condemned because of [it]. It’s this melting pot that we live in, you know what I mean? Like, I think it’s totally unfair. You know, I think everybody should be able to get their records expunged when it comes to marijuana, you know, but it’s just totally unfair, you know, I mean, I’m fighting that fight myself, too. So there’s this place called America and you never know what’s wrong or right and how things may turn out. So, you know, it’s a tricky situation, man, and I just, I wish the best for I hope that we can get it right. You know, if we’re allowed to make money off of it now, though, people should be let out of jail and, you know, not not taboo to where they can’t work and things like that. So you know, it’s a tricky situation.

They’re starting to pave the way to clear some minor convictions at the federal level now. I mean, it doesn’t help everybody out. It’s only those minor convictions but you know, baby steps.

Right. Absolutely. Yeah. Over time it will happen, you know, this concept was still new. You know, America was built on marijuana too. So you know, it was common to grow marijuana farms you know, I read up on all that too. So no, I think it’s going back to where it started. Everything goes full circle, right?

We got 420 coming up. Do you have any other announcements? 

Like I said we got my 420 mixtape Smoke With Me, it’d be out this holiday. It’s a free mixtape you can download for free—something that I want to give away to my fans because I do have an album following that and another mixtape, the album is called Hypnotic Rhythms. Be on the lookout for that man, Hypnotic Rhythms is just really just good music, good vibes, and a lot more smoke going on. You know, and then I have another mixtape called Too Easy, which is songs with my younger peers. I’ve taken our music and remixed them in so many different ways. So I’m just jumping on what they did now. So I got a few projects that’s coming in over the next couple of months. Follow me at @TheRealLayzieBone on IG and @TheOfficialLayzieBone on Facebook. You know, you can get all my information from there, but I do have projects coming out. And, you know, I’m just asking my fans to look out for them and bump that mixtape, it’s free.

Thanks for having me. Always got time for High Times.

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