In today’s hip-hop climate, where artists are here today and gone tomorrow, terms like classic and legend are grossly overused. Artists from my era had to earn titles through consistency, longevity and – most importantly – building a brand and body of work that stands the test of time. This is a level that includes artists like LL Cool J, Nas and Houston’s own Geto Boys.
Assembled by J. Prince, the mastermind behind the southern powerhouse Rap-A-Lot Records, the group took many forms. Ultimately, the grouping of Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill, with DJ Ready Red on the boards/decks was the combination that made the most impact. Together, they crafted hits like Mind’s Playin Tricks On Me, and The World is a Ghetto – to name a few.
Geto Boys are rightfully credited with putting the south on the (hip-hop) map, and influencing a legion of artists too vast to name. Ten years since their last album, the boys are back on tour and – if fully funded – will release a long-awaited new album. Willie D was kind enough to take some time and discuss the history of the group, the new album and more.Interview below.
How did you originally become a member of the Geto Boys, because before you and Scarface joined the group, Geto Boys were already a group. So, how did you guys get involved with them?
After they had released the first album Making Trouble, which met with some original success, J. Prince wanted to take the group in a different direction. He asked me to write a few songs for the new album. I wrote Let a Hoe Be a Hoe and Do It Like a G.O. They were cool with Do It Like a G.O, but they didn’t want to do Let a Hoe Be a Hoe – especially Prince Johnny C. Jukebox got over that, but ultimately he decided that he didn’t want to be in the group anymore once we actually assembled the new line up. He made his mind up on the first day of recording.
Let me back up a little bit. After I wrote the two songs and was given the resistance from Prince Johnny C, J. Prince came to me and asked me to join the group. I emphatically was like, “No – I don’t want to be in a group”. Then he was like, “Well, can you do it as a favor?” It’s like, how do you turn that down… Somebody that is so invested in your career asks you to do a favor, how do you turn it down? So I joined the group as a favor. I never wanted to be in the group.
That’s an incredible story.
Yeah! That’s how I got into the group, and that night, the same night that he asked me to be in the group, he came to my house. We stayed up for hours talking about the Geto Boys, and the direction he wanted to take the group in. He told me about this dude Dj Akshen from the south side of town, who everyone knows now as Scarface. He said, “I want to put him in the group, he’s cold man!” I trusted Jay; I trusted his insight when it came to music. He had a real good sense of what people liked – so I believed him. So when he said he wanted to put him in the group, I didn’t question it. I didn’t meet Scarface until the first day that we were set to go to the studio. He was in a van with J., Ready Red, Raheem, and Jukebox. I met him, and about two hours later, we were in the studio writing music.
Now fast forward, it’s been a long time since Geto Boys came out and it’s been almost a decade since your last album. You guys have gone through ups and downs. Why now?
All for the fans. Look, we can do our solo things, everybody can have a certain level of success, but there is nothing like a Geto Boys album. There is nothing like hearing all of our three personalities, and the texture of our voices. Each of us may address a particular topic and even though we may come from three entirely different angles, it always fits perfectly – and that’s what people like about the Geto Boys. The chemistry.
Why not now, especially considering all the things that’s going on in Ferguson, the things going on in Baltimore, and everything that went on in Oakland. I mean it’s just really all over the country… The police brutality. We saw the patrol; they’re totally out of control, pushing black folks around and pushing white folks around. They are pushing everybody around. They are pushing anybody around they can. Anybody sitting around defending them is constantly giving them the benefit of the doubt, and automatically jumping on their side every single incident. Some people never give the victim the benefit of the doubt when police brutality is involved. Cops think everything will be cool, and they will be able to do what they’re doing, and go unchecked. But that’s not going to happen forever, sooner or later the cops are going to get a taste of their own medicine – and they’re going to get it in high doses.
What made you guys choose Kickstarter as a platform?
Well the biggest thing about Kickstarter, is that it allows you to cut the middlemen out of the equation. Particularly with the message we want to put out right now; we don’t want to go back and forth with the labels about our content. We’re about to go off, like really go off. If you think about a lot of the music today, it’s very, very tempered.
It’s very tempered, man. It’s like People are afraid to say what they mean. I was about to say they’re scared to speak to their convictions, but many people don’t even have convictions. Everyone wants to be friendly. It’s cool to live in harmony and work in peace, but if peace is not an option, then I think you should set yourself to win a war. Go to war and win. Everybody wants to be politically correct. You got to like everything, or somebody is trying to get your job taken away from you, or someone is attempting to assassinate your character. Anytime you disagree with someone, what’s the first thing people say? You’re just hating. Since when has an opinion become hate?
People in America don’t have opinions anymore. You can’t have an opinion. If you have an opinion people, try to take away your life. They just take away your living, they just take away your lifestyle. Ostracize you, that is not cool! So we don’t have to worry really about that. Having endorsements and stuff like that is a bit cool, but then again, a lot of times it limits what you can say
I don’t know many labels in North America that are going to put a lot of marketing power behind a real message like that.
They’re not. There is only a tiny percentage of people who work in the majors, who love the music. There used to be a time when people, even if they were at the top of the music chain, they had a passion for the music. Now it seems like it’s just all about the dollar – just strictly about the dollar. Gone are the days when labels would hold an artist and say, “the first album, if we do fifteen thousand that’s cool. After the first album, you want to do quarter a million, and by the third album you go platinum.” That’s over; now it’s like “how the fuck are you going to sell a million records?”
It used to be a time when an album meant something, being able to go front to back just play that record on from front to back. You can play the record and walk away you don’t have to worry about it. Now it’s as the labels are are selling up as they say “Give me a single.” And they’re putting pressure on the artists to make singles. And the problem with a single is that it’s a just a single. It’s not accompanied by any other compositions that hold weight. It’s a just a single. People don’t even know the titles of albums anymore. They know the titles of singles.
So right now, how is your relationship, you guys in the group? I know a lot of people feel that you guys don’t get along at all.
A lot of people are right. We get along from time to time. It’s just that we’ve been around each other for so long, and I do think at times we take each other for granted just like family members do. The main reason we can make music together, and tour together, is because we do have a common denominator being that as “Geto Boys”. We understand the significance of the brand – and so we constantly come together to add to that legacy. The thing is that as long there is no disrespect involved, I can do this. We can have our disagreements, but disrespect will not be tolerated. So that’s why I give the guys respect because I want my respect. We can have our disagreements and at times, our arguments get very heated. But as long as there is respect involved, then any differences can be worked out.
Unfortunately, to the dismay of rap fans worldwide, the Geto Boys album was not fully funded. This has left the future of the group up in the air. Although they continue to tour, Scarface has been quite vocal about the fans being the ultimate deciding factor of the group’s fate. In an interview with HipHopDX he said the following:
“In all honestly, I don’t know if that’s what the fans wanted,” Scarface says of the group’s failed Kickstarter campaign. “I feel like if that’s what they wanted, then that’s what we’d be doing.
Disappointed fans were also quite vocal in the KickStarter’s comment section – and many echoed the same sentiment: wtf? With the number of supporters worldwide, and the amazing turnouts to theirs concerts, some point to the lack of awareness this project needed to succeed:
They didn’t market this well at all. I’m a huge Geto Boy’s fan, but the only reason I heard about it was a post in Facebook by Backspin on XM Radio. I think if they step their social media game up it’d be easy. I hope they give it another go. I’ll be in again!!!
Hardly anyone knew about this Kickstarter. It’s a shame, but hopefully the guys will do another album some day.
Def not happy to hear this didn’t get funded. With all those people showing up to their concerts, I’m sure if everyone backed at least $20 a head, this would easily get funded.
It’s a kick in the groin for fans – the same one’s that Willie D described as “beating their asses” for new material. Although not grammatically “all there”, one comment sums up how a lot of us day ones are feeling:
Geto Boys are my ultimate favorite group. Before Outkast and the whole southern hip hop scene came to light, there was Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill. I’ve followed this group since 1989 and have always been a huge admirer of this group. Willie D always made me laugh with his humor, wit and wisdom especially on his solo projects. Bushwick Bill the master of horrorcore, before Gangsta N.I.P. Brotha Lynch hung etc. this brother was always telling some dope stories that I enjoyed so much. And Scarface, the master story teller, master producer and a dope artist. When I first heard both Now I feel ya and I seen a man die….. Wooooo!!! I knew that this brother had a gift. On I seen a man die, I saw this brother as the grim reaper of thought. Very dope! I support these brothers and will that they make this new Geto Boys album into a reality. I don’t want anyone of them to give up, because there are alot of fans just like myself who desires to hear another Geto Boys album. I support you brothers to the fullest and willing you so much success on all your endeavors. Don’t give up! Peace!!