March 12, 2015

Geto Boys - We Can't Be Stopped (1991)

Straight Outta Compton dropped in '88, ushering in a new era in the west coast. Hard-hitting beats from Dre and DJ Muggs and passionate and violent lyrics from various LA talents combined to create a subgenre some see as a great protest movement and others see as a twisted business move by white label owners. In the early '90s this style had exploded throughout the coast, with artists such as the DOC and Ice T dropping classic albums. But not only did this style exist within the west coast. The south didn't have the great diversity of gangsta rappers that the west had, but they had a few groups, the most influential of which were the Geto Boys. At this time the Geto Boys consisted of Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill. After dropping their debut in '89, they put together the most convincing argument that the south shouldn't be overlooked for gangsta rap with the masterpiece We Can't Be Stopped.

The Geto Boys' style of gansta rap was like no other. They threw in some horrorcore with the mentally unstable Bushwick, some political protest, and even some discussion of mental health. The first thing you notice about this album is the cover, which has probably the best backstory out there (X-Raided's gun on Psycho Active which he supposedly used in the murder he's in prison for is up there). Bushwick's music clearly shows that the Jamaican-born rapper has some serious mental issues, which culminated in a shooting. In may of '91, after the album was pretty much finished, Bushwick got in a fight with his girlfriend, and attempted to get her to shoot him in his suicidal alcoholic haze. The gun went off, and miraculously Bushwick survived, only losing an eye. When the record executives heard what happened, they rushed over to the hospital to get the album cover, in a somewhat heartless move.

Willie D is the most purely gangsta of the three, shining on songs such as I'm Not A Gentleman and Homie Don't Play That. Bushwick with his unique half jamaican accent plays the psycho of the group, shining on the song Chuckie. Chuckie isn't a gangsta track, instead exemplifying texas horrorcore. Ganksta NIP wrote the lyrics for Bushwick after they watched Child's Play, and it consists of pure insanity, perfect for Bushwick's psycho tone. Scarface is the center of the group. He suffered from depression like Bushwick, but didn't have the same murderous insanity.

Of the 12 tracks, just three include a verse from each member. The other nine tracks are all split evenly into three solo tracks for each artists. This format allows for more diversity on the album, with the rappers hitting their particular styles, only having to meld on Mind Playin Tricks on Me, We Can't Be Stopped, and Ain't With Being Broke. This strange blend of hardcore gangsta anger, psychotic ramblings, depressed musings and demands for political justice somehow fits together. This success certainly must partially be credited to the excellent production of Cliff Blodget and James Smith, as the beats fit together and are unified despite the wide variation. But beats can't singlehandedly put an album together, and the deepest reason for the incredible synchronicity is the chemistry between the Geto Boys. Bushwick, Scarface, and Willie D had each other's backs and they remain friends to this day. Many consider a gang to be like a family, so perhaps it takes your closest homies to make a gangsta rap album.


We Can't Be Stopped