Geto Boys Free Press Summer Festival, Eleanor Tinsley Park June 1, 2013
One of this year's most anticipated FPSF sets by far on Saturday belonged to the Geto Boys, those 3rd Coast originators who put this city on the hip-hop map 25 years ago with their gonzo gangsta lyrics and attitude. A pre-fabricated group from the very start, no one has ever accused the Geto Boys of being inseparable, and performances by the trio of Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill have become increasingly rare in the 21st Century.
No surprise, then, that homegrown hip-hop afficianados were waiting with bated breath Saturday to see if the Getos could still go.
That wait threatened to stretch on indefinitely on Saturday afternoon, as the Boys' start time of 3:40 p.m. came and went on the Saturn stage. Late arrivals are nothing new in the rap world, but this was a festival gig, not a headlining slot. Each minute that ticked by with no sign of the group was a minute that would likely be subtracted from their performance.
Finally, at 4:06 p.m., 'Face appeared onstage to favor the crowd with a verse or two from the blood-soaked nursery rhyme "Mr. Scarface." It was good to see the man in action at last, particularly following his tease of an appearance at the All-Star Weekend Kick-Off Celebration earlier this year. He followed up his namesake track with "Mary Jane," the first of a couple tributes on the afternoon to the sweet leaf.
Rocks Off advice columnist Willie D came out next, looking gangsta as fuck with a bandana covering his face. Will sounded characteristically ferocious on "Read These Nikes" before the pair tag-teamed "First Light of the Day" from The Resurrection.
Great as it was to see Willie and 'Face back in action together, one Geto Boy, though, was conspicuously absent from that stage. Bushwick Bill, never the group's most stable member, never appeared. It was a damn shame, too, because the short psychopath always lends a fun and off-kilter energy to the trio that was sorely missed in his absence.
It was a very loose set that clearly hadn't been planned out too thoroughly ahead of time. Still, the rappers never missed a beat. Many of the white college kids assembled in front of the stage appeared to be largely clueless as to what they were hearing, and the sweat was pouring off of them in sheets thanks to the intense afternoon heat. But they had no problem dancing along to the old-school jams like "Geto Boys and Girls," a testament to the talents of the men onstage.
Despite the sad lack of Bushwick, there were still some great moments in the set. Scarface showed off some beatboxing skills undiminished by the march of time, and Willie D busted out a verse from the 5th Ward Boyz' "Pussy, Weed and Alcohol," a personal favorite. Despite these nuggets of goodness, though, the hill was beginning to clear out as the sun broiled us mercilessly.
Those who stuck around were rewarded with the tunes that they were waiting for: "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me" and "Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta," the laid-back G-rap brought to white people's attention some years back by the Office Space soundtrack. Pumping out of the fest's immaculate sound system, both sounded good enough to make the wait, the sun and the disturbing lack of Bill worth it.
Even the security guys guarding the back fence unabashedly bopped to the old-school jams. It was beautiful.
Before leaving the stage, the Geto Boys asked for a moment of silence for the four Houston firefighters who passed away on Friday battling a blaze. Willie D promised that the group would return someday -- with Bushwick in tow, hopefully. Scarface offered an explanation as to why the "Chuckie" rapper hadn't appeared on Saturday:
"Bill got caught smoking weed in the back of the RV, so they took him to jail," 'Face said.
Did that seriously happen? Was Scarface joking? It was hard to tell. Nothing ever seems to go smoothly when the Geto Boys are involved. But wherever they pop up next, we'll be there.
Personal Bias: Geto Boys' 2008 reunion show at Warehouse Live was my first rap concert.
The Crowd: Young, white and burning rapidly.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Is Bushwick Bill going to be with them?"
Random Notebook Dump: I really can't emphasize enough how incredibly hot it was out there for the Geto Boys' set. When it was over, I found a shady spot in which to lie down for a while. Draining.