Born in Jamaica, Bushwick grew up in New York and later moved to Minnesota to attend Bible college. He was planning to do missionary work in India, but on his way overseas, he stopped in Houston to see his sister and met the rappers that would forever change the course of his life.
“My first and foremost love was to go do missionary work in India. That’s what I wanted to do,” he says. “My desire was to go around the world preaching the word of God.”
But he traded his Bible for a microphone and joined the original incarnation of the Ghetto Boys as a dancer, along with rappers Raheem, The Slim Jukebox, and Sir Rap-A-Lot. Raheem and Sir Rap-A-Lot soon quit and were replaced by Prince Johnny C and DJ Ready Red, and that’s when Bushwick found his calling and grabbed the mic. It was this lineup that recorded the group’s first album, 1988′s Making Trouble, which included the track, “Assassins,” widely recognized as the first horrorcore song.
The album didn’t fare well and the group broke up. Undeterred, Bushwick rebuilt the crew with Ready Red, adding local solo artist Scarface, who was then known as Akshun, and Willie D, a 5th Ward O.G. and up-and-coming boxer who would later turn pro. Re-christened as Geto Boys, they recorded 1989′s Grip It! On That Other Level, which caught the ears of Rubin and led him to remix 10 songs for re-release.
Shortly after the release of We Can’t Be Stopped, Willie D quit and was replaced by Big Mike for 1993′s decent Til Death Do Us Part. Meanwhile, each original member released solo albums with varying success. Bushwick put out the classic Little Big Man and Phantom of the Rapra, Willie D released I’m Goin’ Out Lika Soldier, and Scarface cranked out a string of top-notch albums that charted well and became fan favorites, including The World is Yours, The Diary, The Untouchable, The Last of a Dying Breed, and The Fix.
The original trio reunited for the first time—and seamlessly recaptured their original chemistry—on 1996′s The Resurrection. The album proved one of their finest hours, with a slew of classics—most co-produced by multi-talented Rap-A-Lot in-house producer/guitarist Mike Dean—including the War remake “The World is a Ghetto,” the hard-hitting “Still” (which was featured in the 1999 Mike Judge comedy Office Space, along with “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta”), the politically charged “Blind Leading the Blind,” and the ghetto fabulous anthem “Geto Fantasy.”
Despite winning critical acclaim, the three went their separate ways again, until they reunited for 2005′s The Foundation. The album cracked Billboard’s top 20, thanks largely to another underground hit, “G-Code,” and vintage GB cuts like “Leanin’ on You,” a heartstring-tugging, ghetto tale that samples “If You Move I’ll Fall” by Stax Records act The Soul Children.
That was their last album and the trio hasn’t done a full tour in more than 20 years. They’ve played sporadic, one-off shows from time-to-time and the current tour took shape after a reunion show last year at Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering of the Juggalos festival in Illinois.
“It’s always a good feeling to get back on the stage. It’s almost like we never left,” Willie D says.
“We have such a great chemistry. When we hit the stage, no matter how much time passes, we just kick right in. It’s real, real natural.”
Adds Bushwick, “To be back onstage with them is like second nature. We worked so well together for so long together. We jelled so quick. It’s like picking up the old bike you used to ride.”
These days the three lead separate lives. Willie D and Scarface are based in Texas while Bushwick says he splits his time between New York, Atlanta, Jamaica, and Houston. Willie D says he and Scarface are “like estranged brothers” who talk occasionally, but he only talks to Bushwick when they meet up at shows. He doesn’t even have his phone number and relies on Scarface to make sure Bushwick shows up, he says.
Still, Willie D says it’s a “50-50 chance” they’ll do a new album, but a potential stumbling block is that Bushwick is a born-again Christian who makes gospel rap albums. Bushwick is also working on a documentary about his life, a book, and a possible reality show.
He’s mostly steered clear of trouble in recent years, save for a 2010 weed bust that nearly got him deported back to Jamaica. He tells much of his life story on his last solo album, My Testimony of Redemption, detailing his teenage years as an ordained minister, his life with strippers, drugs and booze with the Geto Boys, and his Christian rebirth.
He quotes scripture throughout, a far cry from his misogynistic, gang-banging Geto Boys persona, which helped him sell millions of records, rapping about getting rim jobs, necrophilia, and killing cops.
“A lot of people can’t handle fame. Sometimes people … become suicidal or self-destructive. That’s the category I fell into—self-destructive,” he explains. “But once I lost my eye in this music thing, I realized music has its own demons. Now I can let other people know about it.
Now I can let people know about the things that will lead you to violence and drugs and bad behavior. That’s the purpose I serve now.”
Scarface remains busy producing and making cameos, including recent tracks with Beyoncé, French Montana, and 2 Chainz, and is working on a new solo record. Willie D wrote a political column for Vice and now writes a syndicated advice column called “Ask Willie D.” But whatever projects the three may work on, whenever they step back in the studio or on stage, the energy, fury, rage, drama, and angst of those early days is never hard to recapture.
“We have a lot more commonalities than we have differences and that’s all Geto Boys have ever tried to put out there,” Willie D says. “We put that message out there and I believe it crossed all socio-economic, gender and color lines.
‘Cause we don’t go in making music for black people. We make music for the struggle. That’s what our music is. It’s struggle music.”
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