House of Blues
June 11, 2015
“H-Town, we belong to y’all,” said Willie D last night toward the end of the Geto Boys’ set at House of Blues. I think that simple declaration of love got the biggest cheer of the evening. Any Geto Boys concert in Houston, Texas, in 2015 is all about love. No act has meant more to the hip-hop movement in this city and this state, and fans young and old light up merely at the thought that the Geto Boys are still alive, still free and still rocking stages 25 years on.
The balcony was closed on Thursday night, but the main floor at House of Blues was crowded. Younger fans in their twenties and thirties with an appreciation for gangsta rap’s golden era filled the back and sides of the room, but the area down front was mostly controlled by the O.G.s: black, middle-aged couples reliving some old memories, drinking and dancing and shouting along to the group that put Houston on the hip-hop map.
There were opening acts at last night’s kickoff to the Getos’ current "Office Space" tour. Major Money was memorable as always, turning in a flashy set backed by his ever-present lineup of white women. He and the openers were tolerated, but when the curtain was closed in preparation for the main event, the energy in the place surged.
It was Scarface, Houston’s best candidate for G.O.A.T., who would be first through that curtain.
“H-Town, what up,” he said, under a hail of Tony Montana samples. Based on the crowd’s response, he could have stopped right there, but subtlety is not the Geto Boys way. He continued: “I know you done seen some shows. But tonight, you’re about to witness true greatness.”
It was hard to disagree. The legendary MC certainly didn’t need a cane up there. He was skinny and energetic, taking obvious pleasure in unleashing his deep and silky flow upon the fans like an evil lullaby. Then he dropped Willie D on their heads, and lit the fuse on Bushwick Bill.
Never coy, the Geto Boys dutifully performed all your favorites on Thursday. “Like a G.O.” “Chuckie.” “Read These Nikes.” All their head-squashing-est stuff was performed on a stage set flanked by ‘90s cubicle décor, including old-school Dell computer monitors. It was the perfect backdrop for the titanic “Still,” one of the incredible tracks from Office Space that helped expose the group to a new generation of white kids some years back.
It was a typically loose atmosphere onstage, and it wasn’t all old-school rap, either. Just because he can get away with almost anything in Houston, Scarface picked up an acoustic guitar at one point and led the crowd in a singalong of “Hotel California.”
As a guitarist, ‘Face is one of the greatest rappers alive, but he managed well enough. Not to be outdone, perhaps, Willie D followed that up by leading us through an a cappella version of the “All In the Family” theme song. Hey, when Willie D commands you to sing something, you do it! It was a truly fun moment, and a great illustration of the eccentric, unpredictable energy present at the best Geto Boys gigs.
Before taking us home with their best-loved cuts, Willie dropped a couple hints that there could be new Geto Boys music coming. After asking the crowd if they wanted a new Geto Boys album, he told them to watch social media for a big announcement coming real soon. The idea has been bandied about plenty over the last several years, but ‘Face, Bushwick and Willie D all seemed full of some genuine excitement and momentum on Thursday.
Whatever happens next week, “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me” will still be the most crucial song in Houston’s hip-hop history. The building shook when DJ Domo dropped the needle on that one. Each of the Boys took one last turn in the spotlight for his verse, with Willie D simply conducting the crowd as they screamed his lyrics for him.
What Willie seemed to understand was that they weren’t his lyrics at all. The words belonged to the dedicated rap fanatics of Houston, and this was their song, their group and their night. And damn, it felt good to be a gangsta.
Personal Bias: Born in Houston.
The Crowd: All ages, turnt up and ready to show love.
Overheard in the Crowd: “Go Bushwick, go Bushwick, go!”
Random Notebook Dump: Watching Scarface playing the intro to “Mind of a Lunatic” on his guitar felt kind of like watching Craig Biggio score a touchdown.