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. We chat with Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys.
What brought the Geto Boys back together?
Really? I couldn’t tell you. (We both laugh) I haven’t done shit since ’96 with any one of them. I had my own political reasons.
When you got back together was it like the old days?
Yeah, it was easy. Back in the day we rapped all in the studio for two weeks straight and we’d get a record done. This time [Scar]Face rapped had his vocals doneready there and Will rapped and his vocals were there and all I had to do is put my vocals in there. In fourteen days I did sixteen songs.
Do your lyrics just flow?
It was easy because once you know the attitude of the person who came before or after you it’s easy to do your part.
I read a quote from you and you were saying how frustrated you were with hip-hop will all the party anthems. It seems that hip-hop is getting watered down.
It is. And how long can you party? The average person, or richest person, could only party for so long before their finances dwindle or their bodies hurt too much.
Even the over stimulation of it all—it would wear thin.
Whatever happened to reading a good book? Whatever happened to being an inspiration to people? I don’t consider partying an inspiration, but I do consider partying a part of life.
And the party anthem only breeds kids who want to rap to make money not inspire whereas the Geto Boys challenge people to think about their environments and speak on what you see.
There is nothing wrong with partying but you can’t empower the people unless you are a party for change. Public Enemy said back in the day “Party For Your Right To Fight” and I’m into that kind of partying. Even Puffy had to go out and promote “Vote or Die”—he didn’t say “Dance or Die.” At the end of the day if people aren’t empowered with things that could change their daily lives then you ain’t going to dance to long. If I remember correctly from reading the Bible people were partying the day Noah was building the ark and when Noah stepped on the ark they partied right into a flood. Right now partying is flooding the industry so I guess the Geto Boys are riding on the ark.
Listening to the Geto Boys, Public Enemy, or N.W.A. did motivate people.
That’s what people didn’t understand—it motivated you to want to do something positive.
And to make a difference.
Irregardless of our using colorful metaphors you still want to change something.
When I heard “F*ck Tha Police” I wasn’t thinking f*ck all law enforcement. I was thinking of it like KRS-One said “officer from the overseer.” [N.W.A.] never said all police were bad they talked about specific stereotypes “black police showin’ out for the white cop.” It was only years until the Rodney King thing happened. When Ice-T came out with “Cop Killer” he wasn’t talking about kill all cops—he was talking about killing that cop mentality. Ice-T was shouting out about people who were abusing the people they were supposed to protect and serve. I didn’t think about it that cops were all bad. There are laws and situations that we can use in our favor. Martin Luther King Jr. used laws to make changes. You can’t use brutal mentality to change brutal mentality.
I’ve always had issues about people who never heard songs and yet preach how terrible they are—“F*ck Tha Police” is a good example of that.
It’s like when you watch the news and they are talking about fires—they aren’t saying the whole world is on fire. They are covering that fire. When they are covering a riot they aren’t saying 150 cities are rioting.
Did it drive you crazy when the press would talk about the Geto Boys negatively without ever hearing the band or did you find it useful because it drove kids to you who learned more about the Geto Boys?
For them to say that we were negative allowed people to find out how positive we were. We were just saying it in a way people considered raunchy but I don’t think that people who are angry always talk about things as an intellectual without colorful metaphors. I didn’t create those metaphors.
Its funny how people who try to repel us from music actually make us gravitate towards it.
Al and Tipper Gore attacked us and said we were bad for the people but in the same sense I thought that when cheese went bad it would harm you but they took and turned it into penicillin. Something bad turned out to be a hero. People in the hood and the streets that wouldn’t normally read a book or speak their minds—we were the voices for the voiceless. They don’t know how to stand up for themselves so we stood up for them. We were angry so we came across as angry because we wanted a change. Like in “Do It Like A G.O.” we said “fifty questions is what they brought us but five is what they taught us” so how the hell are you going to compete.
What were you doing during the time away from the Geto Boys?”
I worked at Hot 107 in Memphis. I’ve been going around helping people set up studios and setting up record labels so they got paid. I tried to help people avoid the pitfalls that happen. If we each keep doing the same it becomes repetitious. People can rap but don’t know they need an entertainment lawyer or other stuff. You have to be able to handle this business. Look at Billy Joel—his manager robbed him of $81 million. Led Zeppelin’s manager robbed them too. It’s not just rap. Rapping is a job. It’s a business. If you treat it a certain way you will live minimum wage. Also, some people think that you have a manager and they tell you what to do, but they work for you and you should be involved in the decision making.
Do you think the problem with most new artists is that they think that once they have a record deal they are set?
Yeah. They think once they have a record deal they are on their way to fame and fortune.
When you were working on the record did you know what you wanted to speak on?
We were looking at rap, the ghetto, and worldwide issues and it all rolled into one. We like to talk about everything. We don’t like to talk about one side of the situation. In this business you don’t make money unless you connect to people. You still gotta feed your family. If you do nothing and let your family starve then they blame you for not being man enough to do anything about it.
+ Charlie Craine