Well, the obvious answer to this question of whether the Geto Boys are gangsta rap or conscious rap is that they are both. They are possibly the only Hip Hop artists to successfully meld the two styles into one; with the exception, maybe, of Ice Cube as a solo artist. While groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions had records bordering on gangster in their early work, they transitioned into conscious rap quickly and stayed there. Geto Boys have always been a blend of gangster and the socially conscious, not really separating the two. Their gangsterism is a segue into their political and social commentary; they keep it related; because the two are related.
Willie D and Scarface performing in hometown, Houston, TX. Jeremy Perez Photos, Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Consider this scathing review of 1980s politics and sensibilities and exposition on the completely non-existent difference between politics and crime.
But the Geto Boys didn’t shy away from delving into issues about the mind, a disturbed mind, what that mind is about and what leads to insanity and insane behavior.
The Geto Boys didn’t separate it all: The mind, politics, deprivation and desperation were all melded into one with a thorough exposition of the whole problem.
So, what we find with the Geto Boys is the heart and mind of the ghetto and commentary on the political and social causes of poverty and violence, both as cause and effect of that degradation and misery. There is no reason to separate any of those issues and it seems the Geto Boys have always known this. They are possibly the one Hip Hop group that has been able to consistently connect the dots between gangsterism and politics, poverty and the social structure. At times incredibly disturbing, at other times heart-rending and still very intelligent. Seemingly paradoxical, what they’re work reveals is that truth is paradoxical because it’s real. The root of our misery is in our hearts, in the social structure and is part of politics. Cause and effect is blurred and the problem becomes whole; it is a whole thing, one thing causing the other, with no clear separation between one thing and the other. The depth of the Geto Boys lyrics and subject matter is mostly neglected so that many are unaware of the value of their actually, maybe ironically, holistic approach to the genre and the topics they explored.
Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys. By photo taken by flickr user photoren (flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Geto Boys, beyond a doubt, are political, social and gangster.
Featured image: Jeremy Perez Photos, Flickr. Some rights reserved.
I’ve been listening to Hip Hop music and exploring other aspects of the culture since the early 1980s, my teen years. I’ve seen it go through major changes. But there’s a common spirit underlying this Movement. Hip Hop Ya Don’t Stop!