Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Strength & Loyalty

In the pantheon of fast-talking, lyrical tongue twisters, the mid-’90s belonged to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Twelve years past their 1995 expiry date, the group returns, minus the irrepressible Bizzie Bone, with an album more concerned with sales than artistry. Maybe if they didn’t use Twista, Akon (twice), a grown but still juvenile Bow Wow, Mariah Carey, the Game and will.i.am as crutches things would have been different. But they did and it dilutes the effort. While their rapid-fire delivery hasn’t lost its clip, absent is any content that matches the grip of their previous hits. will.i.am hijacks Dr.Dre-like drum beats for "Streets” and the Thugs allow the Game to dominate. Ditto for "Never Forget Me,” in which Akon’s nasal flow becomes the main draw. Just remember BTNH at their best: at the "Crossroad” and on the "1st of Tha Month.” (Interscope) (Interscope)