Somewhere in Texas, southern rap legend Willie D of the Geto Boys is riding in a Cadillac with his attorney. They’re discussing the assault charges he’s facing. On the radio, Aaron Neville’s soft melodic voice is purring from the car’s speakers.”Turn it up a little bit,” he tells his lawyer. They continue to go over the details of his case. “Turn it up some more,” says Willie. Despite the seriousness of the allegations against him (D is also a part time professional boxer, thereby making his hands a lethal weapon), the rapper seems more interested in hearing the soothing sound of soul music than the “legalese” coming from the driver’s set. That scene, as described by Willie D, is a perfect representation of the man himself. He’s part guerrilla; part gentleman. He’s the conflicted street soldier torn between right and wrong as evidenced on his solo projects I’m Goin’ Out Like A Soldier, Play Witcha Mama and most recently Loved By Few, Hated By Many. With the release of the Geto Boys ninth album, War & Peace on Jan. 25th, Willie will once again bring his unique perspective on life to the masses.
You’ve said that the Geto Boys are still “championing the cause of the underserved.” Who are the underserved? “The poor and the uneducated. They don’t really have a voice. Don’t get it twisted though. There are some educated folks that fell on hard times for one reason or another and find themselves in these situations too. The elderly. They don’t have the strength to fight anymore. They don’t know where to go and find out different things about this program or that program. Those are the underserved.”
What more can be said in gangsta rap that hasn’t already been said? “Keep saying some more shit. Keep saying it louder. I know it’s not that easy when you’re getting pressure from the record label. They’re like, ‘hey we feel you about these issues, but maybe we should tone it down.'”
Who do you see out there speaking about real issues today? “Of course Geto Boys, but there are some other people like Common, Kanye West…thank God for Kanye West and Queen Latifah. It’s actually unfair to name people because there are so many you forget.
Those artists are more
Right. I’m talking about artists that are more hardcore like Geto Boys, bringing the social and political commentary with it. “It’s like that boxer out there no one knows about. He just ain’t surfaced yet. I don’t know who they are, but they out there.”
So, basically, there isn’t anyone in the market right now? What about Eminem? He’s been mixing in a lot of real issues into his music…like his attack on President Bush in “Mosh.” “I think he deserves credit for that. Anytime you take a chance on jeopardizing your finances…you know. People jeopardize they life all the time, but seldom jeopardize they finances. He’s coming after the president…someone who could put a contract out on him. But he gets away with a lot more because of all the other stuff he does…cross-dressing and all that. People don’t know if he’s serious or not. It’s like’s he’s on the fence.
Who are you listening to right now? What are you playing in the ride? “I don’t listen to rap music. I listen to 70’s R&B, 80’s R&B; James Taylor is always in my CD deck and The Police.”
The new generation was raised on rap music. They haven’t really been exposed to
white artists who were making popular music in the late 70’s and 80’s. Do you think
they’re lacking some of that musical diversity the original Hip-Hop generation had? “Good music has a way of finding its way to your heart. It found me in jail. When I was 18…actually like 17, I listened to white artists [for the first time] in jail. I had no knowledge of being around white people.
I was under the impression white folks couldn’t sing and didn’t have no rhythm. That was just my ignorance. But, anyway there was a show called Video Jukebox that we used to watch in jail and this music video by John Cougar Mellencamp came on called “Jack and Diane.” I turned the channel as soon as it came on. I wasn’t trying to hear that shit, but my man was like, let me watch that before you turn it. I was like naw. We kept going back and forth like that until we was about to get into it. I was like, damn this nigga want to fight me over this music video? He know I’m cold with these hands. So I just sat there and listened to it and it was hot, but I didn’t let him know. After that, I just wanted more and more. When I got out of jail, I started dating women who had been exposed to different things than me. They exposed me to a lot too, like that James Taylor. Right now, there’s nothing you can play [musically] that I can’t get down with.”
Would you describe your relationship with Scarface and Bushwick Bill as friendly or is it strictly business? “It’s business. If it wasn’t about business, we’d all be rich.”
So, if you guys were really cool, you’d all be eating the same.
“Dig what I’m saying!?!”
Understood. So, what’s the recording process like between the three of you?
“Get in that muthafucka and get in where you fit in. Basically, the structure is
unstructured. I’m not with the lying. I’m not going to [sugar coat] it. We should be as big as the Grateful Dead or The Police. Don’t blame it on the label when you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. Don’t give the label an excuse not to promote you. You missing interviews. You missing photo shoots and meetings. Don’t make the label come looking for you. Don’t have them wondering, is he gonna help promote the album? Or is he gonna hang out in Jamaica? You can’t blame that on the label.”
When was the last time you heard something on a record that shocked you or caused you to raise an eyebrow? “Juvenile say some crazy shit, but he say shit that I would say. Like on his new album with UTP he say ‘Order a drink and sit yo black ass down.’ That’s some real shit. I love how he put regular conversation in the rap.”
My next question deals with something I’ve always wondered about. Southern rap music is running things right now. Why didn’t Rap-A-Lot sew up the South? “In my opinion, I don’t think the vision was there. James “Lil J” Smith had in his mind this is what I’m gonna do and if I make something out of it [great.] He’s real. He takes careful steps before making a [business] move. Personally, it’s helped his
fortune by not losing money. On the other hand, you have to take chances. There’s
really no limit to what you can [achieve.] But yeah, we could have sewn up the whole
Do you think that lack of initiative after “We Can’t Be Stopped” blew up caused you guys to seek out solo projects? “We Can’t Be Stopped exceeded all of our expectations. There was no ingenuity behind a “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.” We just made that record, sent it to the radio and it blew up. Stuff like that only happens once in a lifetime.”
It’s kinda like lightning in a bottle.
So when do we get another Willie D special?
“Oh, I’m coming. Best believe that. I’m coming.”