Nearly seven years ago, I ran down the stairs of a Chicago subway station, laughing with my friend Jordan as we barely made it onto the train before the doors closed. Looking around, we saw the train car filled with a handful of other people who were, like us, riding the red line to see Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in concert.
Though we weren’t the biggest Bone Thugs fans at the time, we figured we knew enough of their music to justify paying for a ticket. Looking back, I can barely remember the show itself. I remember emcee and DJ battles and a packed house, but more than anything I just remember looking at Jordan, who was all smiles, putting his arm around me and singing all the lyrics to "Thuggish Ruggish Bone."
I wish I could say that after that night I became a true fan of Bone Thugs, but I didn’t hear their music again until the day we laid Jordan to rest. A drug overdose claimed his life a little more than a year after we went to that concert. During the memorial, everyone stood holding a candle and sang along to "Tha Crossroads," though I can’t remember now who decided to play that song.
Since Jordan’s death, I’ve held Bone Thugs-N-Harmony close to my heart. So last night when I went to see the group at the Fillmore, I was doing it for Jordan. As I waited in a line that wrapped around the block, I wondered if Bone Thugs would bring the same energy to Denver that they had to Chicago so many years ago. The group has been performing since 1993, though, so I was ready to chalk up any mishaps to the passage of time.
The show began with Black Pegasus and Liquid Assassin dutifully hyping up the crowd, and the audience was roaring when they dropped the line, “From the 719 to the 303." Once they left the stage though, the excitement and energy level of the fans slowly began to die down as we waited for the main act. Bone Thugs didn’t come out until almost an hour and a half later. Fans were further disappointed when we realized that not every member was there.
After the first song, Wish Bone addressed the crowd and apologized that only three of the five members were able to make it to Denver. Krayzie Bone spoke for a minute about the blizzard on the east coast, and flight problems in general, but the DJ quickly switched to another song to re-engage everybody.
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Over the next hour, the group celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the release of Grammy-winning "Tha Crossroads" by repeatedly paying tribute to the late group founder and notorious rapper Eazy-E, for whom the hit song was originally written. When it came time for them to actually play the single, they stopped for a moment to dedicate the song to not only Eazy-E, but to fallen troops, friends and family members that anyone might have lost.
I closed my eyes, trying my best not to cry but altogether failing at that, and listened as everyone in the room sang, “Pray and we pray and we pray and we pray.” This was in no way the same show I saw in 2009, both because my friend wasn’t by my side and because the group just didn’t deliver in the same way. But sometimes a song is powerful enough to resonate beyond its origin or even the group who made it, and that moment instilled in me a confidence that I would see my friend again one day.