When you boil it down, hip-hop, and music in general, is about memories and how songs and moments stick with you in a personal way over time. For me—a Cleveland native—one of my earliest experiences with rap occurred when I was formally introduced to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony via their EP, Creepin on ah Come Up. More specifically, the first time I heard the group's song "Thuggish Ruggish Bone," which was the lead single from the project they released in 1994, I was hooked. Regional bias aside, from that point on, Bone Thugs was cemented into my favorites for life.
This story isn't about my personal love for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony though, but about the one song that turned me into a Bone Thugs loyalist, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone." Everything about the song, and also the video, which had Eazy-E strolling through Cleveland, built the foundation for my love of hip-hop. For my money, the song is one of the greatest in rap history (Questlove agrees!), and a large part of that is due to the mesmerizing hook, which was sung by Shatasha Williams.
Shatasha Williams is one of the biggest mysteries in rap history. Her name, though mistaken by many as Tasha, pops up on Twitter every week with people wondering what happened to her. Williams basically disappeared from the public eye following the platinum-level success of "Thuggish Ruggish Bone," on which she is an officially credited artist. For years, I also wondered what happened to Shatasha.
I had to try and find her. There were just too many questions and not enough answers about her story. In the age of the Internet and social media, it's almost impossible for anyone to completely disappear, and thus, I knew I would be able to at least get an idea of what happened to her. Bone hasn't really talked about her in interviews, though Krayzie Bone did speak about the recording of the song in a piece they did with XXL for the 20th anniversary of the EP last year.
I started digging, and through my research, I found a Facebook page that was associated with a Shatasha Williams, but it hadn't been active in years. There were reports that she had died in a shooting, but nothing was confirmed. More rumors and no leads.
I was able to find a video she shot for her Ruthless Records single "Free," which was pretty interesting because it didn't seem like common knowledge that Shatasha was signed or strongly affiliated with Eazy and Ruthless. Even more interesting was an interview I came across that Bone, Eazy, and Shatasha did with MTV in 1994. The interview was posted in The Coli forum, and featured Shatasha talking about her single "Free" and how her debut album with Ruthless was coming out in March of 1995. Note that Eazy-E died from complications of AIDS on March 26, 1995.
Hours into my search, and with a bit of luck, I was linked to another Facebook page associated with Shatasha Williams. Like the other page, this one had not been active in a few years, but it did include a number of posts. The page featured a few photos that led me to believe that this was the very same Shatasha Williams who sang the hook on "Thuggish Ruggish Bone." Through this page I tried to contact anyone who she had discussions with, but nobody responded. It wasn't until I scrolled through the page for about an hour and found a comment that Shatasha left in 2012 where she linked her Twitter account that I actually caught a break. From there, I sent a tweet to Shatasha and she responded. Better yet, she agreed to talk to me on the phone. I found her.
Going into the interview, I really didn't know what to expect, but Shatasha seemed eager to talk, and I had questions that needed answers. Shatasha is now removed from the Los Angeles music scene, which is where she recorded with Bone and Eazy, and has since relocated to Shreveport, La., where she has four daughters.
Shatasha detailed to me the process of how she first linked with Bone, and what it was like in the studio when she sang the hook on "Thuggish Ruggish Bone." Even before her work with the group, Shatasha appeared on Candyman's 1990 track "Knocking Boots," which helped her build her name as a budding singer in L.A. Through a friend, she was put into contact with Eazy, who at the time was looking for female vocalists to work with Bone. "I called Eric and he was like, 'Yeah, you know I got a group Bone that's coming out, and we're really trying to get you on these tracks,'" Shatasha recalled. "I went in and they played the track for me. They pulled up the track, and I was jamming to it. This was before Bone Thugs had even got on the track, and I was like, 'Oh yeah, I like that.' Bizzy was like, 'We want you to say thuggish ruggish bone.'"
Shatasha then sang the hook to me on the phone, just as she did that day in the studio in 1994, and revealed that the group decided within an hour that they were going to use her on the song. Even with the success of "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and her own single on Ruthless, things only got more complicated from there for Shatasha. Though she says she was signed to Ruthless as an artist, she never put out a full album and said that her contract was null and void when Eazy passed away. "Well, the album never came out because Eric got sick and whatever, and the company just kinda went down, and Tomica, she wasn't exactly a professional. She's not an artist, she doesn't know anything about the artist side, so I just left it at that," Shatasha said.
These are major claims from Shatasha towards not only Eazy-E's widow, Tomica Wright, but Ruthless Records in general. Shatasha further stated that she hasn't received any type of royalty check from her work on "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" in the 20 years since its release. "It's messed up, you know. It is what it is," she said. She detailed to me that back during the original recording of the song she attempted to work out how she would be paid for her work, but that originally they didn't tell her they were going to use the version on the radio, and thus, nothing was set in stone. Even when the song did hit radio, she still agreed to do the video, and said that Jerry Heller assured her that they were going to set her up financially. "I see why they called it Ruthless," she said thinking back on that time period now.
Shatasha broke off communication with all members of Bone Thugs years ago, but she did tell me that Bizzy Bone tried to contact her through Instagram a few months back. The conversation didn't go anywhere and Shatasha said that she really has no desire to link with anyone from the group unless some money is involved. "If it's about the money, then yeah, I'll meet up with them," she said.
I spoke to Bizzy Bone, who immediately confirmed what Shatasha originally told me: that when Eazy passed away, her contract became null and void, and thus she didn't have any more releases through Ruthless Records. "It was a huge fight about his money and all that, the kind of stuff the movie [Straight Outta Compton] didn't get to see," Bizzy explained. Bizzy talked about the group's own issues with Ruthless through the years, which have been well-documented in the past, and eventually included lawsuits between both sides. "We were young guys, and you know, we didn't understand the financial stuff that was going on, and we were under the assumption that, it's Eazy-E, man. He's got to be rich and you know we can't wait to get paid," said Bizzy.
Bizzy also confirmed that he reached out to Shatasha via Instagram a few months back, and though they haven't spoken in a while, he felt that it was always all love with the old crew. As far as Shatasha's claims that she wasn't paid for "Thuggish Ruggish Bone," Bizzy confirmed that she doesn't receive regular royalty checks, but also explained how Eazy did business back then. "The way Eazy did business, because everyone was like knocking him about how N.W.A and everybody else got treated, he would like give money to artists without signing them. He ended his career with a really great heart and he settled a lot of scores business-wise," Bizzy said.
"So I don't ever think that she had the opportunity to sign anything per se, and if she did sign something, I wouldn't know, but I know for sure that he [Eazy] was just giving money away towards that time, you know, just giving money away," he said. This corroborated what Shatasha originally told me and explained why she was never financially taken care of down the road.
Her story, for the most part, checked out, and as I probably suspected before I dove into the piece, wasn't one with a happy ending. Sometimes that's just how real life goes. Even so, Shatasha sounds happy, and excitedly told me that she wants to continue to make music in the future. Sadly, when looking back at what I know now about Shatasha's story, it seems like one that happens often in the music industry. There isn't a singular person to lay blame on for what happened in the past with her situation, and as is the case often, sometimes things just don't break the right way. None of this can ever take away the fact that Shatasha Williams contributed to one of the greatest rap songs of all time.
For me, and I hope others, this offers some closure to an untold story that has puzzled many in hip-hop for years. If nothing else, I can tell you that every time I turn on "Thuggish Ruggish Bone," I will never hear it the same.
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