Greatest Southern Artists of all Time
Words Matt Sonzala
GETO BOYS/SCARFACE 5 ESSENTIAL GETO BOYS TRACKS Geto Boys “Mind of a Lunatic” Grip It! On That Other Level 1989 Them boys have always been insane. This cut showed where the Geto Boys’ heads were at back in the early days. Geto Boys “Let a Hoe be a Hoe” Grip It! On That Other Level 1989 This Willie D solo is the precursor to all the songs that later came out talking about not falling in love with and/or saving hoes. Geto Boys “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me” We Can’t Be Stopped 1991 This timeless classic brought the reality of the dope game to life. Geto Boys “World is a Ghetto” The Resurrection 1996 They discussed their reach throughout the world on this record, but never really capitalized on it. This one really was a hit all over the world. Geto Boys “Yes Yes Y’all” The Foundation 2005 With this 2005 release, the Geto Boys proved that nearly twenty years after their formation, they’re still wreckin’.
ack in 1986, when the world was still fixated on New York City as the hip-hop mecca and quite possibly the only place where hip-hop could even exist, a group of individuals in Houston, Texas were laying the groundwork for an eventual takeover. In a ramshackle little office overlooking one of the many car lots that populated North Shepherd Drive on the border of the Heights section of their city, an empire was born. This independent empire would change the face of hip-hop music forever.
Long before the South was even on the hiphop radar, a man named James Smith - a.k.a. J Prince - was quietly preparing for an entire cultural shift. His work went largely unrecognized for years, but as evidenced in 2005, the emergence of one group changed the course of hip-hop music. That group was the Geto Boys. With their controversial rhymes, firebrand production, and fiercely independent spirit, the rap game shifted. While the industry is still primarily controlled by New York based major labels, the Geto Boys paved the way for Southern boys in the hood to make their money - legitimately. Rap-A-Lot Records was one of the first truly independent labels to make noise on a major scale in the rap world. That noise can largely be attributed to three men. The Geto Boys were not always comprised of Willie D, Scarface, and Bushwick Bill, but when this combination came together in 1988, the steamroller that is Southern rap started chugging away. Their first release as a unit, Grip It! On That Other Level, took the gangsta rap reality tales first laid by NWA to a whole ‘nother level, literally. Anything out of bounds for the boys from Compton was fair game for the boys from Houston. Suddenly, no topic was untouchable. Their taboo tales lit a fire under the ass of the hip-hop nation, and a new subgenre was born: Southern rap. Grip It! attracted the attention of Rick Rubin, who had recently left his post at Def Jam Records (the label he cofounded with Russell Simmons) to start his own Def American imprint. Rubin
(l to r) Scarface, Bushwick Bill, and Willie D
had helped launch the careers of artists like LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, and left to work with dark heavy metal bands like Slayer and Danzig. For him, bringing the Geto Boys into the picture was a natural progression. Their stark, gritty, sometimes grotesque tales of the inner city streets of Houston fit well with Slayer’s macabre stories of the underworld and even recent Def American signee Andrew Dice Clay’s off-color comedy. However, regardless of Rubin’s intentions, Def American’s distributor Geffen Records was not ready to take the plunge. Geffen labeled the Geto Boys’ record too obscene to print or distribute. Def American was left holding a hip-hop classic, the Geto Boys self-titled major label debut (which was really just a remastered version of Grip It!) with no way to distribute it. After some legal finagling, the record was eventually released through another distributor and made major waves. After all the controversy and frustration of dealing with the majors, Rap-A-Lot brought the boys back home to work on what would be their crowning release. Released in 1991, We Can’t Be Stopped featured the unforgettable cover image of a freshly shot Bushwick Bill removing the bandage from the socket where his eye once laid, with Scarface and Willie D pushing him down the hospital hallway. The album produced the group’s biggest hit, “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me.” An instant classic, it was the introspective story of three paranoid hood characters determined to escape the psychosis that comes with living a less-thanupstanding life on the streets. The Geto Boys weren’t ballin’ out of control, ruling the streets with reckless abandon, or fucking the hoes on this track. They were talking about the other side of the game; the paranoia that comes along with and sometimes eclipses the ill-gotten adoration and money. “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me” was of the realest depictions of street life ever heard on a record. It broke worldwide, taking the Geto Boys - and
Southern rap - to heights no one had previously imagined. Unfortunately, the Boys never really capitalized on their new-found fame and glory. They rarely toured, never left the United States, and didn’t realize that they were well on their way to becoming one of the most recognizable groups in rap. Internal conflicts and struggles, as well as the ultra-paranoia described in “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me,” ultimately took its toll on the group. Soon after, lead writer Willie D left and was replaced by Big Mike, a former member of the Convicts. The Geto Boys released their fourth album, the inappropriately titled Til Death Do Us Part. In reality, it was the third incarnation of the Geto Boys. Til Death Do Us Part spawned the underground hits “Straight Gangsterism” and “Crooked Officer,” but the chemistry didn’t fall back into place until the trio reformed with Willie D in 1996. They released another album, The Resurrection, which contained hit single “The World is a Ghetto.” The Geto Boys were household names once again. Even after the success of “The World is a Ghetto,” internal controversies once again forced them apart. Bushwick Bill stepped away from the group, leaving Willie D and Scarface to record 1998’s Da Good, Da Bad, and Da Ugly. The record was ultimately disappointing, plagued with guest appearances that seemed forced. Widely regarded as the “King of the South,” Scarface also has numerous solo albums to his credit. Although still underrated as a lyricist, his releases spanning more than a decade are considered hip-hop classics. After a seven-year hiatus, the Geto Boys reformed and released the new classic CD The Foundation to critical acclaim in early 2005. Could it be that now, 17 years after their inception, the Geto Boys will finally get their just recognition as the greatest Southern artists of all time? OZONE APR 2005
Ozone Mag #33 - Apr 2005