Just a few months ago, the rock/hip-hop band Crazy Town was on the verge of calling it quits. In the year since the group's 1999 debut album, "The Gift Of Game" (Columbia Records), was released, the

Just a few months ago, the rock/hip-hop band Crazy Town was on the verge of calling it quits. In the year since the group's 1999 debut album, "The Gift Of Game" (Columbia Records), was released, the band endured enough rigorous touring, struggling album sales, and extreme personal problems that would break up most bands.

But in a remarkable reversal of fortune, "The Gift Of Game" has become a hit on The Billboard 200 at a time when many people would have considered the album incapable of getting such a big jump-start. Industry observers say that attention for Crazy Town's third single, "Butterfly," is propelling sales for the album.

Released in October 1999, "The Gift Of Game" spent months struggling to break into the charts until it entered Billboard's Heatseekers chart at No. 42 in the July 22, 2000, issue. In the Jan. 13 issue, it soared from No. 117 to No. 53 on The Billboard 200, and is at No. 46 this week.

Meanwhile, "Butterfly," a groove-oriented love song, has been finding an audience via radio and MTV. The single is No. 7 this issue on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and MTV has the video in medium rotation.

"That song is the one we knew could be our breakthrough," says co-lead vocalist Bret "Epic" Mazur. "In the back of our mind, we knew that if we faced our problems, pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps, and turned things around, that song might do it for us."

Those problems included former Crazy Town guitarist Rust Epique "having a nervous breakdown while we were on tour," says Mazur. "We were pulled off of Ozzfest [last year] because of the breakdown, and some of us had drug problems, too."

He says candidly that part of the band's turmoil was due to the elusiveness of catching a big break: "The pressure was just so built up after eight months of touring. It's like putting a football team out there and they lose game after game. Being at Ozzfest is like Satan's playground, because if you're looking for any kind of drug or bad news, you can find it. And if you don't have your head screwed on tight, you can get really fucked up."

He pauses to reflect. "The strangest low point was seeing Seth [Rust Epique] getting taken away in handcuffs after he threw a chair out a window."

With origins that date back to 1992, Crazy Town was formed in Los Angeles by Mazur and co-lead vocalist Shifty Shellshock. Before Crazy Town, Mazur had already made a name for himself as a producer and DJ. In addition to Mazur and Shellshock, the current band lineup consists of bassist Faydoedeelay, guitarist Trouble Valli, drummer JBJ, and guitarist Squirrel.

Mazur co-produced "The Gift Of Game" with Josh Abraham, whose credits include Orgy and Coal Chamber.

The album's first two singles -- the harder-edged "Toxic" and "Darkside" -- were released but were essentially ignored by most mainstream media. Over a yearlong period, Crazy Town toured with acts such as Methods Of Mayhem, Buckcherry, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and as part of MTV's first Return of the Rock tour, which also featured Staind, P.O.D., and Dope.

Crazy Town was building momentum from touring until the band's ill-fated stint with Ozzfest happened.

"Everything just ground to a halt after that, and we really didn't know if we were going to stay together," confesses Mazur. But the band did stay together, and ironically, after months of touring in an effort to break the band in the mainstream, "Butterfly" has become a hit while the band isn't on tour.

Columbia VP of marketing Greg Linn says that " 'Butterfly' has taken Crazy Town to a whole new level. We wanted to build a fan base before we released the song. When we took it to radio, it was an instant reaction," he says.

"This song is starting to cross over at top 40 radio," says Linn. "People are hearing it everywhere. It's even been on [NBC TV show] 'ER.' In the beginning of this album's life cycle, Crazy Town's audience was predominantly male, but now because of the success of 'Butterfly' there are more women starting to get into this band." ("Butterfly" is also featured in the film "Saving Silverman.")

While the group considers new tour plans, Crazy Town is hard at work on its next album, which Mazur says should be out by the end of the year.

As he describes the new material, "The heavy stuff is going to more aggro than the first album, but the new album will also be a lot more melodic and have more singing. I want to continue to confuse people in categorizing what we do.