On this day in Hip Hop history, we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of one of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s most popular pieces of work, The Art of War. As a follow up to the group’s most successful album E. 1999 Eternal, The Art of War did everything but disappoint. The album kept the group’s momentum up, claiming the top spot on both the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts. This album even capitalized on the double LP trend of the 90s in a way that was cohesive and unsaturated.
Originally rumored to be titled DNA Level C or “Cleveland” spelled backward, this album took its current title and became a declaration of war against rappers whom Bone Thugs believed to be imitators of the style they created. Some of the groups and artists targeted were Three 6 Mafia, Twista, Crucial Conflict and Tommy Wright III. Through this project, Bone Thugs looked to cement themselves as the only soulful east coast gangsta rappers in the industry.
Commercially this album was a great success, selling 349,000 copies in its first week on shelves and going on to be certified quadruple platinum only one year after its release. The album’s two singles were also big hits with “If I Could Teach the World” reaching #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and “Look Into My Eyes” peak at #4 on the same chart.
Although laden with success and accolades, this album did come with a bit of turmoil within the group. Already not featuring fifth member Flesh-n-Bone, this album brought the tension between Ruthless Records, Bizzy Bone and the rest of the group to an all time high. With control of Ruthless passed down to Tomica Wright following her husband Eazy-E’s passing, she was the one making decisions regarding the group’s image and promotion of the album. She had intentions to take the group in a direction that Bizzy was not happy with, resulting in him not showing up to a majority of promotional events for the album and ultimately the tour. And whether it was in direct correlation with the events surrounding the album or not, Bizzy Bone went on to embark on a solo career in 1998, only to keep up and the on-and-off relationship with the group (which is currently on).