Photos by Mark C. Austin. For a slideshow, click here.
Better Than: Grandma’s potato salad and watching the fireworks downtown.
As a born-and-raised Houstonian, I haven't witnessed firsthand much legitimate local history. Watching the 1986 Astros in the NLCS with Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan was huge, and the horror of all that was Enron might count, but personally, nothing has changed me as much as the rise of Southern hip-hop sparked by the Geto Boys. MCs Willie D, Scarface and Bushwick Bill put Houston on the map with incredibly violent lyrics and smooth production, sampling anything and everything on hand, including James Brown and the Steve Miller Band.
Having lived with the shame of never seeing the group perform for almost 30 years, I couldn’t think of any possible better way to celebrate my Fourth of July freedom than the Getos' reunion concert at Warehouse Live. Typical hip hop show, things ran late. The doors opened at 8 p.m, and the concert was slated to begin at 9, with no openers scheduled.
I doubt any fan bought the idea that the Boys would hit the stage at 9 sharp, but not wanting to miss anything, my friends and I made it there at 9:30 p.m. to an empty stage and a restless crowd. Everyone seemed well liquored-up already, being the Fourth and all. To help soak up the booze, the Geto Boys were gracious enough to employ a team of scantily-clad women to walk around, offering up shrimp cocktail to any takers while DJs warmed up the stage.
The crowd got an unexpected treat when fellow old-school Houstonian Gangster Nip came out to do a few songs. The man still has his thing working for him. And to no one’s surprise, Willie D’s proteges Huntzville followed with a couple songs of their own (of questionable quality).
It was after midnight at this point and the crowd was getting rowdy and left me wondering if we just got duped on the Fourth of July. Drunkards were getting kicked out left and right, and all the metal detectors and searches people went through to get in the door apparently didn’t stop anyone from bringing plenty of pot. By this point, the no-smoking venue was filled with pungent smoke and red-eyed individuals tired of waiting around.
Finally, at 12:30 a.m., when most Warehouse Live concerts are ending, a familiar face walked to the front of the stage to the strains of "The World Is a Ghetto." It was Scarface, fluid as ever, who quickly drove the crowd into a frenzy. Willie D followed soon after; you’d think after all these years, the anger in his gruff voice would have mellowed, but that wasn’t the case.
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The duo moved through a few songs and a few medleys. Then, the DJ dropped the familiar sounds of "Chuckie," and Bushwick Bill finally made his entrance. Bushwick went on to rhyme some rather ridiculous lyrics like, “a knife in his neck made a polar bear spit up, a nine, an Uzi is my only utensils, inside his chest they found 10,000 pencils." The absurdity of the whole thing didn’t stop anyone from singing along as loud as they could drunkenly muster.
Everyone was watching the history of Houston hip-hop before them. As strange as it may sound, I found myself feeling proud of the group. All these years later, and the Geto Boys still had it together. There were a couple of rough patches, like Bushwick Bill singing over the vocal tracks to a couple songs, but hey, it’s been a long time and it was still light-years better than stooping to lip-synching. Maybe they just didn’t have the instrumentals.
The group worked through all their career's finer moments, like "Gangster of Love," "Size Ain’t Shit," and of course their best-known song, "Mind Playing Tricks on Me." All in all, the show went off rather well and left Houston hip-hop fans in a feel-good mood. Who knows, maybe it’ll be the rebirth of the Geto Boys. Who knows? Maybe they have another We Can’t Be Stopped in them yet.
Random Note: Rumor had it Nas flew in just to see the show. - Brett Koshkin