Each week, Poor Scholars digs a little bit deeper into the catalog of an infamous “one-hit wonder” by listening to their other “top hits” on Spotify to explore what exactly went wrong. This week, Poor Scholars’ Scott Phillips breaks down the other songs of Bone Crusher.
I’m not ashamed to say that I own Bone Crusher’s debut album, the hilariously titled AttenCHUN!, which features the hit single “Never Scared.” I was an impressionable white suburban high school kid with my first real job, expendable income, a booming sound system in my Jeep Grand Cherokee and an affinity for loud bass and Southern rap, so what could you possibly expect?
Bone Crusher released “Never Scared” in 2003 at the perfect time in his career. Southern rap, specifically from Mr. Crusher’s hometown of Atlanta, was just beginning to see the height of a massive wave of success fueled by artists like Ludacris, Ying Yang Twins, Lil Jon and Bone Crusher’s label head and producer: Jermaine Dupri.
Having an album on JD’s So So Def was a huge co-sign for Bone Crusher’s early success but it was the inclusion of “Never Scared” on the Madden NFL 2004 soundtrack that really solidified the track’s position as a bona fide smash.
At the time, having a song released in the Madden franchise was a huge deal, as established artists dropped new singles and up-and-coming acts fought to get their debut single noticed by the millions of football fans that flocked to purchase the new Madden at the end of every summer.
It didn’t hurt that the track was actually a solid rap single.
Killer Mike and T.I. provide guest verses on “Never Scared” and while their verses are solid and their name-reputation helped put Bone Crusher over, it was Bone Crusher’s baritone growl and militaristic cadence over the menacing beat by Avery Johnson (no, not the high-pitched former Brooklyn Nets coach, although it’s hilarious to imagine a conversation between the baritone-voiced, 300-pound Bone Crusher and Avery Johnson.) that proved to be the track’s most memorable portion.
Bone Crusher never exactly shared many deep thoughts in his rhymes, but “Never Scared” is catchy and by listening to his growling flow, you realize that this massive human being with the gruff voice is nobody to fuck with.
“Never Scared” made it all the way to No. 26 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Also, the remix of “Never Scared,” which featured Jadakiss, Cam’ron and Busta Rhymes, is probably even better than the original version. The three aforementioned guest verses on the remix came during the peak of all three rappers’ careers and they absolutely destroy the “Never Scared” remix.
And don’t even get me started on the music video (see below). Let me just put it this way: Bone Crusher approaches the Atlanta skyline as if he were Godzilla towering above Tokyo in a Peter Warrick Cincinnati Bengals jersey. Yes, Peter Warrick. The throwback jersey era of 2000s rap was fucking phenomenal.
The “other” top songs on Spotify
First of all, it’s a bad sign for Bone Crusher’s catalog when the first six top hits of his Spotify page are some form of “Never Scared” or guest appearances on tracks by the Ying Yang Twins or I-20.
“Forever Grippin’ the Grain” – This track is a remix of “Grippin’ the Grain,” a track off AttenCHUN!, but thankfully Bone Crusher doesn’t rap over all three verses and hands off some airtime to 16-bar destroyer Bun B and fellow Texas-native Lil’ Flip. The beat for this song is incredibly bass-heavy, as “grippin’ the grain” is simply about grabbing your woodgrain steering wheel and rolling around town as the bass from your truck is heard by everyone within a mile.
I think the only reason I like this song is because it reminds me of when I used to mess with my Dad when borrowing his Lexus RX 300 and I would ask him, “What do you know about changing lanes on the woodgrain?” since his ride came equipped a wood grain steering wheel. He never had any clue what the fuck I was talking about; it always made me laugh.
“Lock and Load” – This song was the very first track from AttenCHUN! and is probably more memorable because Bone Crusher begins the track by talking and saying, “Fuck this intro shit, start the music,” before going in on the beat. In a rap era littered with long introductions and albums filled with skits, this was certainly noticeable at the time. Until the very next track is a skit/intro for “Never Scared”, essentially defeating the purpose of what Bone Crusher was going for. Bone Crusher could have used more skits and filler bits because when he’s asked to carry an entire song by himself like “Lock and Load” the results are often painful.
Some sample lyrics:
“My pistol’s blarin’ (What?)
an’ I’m not carin’ (Tell ’em!)
Because I’m ready for action!
These niggas think I’m playin’
My Tec-9 be sprayin’ (What?)
So partner tell me what’s happenin'”
You get my point…
“Unstoppable” – An uninspired sing-song chorus by the Rezza Brothers breaks up more jaw-droppingly bad Bone Crusher lyrics. If you ever want to hear a large man try to rhyme “apocalyptic” and “ridiculous” then this is your “Freebird”. The music video is so absurd that I had to watch it multiple times. They essentially dropped Bone Crusher into a battle scene from Game of Thrones and threw in some random video girls dancing in era-attire. The official music video was released last September and has less than 20,000 views on YouTube. Not a good sign for a comeback for Bone Crusher.
Bone Crusher will never make a list of well-respected MCs on the mic, but that’s not really what he’s going for. His appeal comes in the size of his voice, his stature and the bass-heavy beats that he tends to prefer. In small doses, Bone Crusher is rather effective. His best efforts come when he only has to worry about contributing one or two verses as he hands off the song to other talented artists, and there’s certainly something to be said for that. “Never Scared” is a legitimately good rap single that still gets burn to this day because it’s catchy and can be played in any sports arena or club if the moment is right.
You also have to respect that Bone Crusher stays true to his word: He’s still a massive human being, so he’s “never scared” of high cholesteral or high blood pressure, and he’s certainly “never scared” to leave his shirt off.
Kudos, Bone Crusher; thanks for keeping it real.