Easily one the greatest hip hop groups to ever set foot in a recording booth, the Geto Boys command respect from hip hop fans both young and old. Known and loved by ghetto dwellers world wide for their uncompromising stance against all of the racists, snitches, crooked cops and hypocritical politicians who sought to silence them. But with their ninth LP War & Peace, the Geto Boys prove once and for all they really can’t be stopped.
Considered the classic GB line up, Bushwic Bill, Scarface and Willie D first emerged as the Geto Boys back in 1989 with their monumental record "Grip It on That Other Level" on the Southern independent label Rap-A-Lot. The record contained the classic songs "Gangsta of Love," "Balls & My Words" and "Mind of a Lunatic." Filled with raw beats and pure ghetto angst, "Grip It On That Other Level" became an instant hit with rap fans and earned them a deal with the legendary hip hop producer/entrepreneur Rick Rubin, who inked a split label deal with Rap-A-Lot to re-release a reworked version of the LP on his Warner distributed Def American label. But as soon as word about the kind of lyrics that was on the album reached the powers that be the Geto Boys found themselves in the eye of a political storm. PMRC founder Tipper Gore and Sen. Bob Dole placed pressure on Time/Warner to drop the album altogether. Fortunately the Geto Boys prevailed and their national debut The Geto Boys was unleashed on the public. The record went gold with no air play or video. Thus begin a string of critical and commercially successful albums like We Can’t Be Stopped (Platinum), a greatest hits collection called Geto Dope (Gold), Till Death Due Us Part (Platinum) sans Willie D who left the group to pursue a solo career. Willie D rejoined the trio on the powerful reunion LP Resurrection and remained with the group up until their last album, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, which saw Bushwic AWOL.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly also marks the GBs last studio album. After the LP was released the GB went on a long hiatus as each member pursued their solo careers. But try as they might the streets just wouldn’t let them go. Everywhere they went, fans were asking them when they were going to get back together and drop another album.
"We were really feeling the pressure," says Willie D. "Fans were really wanting a new album from us so I took the initiative to get at everybody one by one. I had to facilitate the whole thing because we hadn’t all been on the same page. I had been in touch with Brad for a minute and we both had been talking about doing a Geto Boys album. He told me that he was with it. Then I reached out to Bushwic and convince him to do it. Then I called Lil J and asked him if he was with it. He said yeah. Once everybody was with it we just got in the studio and knocked it out."
War & Peace is just what fans of the Geto Boys expect from the legendary trio. It’s full of the raw ghetto angst and hardcore gangsta beats that made the GBs a hip hop institution. According to Willie D, sticking to the script both sonically and thematically is what the GBs new album so great.
"It’s definitely not a departure form the old Geto Boys shit," say a proud Willie D, when asked about War & Peace. "The only thing that is really different about the album is the beats are more up-tempo. But our energy level is still the same and our subject matter is still the same. We’re still championing the cause of the underserved. We’re still Geto Boys for life."
As one of the most controversial groups in the history of Black music the Geto Boys have easily become one the most important group’s in hip hop. Known the world over for their uncompromising lyrics that boldly addressed the pressing socio-economic issues that affected the Ghetto, the Geto Boys are loved unconditionally by true rap fans and hated vehemently by the powers that be, such as former Senator Bob Dole, who actually sought to have the group banned.
The origins of the Geto Boys begins back in 1986 when a Houston based used car salesman by the name of James Prince spotted three teenagers hanging out on the corner rapping and goofing off on a school day while on his way to work. Recognizing them as neighborhood kids, he stopped and asked them why weren’t they in school. They replied that they weren’t in school because they were trying to pursue a career in rap music. Prince then made them a promised that if they stayed I school long enough to graduate with good grades that he’s help them release a record. The boys accepted the challenge and went back to school. Everyday K-9, Juke Box and Raheem would go to school and every evening after doing their home work and studying they would rehearse at Prince’s office. Upon their graduation Prince made good on his promise.
In 1986 the Geto Boys released their first single, a song about girls who only date guys with nice cars, called "Car Freaks." At the time, the GB line-up was Juke Box, K-9 and Raheem . The single was a smash hit and set up anticipation for their subsequent album entitled Making Trouble, which featured new Geto Boy line up Jukebox, Prince Johnny C, Grand Wizard Dj Ready Red and Bushwick Bill. Although the album leaned heavily on the classic East Coast hip hop sound made popular by groups like RunDMC and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Making Trouble was an instant hit in the Southwest region, connecting to thousands of young southerners who were eager to hear someone from their neck of the woods make it in the hip hop game.
But unfortunately all of the original Geto Boys didn’t stay with the group long enough to see the group achieve the gold and platinum height they were destined to reach.
Both Prince Johnny C and Juke Box decided to leave the group for personal reasons, leaving Prince with the difficult task of rebuilding the group.
"I shook every neighborhood inside out," Prince told XXL magazine. "I put out a major talent search, a street search on all the corners and hoods in the city to let them know that I needed the best street guys in Houston."
His search yielded two fresh recruits from different parts of Houston. The first one was a tall brash former Golden Glove Boxing state boxing champion by the name of Willie D, who was from Prince’s 5th Ward neighborhood. The second one a complex lyrical genius/DJ named Akshun, he later changed his name to Scarface, who hailed from Houston’s South Acres neighborhood. Bushwic Bill would also step to the mic, bringing his macabre sense of humor to the group as well. With his line up secure, Prince brought them together for their first meeting.
"I brought ‘em all together before they knew one another to brainstorm," says Prince. "I let them know that I wanted them all to do this my way. From there they could all do solo albums and I’d support them, but this Geto Boy thing had to be done my way."
And doing it his way meant not looking and sounding like cloned copies of New York rappers. Instead Prince encouraged the group to be themselves and rap about things that that was going on in their hood. The result of this was the monumental LP Grip It On That Other Level, which laid the blueprint for future Southern artists such as Eightball & MJG, UGK, and Master P’s super-group TRU to follow. In addition to establishing a blueprint for Southern hip hop Grip It on that Other Level also caught the imagination the hip hop nation’s cultural elite who felt the GB’s defiant spirit and in-your-face attitude. Hip hop impresario Rick Rubin, the man behind the commercial success of LL Cool J, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys, was so impressed with the Geto Boys album that he inked a deal with the group to re-lease the group tour de force LP on his Warner Bros distributed imprint Def American. But there was a slight obstacle in the form of the Bob Dole, Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center who took offense to a song on the album called "Mind of a Lunatic." In an ultimate jack move Dole, Gore and the PMRC put pressure on the brass at Time/Warner who declined to distribute the LP, deeming it offensive. The controversy proved to be just what the Geto Boys needed. When the LP, re-titled The Geto Boys, was finally released 1990 it reached gold status with no airplay whatsoever.
The following year proved to be both an artistic and commercial breakthrough for the Geto Boy. Fueled by the classic single "My Mind Playing Trick On Me," a record the Source called five of the most chilling moments in hip hop, We Can’t Be Stopped reached platinum status and remains a hip hop classic. Shortly after the success of We Can’t Be Stopped, Willie D left the group to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by Big Mike, a tall, robust MC with a silky Louisiana drawl who was in another Rap-a-Lot group called the Convicts. While the GBs were busy recording their next album Rap-A-Lot dropped a greatest hits collection called Geto Dope (1992), which contained the classic single "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta." It went gold in less than a year.
But Big Mike, Bushwic and Scarface wasted no time getting down to business. In the spring of 93, Till Death Do Us Part was unleashed to an eager public. Once again controversy surrounded the GBs as the video to the LP’s first single "Crooked Officer," a song exposing police mis-conduct was banned by both BET and MTV for graphic violence. The group was told that the networks would air the video if they edited the video severely, but, staying true their artistic vision, the GBs refused. When Till Death Due Us Part was finally released it debut at the top of the Billboard pop charts, selling over a million copies.
After the success of Till Death Do Us Part the Geto Boys took a three year hiatus. During this time both Scarface and Big Mike scored big with their solo projects. Scarface’s platinum selling LP the Diary was hailed by hip hop fans and critics as one his best solo projects ever while Big Mike’s solo debut Sommethin’ Serious earned him both a gold plaque and the Source Award’s coveted Lyricists of the Year Award. The success of both artists had GB fans hungry for another LP with Big Mike, but it wasn’t to be. Mike left the group in 94 to focus on his solo career. However all was not lost for GB fans as the trio would spring yet another surprise on their legion of die-hard fans when Bushwic, Scarface and Willie D re-united in 1996 with Resurrection, their most politically charged LP to date. Fueled by explosive jams like "The World Is A Ghetto" and the dark and sardonic "Ghetto Fantasy," the Geto Boys proved that despite three year hiatus they still had what it took to make a classic album. Once again their fans embraced them with open arms as over 500,000 people rushed the stores and bought Resurrection.
Resurrection was followed by yet another hiatus and the departure of Bushwic Bill, who went on to pursue a solo career, but never quite saw the kind of success that he saw with his former label. Two years later the remaining GBs soldered on by releasing The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, which yielded the top ten rap hit "Gangsta Put Me Down."
The dawn of the new millennium saw the disbanding of the Geto Boys. Scarface continued to solo projects and eventually went on to become the CEO of Def Jam South, inking a artist deal with both J. Prince Entertainment and Def Deal as well as doing stellar guest appearances on a myriad of rap records. Willie D also continued to record, dropping several solo projects on his own independent label. But as much as the two tried to put their legacy behind them fans continued to hound them for yet another Geto Boys album. In 2004 Willie D, Buschwic and Scarface finally heard their fans’ cry. Once again they sat down and put their differences aside and headed to the studio to record what promises to be the ultimate Geto Boy’s album.