The Geto Boys is not exactly a guilty pleasure for me, because I’m a fan all day and I’ll happily admit that, but it feels kinda…naughty to bump their music on my headphones while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with buttoned-down business people on the morning commute, y’know?
Hailing from Houston’s Fifth Ward, emcees Willie D, Bushwick Bill, Scarface (originally known as “Akshun”) and DJ Ready Red brought the South into the spotlight as a new hotbed for hip-hop, and also stirred up a wave of controversy which hadn’t been seen since N.W.A. One of the top acts for the Houston label Rap-A-Lot Records, it was their 1989 record, Grip It! On That Other Level which was their artistic and commercial breakthrough, a notorious record known for it’s hardcore lyricism. Actually, hardcore is an understatement: The record is goddamned obscene. The group was acutely aware of rap’s burgeoning popularity and scrutiny by parents and watchdog groups, and kept pushing the envelope further and further. Willie D was railing against trifling women and telling censors, politicians and racists to fuck off. Scarface was building a cocaine empire, stacking paper, and suppressing inner demons. And Bushwick Bill? The dude was less than four feet tall and he let those demons manifest, idolizing Chucky from the Child’s Play movies and rhyming about some damn-near reprehensible shit. Very few hip-hop acts were as explicit as the Geto Boys were, or as fascinating, and they opened the door for later acts like Eminem and Tyler the Creator.
In 1989 Grip It! was remixed by the acclaimed producer Rick Rubin and set to be re-released as The Geto Boys, but due to the group’s extreme lyrics, the album’s distributor, Geffen Records, refused to release the album, eventually resolved when Warner Bros stepped in. The album was released in early 1990 to strong sales and continued controversy. The record was my introduction to the Geto Boys, and an album I’ve been putting a lot of plays on this week. The shocking lyrics from the emcees still pack a punch and are wildly entertaining, and the beats, though a bit dated, still sound raw and are chock full of Scarface samples (This group, and Scarface the rapper, helped kickstart rap’s interest with the classic 1983 crime film). It’s a wild record for sure.
And that brings me to “Size Ain’t Shit.” Damn, where do I even begin?! Commenting on his short stature, this Bushwick Bill solo joint completely flies off the rails as Bill lets the verbal 100-round chopper spray, hurling insults at all challengers, boasting of his sexual prowess, threatening prison rape, and throwing out all sorts of completely oddball, wildly problematic, stream-of-consciousness rhymes which are captivating in just how random and out there they are. It takes a special kind of eccentricity to be this weird and vulgar, and in all my years of rap-listenin’ I haven’t heard any other performances, save O.D.B.’s “Brooklyn Zoo,” that come close to how utterly deranged this one sounds. Hell, the beat even samples the theme music from the ’60s sitcom The Odd Couple! And fam! Get a load of these lines:
– “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y / You can’t have it…na-na-na-na-na!” (that last part in a sing-songy way too, by the way)
– “Fuck my size, you wanna do damage? / Contestant #1 c’mon down!! / You’re the next motherfucker I’mma clown!”
-“Carry on, motherfucker!”
-“Play pussy, get fucked!” (This line was actually used in a banned print advertisement for the album!)
– “Tolerate no misses / Rougher than Ulysses when it comes to bitches…”*
*Okay, so looking up the lyrics to that last one, it’s not James Joyce’s Ulysses, it’s “your lips,” but don’t tell that to 22-year old English major Jeff, okay?
Anyway, it’s an offensive, uproarious, and utterly fantastic listen. Carry on, motherfuckers.