Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Debuts Atop Charts

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony found their way back in the spotlight this week, only this time they couldn't be happier.

The Cleveland rappers landed at the top of the latest Billboard charts with their recently released double-CD sophomore set, Art of War. The last time the band made headlines was when two of its members were arrested by police in separate incidents.

The new album, broken down into two parts entitled "WWI" and "WWII," sold 394,000 copies during the week ending Aug. 3, according to Soundscan, the company which tracks album sales at retail outlets.

The Bone crew unleashed the 28-track effort, a full-length follow-up to their immensely influential, five-times platinum 1995 breakthrough debut album, E. 1999 Eternal, which gave rise to a slew of copycat rappers imitating their overlapping, rapid-fire style and earned the group a Grammy for "Tha Crossroads." (The Bone's E. 1999 Eternal also opened at #1 in August of 1995, selling 307,000 copies.)

The rap album includes a duet with the late Tupac Shakur called "Thug Love," which contains rapping recorded by Shakur shortly before he was murdered in a gang-style attack last September. Additionally, the album features solo tracks from all the members of the Thugs crew: Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Krayzie Bone, sometimes member Flesh-N-Bone (who appears on four tracks) and Layzie Bone. The new collection was produced by Bone collaborator U-Neek.

Despite the strong sales of the double album, the Bones, proteges of deceased former N.W.A. member Eric "Eazy E" Wright, are still overshadowed by recent releases by slain rapper Notorious B.I.G., whose posthumous double-album debuted at #1 on sales of 689,000 in its first week, as well as the Wu-Tang Clan, whose Wu-Tang Forever debuted at #1 over a month ago with sales of more than 600,000.

The past few months have seen the Thugs crew live up to their moniker on more than one occasion. Charles "Wish Bone" Scruggs was arrested a few weeks ago in a Cleveland strip club after allegedly slapping a stripper on the ass. Scruggs was later released on bail after being charged with aggravated disorderly conduct. Scruggs is considering a suit against the club for assault. On-off Thugs member Stanley "Flesh 'N' Bone" Howse was arrested twice last month, first on four felony charges related to a police raid on his house on the Fourth of July that uncovered a stolen gun and explosives and later on charges of intimidating a witness and making a terrorist threat.

But arrests aside, the band sold enough albums last week to unseat Bad Boy Records' chief Sean "Puffy" Combs, whose solo debut album No Way Out, attributed to his rap alter ego, Puff Daddy, was knocked down a peg to #2 on impressive sales of 301,000. Combined with the 560,000 units shifted last week, Combs' two-week total puts his album near the platinum (1 million) mark after just two weeks on the charts.

The only other debut in the top 10 this week was by the electronica-meets-metal soundtrack for the movie Spawn, which features such unlikely pairings as Marilyn Manson and the Sneaker Pimps, Metallica and DJ Spooky, Henry Rollins and Goldie and Slayer with Atari Teenage Riot. It landed at #7 on sales of 98,000.

The new tenant at the top caused a one spot downward shift for most of the rest of the top 10, which included the Men in Black soundtrack (#3) on sales of 166,000, the Spice Girls' Spice (#4) on sales of 133,000, quickly approaching 3.5 million in sales, Hanson's Middle of Nowhere (#5) with 116,000 in sales and Sarah McLachlan's Surfacing (#6), with 105,000 units moved.

Prodigy's The Fat Of The Land (#8) continued to have strong numbers with sales of 91,000, giving the media-appointed ambassadors of electronica more than 629,000 bitches smacked to date.

Matchbox 20's Yourself or Someone Like You held ground at #9 on sales of 85,000, while Jewel's 2-year old Pieces of You slipped two spots to #10.

Pantera's Official Live 101 Proof debuted at #15 on sales of 61,000.