Even the most explicit of rap and hip-hop albums have a limit with respect to the kind of content that they carry. That's the general trend, unless you happen to be listening to one by the notorious Geto Boys. Yes, that's the way the group's name is spelled. No, nothing is sacred for these guys. If it's extreme and simple over the top lyrics that you want, the Boys will give you just the right amount for an overdose - and then some more.
The Geto Boys: Notorious G-E-T-O
The boys trace an official history that goes all the way back to 1986, when entrepreneur James Smith – more commonly known in the industry as Little J – assembled DJ Reddy Red, the Slim Jukebox and Prince Johnny C. He called the early team-up the Ghetto Boys and then signed it with Rap-a-Lot, his label. Between 1987 and 1988, however, Johnny C the the Slim Jukebox quit, leaving only Reddy Red with a musical act but no album.
Geto Boys Get Started
Bushwick Bill, an immigrant from Jamaica who settled in New York and then moved to Houston when he got tired of the Big Apple. While he was in the club scene in Houston, he happened to meet Little J, who managed to convince him that rap was his place. Bushwick agreed, and joined the group in 1987.
Scarface, meanwhile, had a different story. A troubled youth had him leaving his mother's house before he turned 18; he eventually resettled in his grandparents' home. While there, he had gotten into the business of selling drugs while doing a little rapping on the side. In 1986, he recorded a single Big Time as Akshun at the riped old age of 16, which caught the attention of the music scene then. He signed on with the group in 1989.
Like Scarface, Willie D had dreams of making it big in rap. The Houston native was a struggling artist until a common friend hooked him up with Little J. J then signed Willie as a solo artist for Rap-a-Lot until the latter formed the Geto Boys line-up in 1989.
The group's first album, 5th Ward Chronicles: Making Trouble, was released in 1988 while still under the name of Ghetto Boys. This initial effort from the original line-up panned, with critics saying that it was “a novelty that even the most die-hard fans would find of little value.” This album's commercial failure led to the removal of the Slim Jukebox and Johnny C, as well as the near non-mention by fans and critics.
Geto Boys Get Loud
Grip It! On That Other Level, with a new line-up and an altered name, proved to be much more successful for the group. Many consider Grip It to be the Boys' breakout album, and for good reason. Aside from becoming their first commercial success, it was also what got them noticed by Rick Rubin, who has launched or revived numerous music industry institutions like Johnny Cash and LL Cool J.
The Geto boys weren't as popular as they were notorious. Both segments of the music industry and government tried to shoot down their third album, 1990's The Geto Boys, because of its content that involved drug use, murder and even necrophilia. However, Little J saw just how much controversy can sell, and simply switched distributors. It was fortunate, as another furor was raised when the next album, 1991's We Can't Be Stopped, used the actual picture of Bushwick Bill in the hospital after he'd shot himself in the eye.
Geto Boys Get Dirty
Willie D's departure and replacement with Big Mike began the group's decline. 1993's Till Death Do Us Part was not received very well by audiences, and only Willie D's return for 1996's The Resurrection and 1998's Da Good Da Bad & Da Ugly saved the day – sans Bushwick Bill. After the release of The Foundation in 2005, they would occasionally reunite to perform or record, such as for Scarface's My Homies Part 2.
Did you know that...
- ...Willie D and Little J shared the same barber? It was this barber who initially gave Willie's number to J when he knew the latter was looking for talent. It wasn't long before Willie D was signed to Little J's Rap-a-Lot label.
- ...Bushwick Bill is the longest lasting member of the group? He was contributing to the Ghetto Boys before he was even officially billed as a member.