Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

The Art of War

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The double-disc album was the bane of mid-'90s hip-hop. Single-disc albums tended to be overlong in the first place, but double discs were even worse, since it required artists incapable of successfully filling out a 70 minute disc to produce twice as much music. And it wasn't a question of the two-disc set being an artistic statement -- as if the rappers had so much to say they couldn't contain themselves to one disc -- it was purely a commercial decision, so they could take home more royalties. It could be argued the first two double-disc rap albums, by 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. justified their length, since those guys were hip-hop giants, and the Wu-Tang Clan's Wu-Tang Forever more than justified its length with vision, depth, and variety. However, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's double-disc Art of War can only qualify as an exercise in pure indulgence. Unlike the aforementioned artists, Bone don't possess either a lyrical or musical vision; their most distinctive trademark, whiny "soulful" sung vocals alternating with ragga-inflected raps, was lifted from Snoop Dogg and Dre productions. While the group is capable of producing a catchy single, they don't have the personality to sustain an album, much less a double-disc set. By the end of the second disc, they have repeated all of their ideas at least five times apiece, and only a few of those ideas resulted in actual songs in the first place. Even hardcore fans will find Art of War to be an endurance test. As the cliché says, it's a double album that would have made an excellent single disc -- and in this case, that means a standard 45-minute record, not a 70-minute CD.

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