Coming out of Houston’s notorious Fifth Ward (The Bloody Fifth) was an area in Houston that was stricken with drugs, and poverty. This is where Southern Hip-Hop founds its voice. Houston’s rap style, and most of southern rap overall was dirty, gritty, and most of all, real. The style was rooted in reality rap because that’s what life was genuinely like for them.
When you think of the term music mogul- who comes to mind? Of course people think of Puffy, Barry Gordy, Andre Harrell. We tend to forget about none other than Houston’s very own, J. Prince. Prince launched Rap-A-Lot Records in 1986. The Ghetto Boys was it’s first act. (You’ll note that the initial spelling was different from how it’s currently spelled.)
Car Freaks, was the groups first single. In order for the group to gain more traction, Prince made some changes. The original Ghetto Boys consisted first of Raheem, The Sire Jukebox and Sir Rap-A-Lot. When Raheem and Sir Rap-A-Lot left, the group added DJ Ready Red, Prince Johnny C, and Little Billy, who was initially just the hype man/break dancer who later came to be known as Bushwick Bill.
The groups next album, Making Trouble, showed the group taking a more aggressive stance, especially with the song Assassin. The album sold 100,00 copies. With the noise that the album brought, Prince wanted to continue with that rough, gritty, specific sound. Johnny C was removed from the group, and in comes Willie D, a well known boxer from the Fifth Ward that had no issues with being gritty.
Prince then makes way for another local Houston rapper, Brad Jordan, an 18 year old who had spent time in a psychiatric ward. Who then went by the name of DJ Action at the time, but would later become Scarface.
Now the Geto Boys would almost be complete with their new look. The missing puzzle piece? Bushwhick Bill. In March of 1989 the Geto Boys released Grip It on That Other Level. This album touched on politics, police brutality and poverty. Their music was dark, but again it was realistic for them. Much like Staten Island was the forgotten borough, Southern hip-hop was forgotten coast. Everything that was happening in the Bronx, and Los Angeles, were the same things, if not worse, in the Southern states.
The group was soon to be discovered by Rick Rubin, who had produced many other acts at that time as well. But the group ran into a problem- David Geffen didn’t want to distribute their music. The Geto Boys were the perfect storm of controversy. Much like other “radical” groups of the time, the group was called racist, mysognistic, and sexually explicit. Rick Rubin was able to get the groups album distributed, and much like other groups, the Geto Boys were stamped with the parental advisory label.
Soon after the group began facing problems. Bushwick Bill began on a downward spiral, that would ultimately lead to the groups next album cover and their peak of success. Mind Playing Tricks would be released on this album. This song would be the ultimate storytelling song. The songs idea initially came from Scarface. The song is actually a sample from Issac Hayes, Hung Up on My Baby. The Geto Boys version is a slowed down, grittier version of the original. This song shot to the top of the rap charts. This would be the Geto Boys first number one single.
The Geto Boys did a lot for hip-hop, especially for the South. Pushing the envelope for music not only in the south, but everywhere. Till this day, J. Prince is regarded as a heavy hitter in the hip-hop industry. J. Prince and the Geto Boys are the reason why you like some of your favorite rappers. The sound and influence is so powerful, and is used in music today.