Much in the same way that rock bands that reunite are seldom as good the second time around, rap groups that put out comeback albums have a hard time recapturing their initial magic. The Geto Boys reunited for The Resurrection in 1996, but no one cared. Public Enemy got back together last year for There's a Poison Goin' On, but its sole interest lay in the fact that it was initially available only over the Internet. And that N.W.A. reunion is a disaster waiting to happen. Bone Thugs N Harmony, the Cleveland group that put the Midwest on the hip-hop map with its first two albums, 1995's E. 1999 Eternal and 1997's The Art of War, isn't about to change that track record.
The group -- rappers Krayzie, Wish, Flesh, Layzie, and Bizzy -- actually never broke up, but members have been fighting among themselves ever since Bizzy and Krayzie decided to release solo efforts. (The latest rumor is that Bizzy has left the group.) Some of Resurrection is vintage BTNH. They lay fast-paced rhymes over bouncy g-funk riffs in songs such as "Show 'Em," and "Servin' Tha Fiends." On the best track, the single "Resurrection (Paper, Paper)," they rap over string arrangements, a catchy pop melody, and a veritable choir of background vocals. But their sing-song delivery, which makes it virtually impossible to decipher the lyrics, quickly becomes grating. "The Righteous Ones," a track that features David's Daughters singing a quasi-religious refrain, and "Battlezone," another song which makes use of religious metaphors, are perfect examples of the ways in which Bone Thugs N Harmony have run out of ideas -- despite the references to God, their exaggerated, thug-oriented lyrics are full of predictable references to "niggas" and "motherfuckas." The group also resorts to played-out gangsta fantasies -- they rap about "crazy niggas" and "getting your gun" in "2 Glocks" and write tiresome anthems about getting high in "Weed Song" and "Ecstasy." In its day, Bone Thugs N Harmony was one of hip-hop's more inventive groups -- they'd be better off not trying to make a miracle happen by coming back for more. -- Jeff Niesel