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Black Music Month Celebrates The Geto Boys.

Geto Boys (originally spelled Ghetto Boys) is a hip hop group from Houston, Texas, consisting of Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill. The original Ghetto Boys consisted of: Prince Johnny C, The Slim Jukebox, DJ Ready Red and Little Billy, the dancer who later came to be known as Bushwick Bill. The group released an album titled Making Trouble in 1988, which got very little attention. The group broke up shortly after and a new line-up was put together with the inclusion of Scarface and Willie D, both aspiring solo artists.

The Geto Boys earned notoriety for its transgressive lyrics which included gore, psychotic experiences, necrophilia and misogyny. Despite the explicit content of their songs, critic Alex Henderson argues that the group “comes across as much more heartfelt than the numerous gangsta rap…wannabes who jumped on the gangsta bandwagon in the early ’90s.”[1] The Geto Boys broke new ground with their soulful southern sound (a precursor to the Dirty South style).


The group’s 1990 album The Geto Boys caused Def American Recordings, the label to which the group was signed at the time, to switch distributors from Geffen Records to Warner Bros. Records (with marketing for the album done by WB sister label Giant Records) because of controversy over the graphic portrayal of rape, necrophilia, murder, explicit sex, cartoonish violence, and hostility toward women. The album, however, was actually a compilation, consisting mainly of ten tracks taken from its 1989 album Grip It! On That Other Level (most of them remixed), as well as two new songs and one song from its debut LP, Making Trouble.

In the early part of the decade, several American politicians attacked gangsta emcees, including the Geto Boys (most famously Ice-T and the N.W.A). A high-profile incident in which Bushwick Bill lost an eye in a shooting with his girlfriend helped boost sales of its third album, We Can’t Be Stopped. The album cover had a picture of the injured Bushwick being carted through a hospital by Scarface and Willie D. On the album’s title track, the group responded to Geffen Records ending its distribution deal with Def American. The album featurned the single “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”, which became a big hit in the hip-hop community and even charted well on the pop charts reaching #23 on the Billboard Hot 100.

All three members began solo careers, but Willie D. was the only one who actually left the group. Scarface and Bushwick Bill continued with the Geto Boys, adding Big Mike for Till Death Do Us Part in 1993. Although Till Death Do Us Part was certified gold it was not as well received by fans, as the lyrically gifted shoes of Willie D who also wrote for Bushwick, proved too big to fill for Big Mike. It did spawn one top 40 hit in “Six Feet Deep”, which peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Subsequently, Big Mike was dropped and Willie D returned for 1996’s critically acclaimed The Resurrection and 1998’s Da Good Da Bad & Da Ugly which Bushwick was not a part of. After years on hiatus, the group reunited to released its seventh album, The Foundation, in 2005. The Geto Boys were featured on Scarface’s My Homies Part 2 album.

The Geto Boys’ popularity was boosted somewhat in 1999 by the prominent use of two songs—”Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” (released as a promotional single for the 1992 compilation album Uncut Dope[2]) and “Still” (from The Resurrection)—in Mike Judge’s film Office Space, now considered a cult classic. The song “Mind of a Lunatic” has been covered by many recording acts including Marilyn Manson in 2003, as a b-side off the album The Golden Age of Grotesque.

The single “Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” has also been covered by the band Aqueduct and country singer Carter Falco. [3] The song “Street Life” from the album Till Death Do Us Part was featured on the motion picture South Central. A video clip for the song with footage from the film was released. [4]

The band did a rare performance as a reunion at the Smoke Out festival in San Bernardino, CA on October 23rd, 2009. [5] The Geto Boys are credited as the group who put the south on the hip hop music map and inspired a legion of acts including 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., UGK, TI, Goodie Mobb, Outkast, 50 Cent, Chamillionaire, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Juvenile, Mystikal and others.

The group’s name, Geto Boys, comes from a deliberate misspelling of the word Ghetto. For its first album 5th Ward Chronicles: Making Trouble (1988) and its second, Grip It! On That Other Level (1989), the spelling was the English standard “Ghetto Boys”. For its third album, The Geto Boys, they changed it to the “Geto” spelling, which the group has used since.