For all most of the world knows, hip-hop in Houston began with the Geto Boys. The facts don’t bear out that legend, but there’s a ring of truth to it nonetheless. Before Rap-A-Lot Records founder James Prince plugged stars-in-waiting Willie D, Scarface and Bushwick Bill into a stalled-out group backed by DJ Ready Red, the words “Houston rappers” rarely came up outside of a few inner-city high schools. But when the Geto Boys dropped Grip It! On That Other Level in 1989 and then followed it up with We Cant Be Stopped, rap fans, record labels and cultural critics across the country were forced to address the fact that H-Town was home to some of the best and most fearless rappers on the planet.
Throughout their 28-year, on-and-off career together, the Geto Boys have often had to struggle to be heard. Their lyrics were so shocking, so gleefully violent and sexist, that there was very little chance of their best stuff ever finding a home on MTV or radio. Ultimately, their voices were too loud to ignore, even if their antisocial rhymes often slipped right through the cracks in the mainstream.
Since there currently appears to be no new music from the group on the horizon, maybe now is as good a time as any to catch our breath and re-examine a few of the deep cuts. And the shallow cuts. Fuck it: Let’s examine all the cuts! Art Tavana at LA Weekly recently took the time (and the drugs, presumably) to rank every single one of Guns N’ Roses' recorded songs, apart from those on The Spaghetti Incident? (for obvious reasons). It was a totally cool idea, so like a G.O., we’re jacking that shit. Besides, as the lyrics on We Can’t Be Stopped make clear, the Geto Boys never liked it when Axl got the spotlight instead of them.
I’ve tried to take into account each song’s history, contributors and cultural legacy, but mostly I tried to consider each song’s dopeness. Its realness. Its replayability. This is how they stack up. So strap up — it’s time to ride, fool.
97. “The Unseen” – Uncut Dope: Geto Boys’ Best (1992)
“The Unseen” is a nasty, murderous anti-abortion screed, assigning sole blame to the “bitches” without much mention of how they became pregnant. Bushwick Bill gets an extra dig in on gays, too, because fuck ‘em, I guess. This gross, dated track from Uncut Dope also happened to be the public’s first taste of the Geto Boys’ newest member, Big Mike, who stepped in to replace Willie D briefly. His flow is actually pretty nice here, but he’s still very much Big Mike and not Willie D. And the subject matter makes this song flat-out unjammable.
96. “The Problem” – Making Trouble (1988)
This is an awfully slight little song. “The Problem” is basically just a few last Scarface samples and a funky hi-hat upon which to end the Ghetto Boys’ forgotten debut. It unmemorably succeeds on those modest terms.
95. “You Ain’t Nothin’” – Making Trouble (1988)
At least half of Making Trouble is pretty wack, but this song is the corniest of the bunch. In a move that must have made Chuck D gag somewhere, the Geto Boys actually sample Elvis for a swingin’ rock and roll feel. Skip.
94. “Why Do We Live This Way” — Making Trouble (1988)
The Making Trouble mediocrity continues with this thudding ripoff of “The Message.” Pure filler.
93. “Ghetto Boys Will Rock You” – Making Trouble (1988)
Ghetto Boys will rock me? This weak-ass dreck makes that proposition pretty difficult to believe. A sincere lack of credibility kind of defines Making Trouble, as this song’s failure to rock anyone ever illustrates perfectly.
92. “This Dick’s for You” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
I suppose this is what passes for a Geto Boys love song. Sure, they’re proffering their penile availability in the most sexist and demeaning manner available to them, but at least they’re not actively threatening violence against women. That’s a positive step. Oh, whoops, I just checked again, and Bushwick raps about throwing a woman in a ditch (it rhymes with “unsanitary bitch”). This one’s not super-good, then, I guess.
91. “No Curfew” – Making Trouble (1988)
The Beastie Boys probably should have sued J. Prince for royalties when they heard this track. It does at least contain an AstroWorld shout-out, which is enough to make it not the worst song on Making Trouble.
90. “No Nuts No Glory” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
No nuts, no glory? That really shouldn’t have been Big Mike’s motto here, since his nuts were never up to the task of filling out Willie D’s jockstrap. He’s a talented rapper, sure, but nobody had this track circled on the back of their cassette tape.
89. “I Run This” – Making Trouble (1988)
Another Making Trouble track that’s spirited, but ultimately derivative and forgettable. Simply put, this incarnation of the Geto Boys wasn’t running a damn thing by aping the East Coast masters.
88. “Snitches” – Making Trouble (1988)
Snitches have always been one of the Geto Boys’ favorite targets, and this track gets points for introducing them as the enemy. It does not, however, advocate murdering snitches, which means it’s a lot less focused and rather less cool than most other Geto Boys songs.
87. “The Secret” – The Foundation (2005)
While it does feature some strong lyrical performances, the Geto Boys’ only 21st-century album doesn’t feature production work quite up to par with their best stuff. Or their medium stuff, really. The vibraphone line on “The Secret” is a little too soft for my tastes. These are supposed to be the Geto Boys.
86. “One Time Freestyle” – Making Trouble (1988)
An eerie Twilight Zone sample makes this track stand out a bit on Making Trouble. James Brown is in there, too. In fact, “James Brown caught in the Twilight Zone” is a pretty decent description of the Geto Boys’ early sound.
85. “Murder After Midnight” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
The Geto Boys’ songs about jackin’ and stabbin’ are usually the most fun. This one mostly falls flat. Having Big Mike start it off probably wasn’t the best choice, but it’s tough to come in hard when you’ve lost your Willie.
84. “Dirty Bitch” – The Foundation (2005)
Bushwick Bill has some severe trust issues with women. And anger issues. Bushwick Bill’s just got issues, man. He capably lays out a lot of his resentment toward the opposite sex on this track, and it certainly feels true to life. It’s just kind of a bummer.
83. “Gun In My Mouth” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
This was a halfway decent Geto Boys track that I couldn’t remember ever hearing. Then I realized that it’s the final song on Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly. Who ever listens to that album all the way through? Guests the Outlawz steal the song here, and basically, they can have it.
82. “Street Game” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
An uninspired opening verse prevented any hope of this song climbing out of the ’80s. Most of Da Good… is uninspired, sure, but most of it is still better than this one, too.
81. “Nothing 2 Show” – The Foundation (2005)
“Nothing to Show” is a decent latter-day Willie D solo track, centering around his beloved jacker stories. Nothing much wrong with it, but he’s got better stuff than this.
80. “Rebel Rap Family” – We Can’t Be Stopped (1991)
“Rebel Rap Family” isn’t much more than a musical intro to We Can’t Be Stopped sampling Giorgio Morodor’s theme from Scarface. Which, hey, that’s cool. It’s still better than most of Making Trouble.
79. “Why U Playin’” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
Willie D, Scarface and Doracell trade threats over funk guitar here. It’s fine, but not nearly good enough to propel Doracell to stardom the way J. Prince obviously hoped it might.
78. “Punk-Bitch Game” – We Can’t Be Stopped (1991)
Only the Geto Boys could make enticing the females and males in a crowd to chant “punk” and “bitch” at each other sound this much fun. This isn’t even a song, really. It’s more of a snapshot of the weird, crackling energy at a Geto Boys concert — the kind you can’t find anywhere else.
77. “Leanin’ on You” – The Foundation (2005)
This track is most notable for Bushwick Bill’s verse, which details the way that he leans on God to survive his difficult, crazy life. But even Willie D sounds almost vulnerable over the smooth R&B here. That makes it interesting, but not as much fun as the really good stuff.
76. “Retaliation” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
Scarface and friends tee off on a heavy, bouncy beat on this short, penultimate track of Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly. It’s tough, but it doesn’t quite feel like the Geto Boys — probably because Willie D and Bushwick are nowhere to be found.
75. “Dawn 2 Dusk” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
The opening track of Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly tries to come out hard, but it pales in comparison to other openers — especially “Still” or “Do It Like a G.O.” In comparison (which is kinda what we’re doing here), “Dawn 2 Dusk” falls a bit flat. But don’t worry, those two are coming up in due time.
74. “I Tried” – The Foundation (2005)
This song manages to be a semi-successful stab at soulfulness from the Boys, which is nice, I guess. Except “soulful” never has been and never will be the Getos’ best setting. Still, they get credit for stretching a bit here. Hey, they tried.
73. “Thugg Niggaz” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
Good news, y’all, Doracell is back! He and the Boys break off a few Tupac-inflected verses over a nice skank from the Police (the “Roxanne” guys, not them hated laws). ‘Pac even gets a posthumous shout-out.
72. “We Boogie” – The Foundation (2005)
“We Boogie” is a perfectly acceptable head-nodder from The Foundation letting the rest of us know that real G's don’t dance. They boogie. Seems like kind of a fine line, to be honest, but I’m pretty sure not a lot of people ever danced to this song, so the theme fits.
71. “Bitches & Ho’s” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
The Geto Boys have had plenty to say over the years on the topic of bitches and hoes, however one chooses to define them. Usually, their thoughts are accompanied by something a little tastier than these late-'90s string and harpsichord synth lines. The Getos might’ve been in total autopilot mode, but the bitches still probably deserve better than this.
70. “Murder Avenue” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
Bushwick Bill’s solo raps full of rape, murder and cannibalism are always good fun, as fucked up as that is to type. But this one might be his most forgettable. The hacking up of women just feels a tad too perfunctory this time out.
69. “Raise Up” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
Here’s another Scarface solo joint that proves his time probably could’ve been better spent working on a solo record rather than trying to sell a version of the Geto Boys with no Willie D. It’s hardly his best stuff, but it holds up nicely because of his ultra-talented flow.
68. “Livin’ 4 the Moment” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
This song probably would’ve been ranked a bit lower if not for Willie’s shout-out to the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. Nevertheless, it features some tasty quick-beat production from ‘Face.
67. “Declaration of War” – The Foundation (2005)
The most outstanding thing about this song is that it’s the first one off The Foundation, the Geto Boys’ first release in years. Like most of the rest of the record, the production work ain’t killer. But, goddammit, the Geto Boys were back.
66. “I Don’t Fuck With You” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
“I Don’t Fuck With You” suffers from being overstuffed with guests — a common problem with songs from …Da Ugly. But there are some real nice flows from ‘Face and Willie, here, anyway — even if it doesn’t quite feel like their song.
65. “Gangsta (Put Me Down)” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
This song gets points for the sheer novelty of having Beyoncé and LaTavia (remember her?) from Destiny’s Child helping out on an explicit track that samples that longtime favorite of pre-teen stoners, “Pass the Dutchie.” Not exactly sure whose career that collab was supposed to help out, but some of the participants have done better than others since.
64. “Straight Gangstaism” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
Mr. 3-2 appears here to help prop up his ex-partner Big Mike, and the song is good enough to make you wish they'd never split up. Although, to be fair, most songs make me wish they’d never split up, because maybe then Big Mike wouldn’t have been chumped as a replacement Geto Boy.
63. “Quickie” – We Can’t Be Stopped (1991)
The Geto Boys’ sexual boasts were never much to write home about, unless they also included serial murder — which they frequently did. “Quickie” doesn’t feature any bloodshed to speak of, but it does live up to its name and passes a couple of minutes pleasantly enough.
62. “Niggas and Flies” – The Resurrection (1996)
“Niggas and Flies” is a pretty standard bit of G-funk from the Geto Boys’ funkiest album. Not spectacular, no, but this list might well be starting to trend in the right direction here, folks.
61. “Big Faces” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
This one is a nice Scarface track about chasing skrill on the streets, with an okay appearance by Yukmouth, one of the more accomplished MCs to guest on this album. “Big faces” never quite caught on as slang for large-denomination currency, but it’s clever enough to work here.
60. “Do Yo Time” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
The Ghetto Twins help out Scarface on this hard-hitting variation on the classic “no snitchin’” theme. Is it a Geto Boys song? Debatable. But it’s mostly enjoyable on its own merits.
59. “G.E.T.O.” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
This leadoff track serves as a fairly decent and appropriately hard-hitting intro for Big Mike, who had some pretty big Nikes to fill. ‘Face and Bushwick are on point, too, making it one of the Big Mike era’s top tunes. You know…for what that’s worth.
58. “I Just Wanna Die” – The Resurrection (1996)
This is a standout track for Bushwick Bill. Over harrowing production, the oft-troubled dwarf sounds like he’s all alone in a haunted house, except that haunted house ain’t a fantasy — it’s his regular, everyday life. “I Just Wanna Die” is certainly real enough; Bushwick’s obvious pain is compelling. It’s just not very much fun to listen to.
57. “Real Nigga Shit” – The Foundation (2005)
This heavy, woozy number boasts the most mind-bending production work on The Foundation, an album often lacking in that department. That’s enough to make it stand out a bit, even if it’s not an all-time classic by any stretch.
56. “They Bitches” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
This track kicks off with a fairly slight verse from Scarface, but a couple of nice, angry verses from Willie D salvage it. Nobody’s righteous anger is more furious than his. Solid.
55. “Point of No Return” – The Resurrection (1996)
For the Geto Boys, “politics” has usually been just another word for “race war.” Rock-hard trade-offs here between Willie and ‘Face make them seem more than ready to throw down with the more evil facets of white America’s system of power and oppression.
54. “Blind Leading the Blind” – The Resurrection (1996)
“Blind Leading the Blind” is another solid track from The Resurrection, but the heavy presence of Menace Clan makes it feel like something other than a straight Geto Boys song. Halfway through, in fact, The Resurrection starts to sound like just a good hip-hop album rather than a classic Geto Boys effort. Thankfully, that’s all worked out by the end of the disk.
53. “Free” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
This breezy little number almost feels slightly uplifting, if you don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics. With no guest rappers shoehorned in, this is just Scarface and Willie tag-teaming as few can do. Might’ve been nice to hear what a whole album of that could have sounded like.
52. “When it Gets Gangsta” – The Foundation (2005)
Z-Ro has appeared on releases by virtually every Houston hip-hopper of any note, so it was only a matter of time before he showed up on a Geto Boys record. He’s relegated to the hook here, which feels like a wasted opportunity. But his mean mug fits right in regardless.
51. “The Answer to Baby (Mary II)” – Greatest Hits (2002)
This one’s really just a Scarface song, taking back the sample of “Mary Jane” that Ashanti used in her song “Baby.” It was added to Greatest Hits just so Rap-A-Lot could claim the record included something new, but it’s still pretty damn good, even if it’s no “Mary Jane.”
50. “Like Some Ho’s” – Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998)
This smoothed-out slab of R&G benefits greatly from the presence of Facemobster Devin the Dude, who’s always kind of been a better authority on hoes than the Geto Boys. Trunk-worthy, assuming you can handle a healthy dose of the usual sexism.
49. “Cereal Killer” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
Probably the most light-hearted track on Till Death Do Us Part. Here, Scarface makes murder impossible to take seriously by rattling off a list of breakfast-cereal mascots who crossed his path. R.I.P. Cap’n Crunch.
48. “Bring it On” – Till Death Do Us Part (1993)
This song is kind of a crowded mess, but it’s also your only opportunity to hear H-Town legends Big Mello and the Odd Squad on a Geto Boys record. They’re pretty much the highlight of “Bring it On,” but it’s a fairly significant highlight, you’ll agree.
47. “Hold it Down” – The Resurrection (1996)
The spotlight-stealing Facemob robs this track of some of its essential Geto-ness, but it’s got a tight groove produced by Scarface and Mike Dean, and the protégés rap like they’ve got something to prove. Another solid tune from The Resurrection.