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UPDATED 07/08/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/08/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT

>Layzie Bone

BONE, GUNS AND RAP-SODY

RAP'S LATEST SONIC STREET GANG, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony stars the five brothers Bone: Layzie, Krayzie, Bizzy, Wish and part-time member Flesh-N (What, no Funny?). Lifelong friends and relations (Layzie and Flesh-N are the only actual siblings), dem Bones hail from Cleveland, a midlands metropolis with street violence as horrifying as any found in hip hop's better-known epicenters. Now, thanks to E. 1999 Eternal(Ruthless/Relativity), the group's multi-platinum 1995 album, and I their No. 1 single "Tha Crossroads," an elegy for young friends and neighbors gunned down near the corner of East 99th Street and St. Clair Avenue, the group's hood is very much on the pop-music map. Zooming to No. 1 just two weeks after its April 23 release, "Crossroads" has enjoyed the fastest rise on the charts since the Beatles' 1964 "Can't Buy Me Love," according to Billboard.

Group leader Layzie Bone, a self-confessed former drug dealer, attributes the single's success to the universality of its subject: death. "Everybody has to face it sooner or later," he says. "It's crazy on the streets. People got no respect. People are so quick to kill."

Bone claims that back in his bad old days, he was nearly counted among the dead. "I was shot in the head," he says. "I was walking down the street when this dude jumped out of a car and started jumpin' on me and my brother." Bone says he sprayed Mace at his attacker. "He came out shootin'. I ran home with the bullet in my head. I thought I was gonna die, but I knew I had to stay awake and not pass out. They brought me to the hospital and removed the bullet."

It was this experience, Bone adds, that turned his life around. When he left the hospital after a two-day stay, he had, he says, a new perspective. "I realized I had to do something with my life, and that's when I pursued rap. It's a miracle I'm alive."

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