Bushwick Bill has a penchant for turning his perceived shortcomings into double-edged swords.
UPDATE: Bushwick Bill passed away on Sunday, June 9th. He will be mourned by friends, family, fans, and the hip-hop community.
News that Bushwick Bill was battling pancreatic cancer certainly had the sobering effect of creating a standstill the moment it was announced. Despite ranking among the all-time greats of the "pre-expansion" era of Southern Rap, Bushwick's true identity often goes misrepresented by an insufficient nod of the head. Take the four-city tour they prepared then ultimately canceled due to Bushwick Bill's unavailability: Willie D and Scarface forsook those plans without a second thought, and never spoke of them again.
A farewell tour at less than full-strength: unimaginable. Bushwick's illness prompted "the boys" to re-examine their relationship with their 52-year old cohort, with respect to his basic need for dignity. This is the same group that scrapped a reunion album in 2015 when they couldn't generate the necessary funding to bring it up to a "Geto Boys" standard of excellence.
It doesn't matter that Bushwick's whole persona is wholly inspired dysfunction. Within the acceptable limits of a self-similarity complex, Bill reserves the right to human decency in light of his recent struggles. With those boundaries accounted for, I'm sure Bushwick would be more than accepting of his fan's wishes to explore the macabre side of his personality.
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The other Geto Boys seem demure in comparison. Willie D has always been the most brand-conscious of the lot. Scarface, while similarly-disposed, is consumed by his singular legacy, at least 50% of the time. Then you've got Big Mike to account for. He was added to the fold in 1993 at the onset of the Till Death Do Us Part project, only to be discarded once Willie D was done flirting with singledom. For the record, Big Mike is himself an important member of the Rap-A-Lot fold - it's just that, he never fit within the Geto Boys' peculiar mindset or their subsistence on low-brow sinfulness.
During this period, Bushwick Bill found himself, in some parts, exhibiting the zombie-like reflexes of an individual facing his or her own mortality. In 2014, Bushwick Bill spoke of these hysterics as he recounted the domestic dispute that left him without an eye. The ill-fated encounter also culminated in Bill's premature death. He would later auto-resuscitate while the coroner was in the process of issuing his post-mortem examination.
"I died June 19th, 1991," Bill explained on The Murder Master Music Show. "I was in the morgue for two hours and 45 minutes before I came to. My toe was tagged and they were pushing me in the drawer and I looked both ways and I saw frozen people to the left and frozen people to the right. I thought I was dreaming, then I saw people in front of me pushing the door closed and I was like, 'Yo!' And everybody stopped and I said, 'I have to pee' and I jumped up and pulled the catheter out and the security for the morgue stood there and I ended up peeing on his leg and he took off running [and said] 'He’s alive somebody help!' They ran back in there and shot me up with a big needle and I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed."
This indelible moment, as outlined in "Ever So Clear" (off Little Big Man), is what caused the mortification of his flesh. During the song's proceedings, Bill spares absolutely no detail in outing his domestic partner, his and her complicity in the violence, as well as a complete rundown of every substance that he ingested, and how they impaired his judgment.
"I said: you better grab the motherfucking gun or I'mma drop him
She snatched the baby out of my hands
We started fighting, punching, scratching, and biting
When we fell on the bed, check this shit
All kinds of crazy shit was going through my head
So I ran and got the gun and came back to her
Loaded it up and handed the gat to her
I grabbed her hand and placed the gun to my eye muscle
She screamed stop and then we broke into another tussle
Yo, during the fight the gun went off quick
Damn! Aw shit, I'm hit."
- Bushwick Bill on "Ever So Clear" (1992).
A year prior to releasing "Ever So Clear," Bushwick Bill's battered self-image appeared on the cover of We Can't Be Stopped. Standing at 3 feet 8 inches tall and sporting a pirated-eye, Bushwick could feel the gaze of a predominantly ableist crowd. Short of exposing society's voyeuristic tendencies in a pointed manner, Bill continued to ridicule himself to the point of undue hardship.
On "Skitso" off the same Little Big Man LP, Bushwick labels himself the "Geto Boy executioner." Then before the commencement of "Call Me Crazy" an impudent voice enters the trapdoor. The voice insinuates that Bill lacks the "girth" to occupy a booster seat all to himself. Without the infamous glare of his postmortem experience in 1991, the Ghetto Boys don't evolve into the "Geto Boys" we know and love - perhaps Scarface goes the way of solo gratification, and Bushwick Bill certainly doesn't gain the upper hand in making us all feel like insolent characters, does he now?