Behind the Geto Boys' corpse-fucking, race-baiting cartoon cannibalism lurk rap's most compelling storytellers. The trio breaks down into surprisingly vibrant, vulnerable personalities. Scarface, a diagnosed manic-depressive with suicidal tendencies, alternates street-life stories with disturbing diary entries. Willie D, a slow-drawling brawler, hides straight-razor social commentary in rotten-apple rhymes. And Bushwick Bill, a dwarf who lost an eye during a suicide attempt, is the genre's truest tragicomic figure, flipping between clever quips ("Lifting weights will make you bigger / Lift me, you'll be a dead-ass nigga") and vivid snapshots of his darkest hours ("I Just Wanna Die"). The Geto Boys make reality records. Even their most outlandish songs resound with emotional authenticity.
On 1996's The Resurrection, the Houston vets cleaned up the stage-blood splatter and targeted Rwanda, black-on-black sniping and Bob Dole with the most aggressive, intelligent rhymes since Public Enemy's prime. The Foundation, the first original-lineup studio release since that flag-burning turning point, turns the group's anger inward. The Boys take turns chanting, "I tried to do the best I could / I guess my best ain't good enough," in weary tones. Bushwick unsmilingly addresses his stature for the first time, and though he disdainfully spits, "This ain't no poor little me song," his hurt resonates. Beatwise, the tracks generate warmth from sharp soul samples, and Mr. Mixx's sped-up vocals give the brilliant bio cut "Leanin' on You" a killer hook. But these Boys still aren't unfailingly mature men. Bushwick continues to clown, buddying up with Bobby Brown while flipping off Paul McCartney. And all three lyricists save space for brutal threats, most of which are directed at crooked cops, studio gangstas and "dirty bitches." Many MCs can dish out punishment, but only the Geto Boys seem brave enough to welcome friendly fire. -- Andrew Miller
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.