“This year Halloween fell on a weekend / Me and Geto Boys are trick-or-treating,” sang the rap group Geto Boys on their hit single “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”
The late ‘80s and early ‘90s rappers hailed from Houston, Texas. The group consisted of Bushwick Bill, Scarface and Willie D. While New York and California were dominating the rap scene at the time, the Geto Boys kicked the door in for rappers from the South.
Their blend of gangsta rap, gore and psychotic lyrics put them in a lane of their own.
Where gangsta rap has been pigeon-holed as glorifying guns and drugs, it also addresses social issues of drug addiction, poverty and the family dynamic suffering under both issues. The Geto Boys’ music went deeper into the psychology of the Black youth growing up during the crack cocaine epidemic.
The group touched on taboo issues such as suicidal thoughts and tendencies, paranoia and the hidden traumas of witnessing the bodies of murder victims lying in the street. “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” hit Number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1992.
The song is on the group’s 1991 album, We Can’t Be Stopped. Bushwick Bill is being carted through a hospital by Scarface and Willie D on the album cover, an incident recreated after Bushwick Bill lost an eye in a high profile shooting.
Mental health issues were rarely discussed in the Black community, but the group put it front and center with their song “Mind of a Lunatic” ontheir 1989 album, Grip It! On That Other Level. The song has been covered by many other artists, including Marilyn Manson in 2003.
Geto Boys’ music also addresses social politics with “Crooked Officer,” about police brutality that was happening in the ‘90s. “The World Is a Ghetto,” “Geto Fantasy” and “Six Feet Deep” are songs that address the impact of street violence on the community.
“F*&k a War” was the group’s antiwar song to protest the Iraq War.
The group’s vivid storytelling skills painted the graphic realities of street life. But, like most groups, the team broke up. Willie D left and Rapper Big Mike filled-in on the 1993 album, “Til Death Do Us Part.” Big Mike and Bushwick next left the group, but Willie D returned for the 1996 “The Resurrection” and 1998’s “Da Good, Da Bad & the Da Ugly.” Both albums were critically acclaimed.
Bushwick Bill returned for the group’s final album “The Foundation,” released in 2008. The Geto Boys gave the East and West coasts a look into the drug epidemic and social unrest in the South. The group was ranked Number 10 on About.com’s the 25 Best Rap Groups of All-Time.
The video game Grand Theft Auto V and the Netflix series Maniac feature their song “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”
In 2018, founding member DJ Ready Red, 53, died from an apparent heart attack. Bushwick Bill, 52, died from pancreatic cancer in 2019. Scarface is still going strong as a solo artist and businessman.
The Geto Boys might be one of the most underrated but most influential groups of all-time.