So here it is, Friday night…and I’m at home just chilling. I got on my BOSE QuietComfort 15s and I’m jamming to the legacy rap in my Windows Media Player library…legacy as in the stuff that was hot before this watered down stuff started hitting the airwaves. As I’m strolling through my entire library, rocking out to the likes of Mos Def, B.G., Knoc-Turn’al, Obie Trice, Royce Da 5’9” and a host of other good artists from back in the 90s and early 2000s, I hear 2Pac blasting through my headphones with “n****, we doing this $#!+ from Cleveland to LA”. Immediately, I knew what it was and I turned up the volume. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: BTNH’s “Thug Luv”.
How I first came across this moment? I came across the track late in the summer of 1997. My best friend, at the time, had scored the cassette of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s The Art of War and I was chilling at his spot when I took my first listen. I was sold with the beat, complete the gun cock and twin rounds being shot throughout. Bizzy’s introductory verse got me into the track but 2Pac got me hyped up when he dropped his lines…especially that whole “I caught a plane out to Cleveland late last evening/To help my n****s clean up some n****s no longer breathing” line. Layzie, Krayzie, and Wish killed it on each of their flows to finish up the song. By the time the whole 5:08 track ended, I was so amped up that I was like “yo, rewind that joint”.
What it meant to me then? Back then, that track was like the ultimate pump up song with my crew. We listened to a lot of gangsta rap, in particularly the stuff from the West Coast, but up to that point, we had never heard a track like that. For me personally, “Bomb First (My Second Reply)” off 2Pac’s The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory under his Makaveli alias was the most fierce track I had heard until that point. I soon ended up scoring a copy of the cassette for myself and I played out that track like no tomorrow. In fact, me and my crew all did our own cover on the track with me taking Wish Bone’s lines. Eventually, after about 1 ½ months, I found a new rock out jam on that very album in “Friends”. The “Thug Luv” track—and that album, at large—got me very interested in the gangsta rap genre and it actually intro’d me to rap music from the Midwest and eventually the South.
What it means to me now? Even today, when I hear 2Pac opening up this track, I have to stop and listen. It has that kind of effect on me. It’s the type of song that gets you pumped up about fighting somebody. Only one other track in music history—Obie Trice’s “Average Man”—has that effect on me. For me, “Thug Luv” remains something of a gold standard for gangsta rap tracks. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear something like it in today’s music culture.