Willie D sees hip-hop fans turning on party songs in favor of stories about ‘the life'
The Geto Boys, Southern rap pioneers and grandfathers of horrorcore, are currently in the midst of a massive U.S. tour. It's been 22 years since the prominent '90s group's three most prolific members have toured together, and Willie D, Scarface and Bushwick Bill are packing venues with crowds hungering for something besides the slow jams currently infecting hip-hop.
The three artists are set to display the abilities that helped them capture listeners' imaginations in their rhyme-spitting heyday, with hits such as "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" and "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta." Willie D talked with Folio Weekly about the appreciation he's finding on the road and younger fans' interest in the group.
Folio Weekly: Let's go back to the beginning of the Geto Boys. When did you first meet Scarface and Bushwick Bill?
Willie D: I knew Bushwick from out on the streets. Bushwick was a dancer for an earlier version of the Geto Boys [consisting of DJ Ready Red, Prince Johnny C and The Slim Jukebox]. I met Scarface on the first day that we had assembled the new installment of the Geto Boys, when we first went to the studio to record our first album.
F.W.: What was your relationship like with the original members of the Geto Boys you were replacing?
W.D.: I had no relationship to them. I knew who they were before I signed on to be a member of the Geto Boys, as I was signed to the same record label [Rap-a-Lot Records]. They were my labelmates, but there was never a real friendship or relationship there.
F.W.: All these years later, after the three of you met in a studio, what has been the biggest catalyst for getting the group back on the road?
W.D.: The fans sparked the interest first. Whenever I would open Twitter or Facebook, I would be bombarded with requests from fans to do another tour. I remember one 25-year-old dude telling me he had never seen us live before and had waited a lifetime, because he's been listening to our albums since he was born. All of these stories kept piling up, so I went to Scarface and asked him what his interest would be in doing the tour. He was like, "Shit, put it together." Bill was down for it, too. We found a booking agent who turned out to be a kindred spirit; I wanted someone that knew our story. I wanted to find people that were passionate to work with the Geto Boys, not just interested in collecting a check. So we started working on dates earlier this year, and we've been bringing the tour to folks ever since.
F.W.: What has the reception been like from the crowds so far?
W.D.: The reception has been beautiful, man. We don't have regular fans; even our young fans are fanatics.
F.W.: Do you believe the younger fans' interest in you is a reflection on what is available to them in today's mainstream hip-hop or rap?
W.D.: I think that has a lot to do with it. They're just looking for something authentic. They're looking for someone who is about this life. With these new rappers … look, you say you're in this life, you're about this life, but you went to private school, and you never hung around the block. Never sold any dope, never went to jail a day in your fuckin' life. You're not from the fuckin' block, you're from heaven, motherfucker! The fans are just finally saying, "All right, enough partying." Enough of the fantasy shit. That's a huge draw for us. We probably would have sold more records if we hadn't sung songs about social issues and just recorded party songs, but we did those songs because we care about the people.
F.W.: Do you three get along better than you did in the beginning of your careers? Has age mellowed everyone out a little bit?
W.D.: Fuck no! We still fight like animals, y'know? [Laughs.] Nah, we're not boxing and shit like we used to do; back in the day, we would actually physically fight, but now we're just passionate about what we do. You have to keep in mind we were never friends. We weren't family members or anything. We were just thrown together in the studio, so fights were bound to happen.
F.W.: With the reception you three are receiving on the current tour, do you see this becoming bigger? Will there be a larger tour after the current one?
W.D.: Definitely. This is just us setting everything up. After we finish this tour, we plan on hitting the big stages. If our fans want to catch us in an intimate setting, this is it right here, man! To be able to reach out and give dap [a hand gesture] to a fan, or have someone reach out and pass you an old cassette tape so you can sign it right there on the stage … to be so close that you can see everyone in the building while performing on the stage, that's the beauty of this right here.