Rumors of Bushwick Bill’s demise were greatly exaggerated, the morning of June 9th when social media had prematurely reported that he passed from his battle with Cancer only to be disspelled by his family members, as still alive and fighting for over the next 24 hours. He did eventually lose his battle on the evening of June 10th, but I thought it was only fitting given this man’s career and character.
As a fellow, long time hip hop musician, if you ask me what is the greatest rap album and my favorite music album of all time is, I often refer to the early nineteen ninetees Rick Rubin and Def American, produced “Geto Boys”, self titled album. The Geto Boys were a Houston Texas based gangster rap group that Bushwick Bill was part of and that released this self titled album when gangter rap as a musical genre and cultural phenomenon was rising to prominence with groups like NWA and artists like Ice T and Ice Cube. This album and this group was particularly unique not just because of the music, but because of the motley crew of group members. Bushwick Bill was literally a midget who used this physical stature to create a unique persona and perspective that fit so naturally into the insane nature of this group and it’s music.
One of the singles on the album, and a Bushwick Bill solo effort, “Size ain’t S@#t”, summed it up best. He proclaimed that he “might be short but wasn’t taking no shorts”, which epitomized his mentality and his fight for the disenfranchised, oppressed minority community he came from and the fight out of the deplorable conditions he grew up in. Having referred to the myriad of physical conflicts he encountered in his life for being a small person, he turned his stature from small to large, both metaphorically with this kind of music and lyrics, and physically as a member of a historic, multi platinum selling music group.
I remember having viewed the cover of the album, and the black and white mugshot was not telling enough to surmise Bushwick’s physical size, and the attitude and aggression of the music itself made this fact even harder to determine. It wasn’t until other pictures and interviews took place, as the group gained mainstream notoriety, and then subtle references in his music to his size, could be gathered, that I shockingly discovered this about Bushwick Bill. It was when I found out this fact, that I was not only more intrigued about this artist, this group, and this music, but that I was also inspired.
As a volatile and impressionable teenager around the time of this music, I too felt challenged by the “big world” around me. As an ethnic minority myself and having grown up in a place that challenged this fact in many different ways, I could relate to Bushwick, who had grown up on the receiving end of constant challenges. I was fascinated by his unapologetic, demand to disregard these so called limitations and fight to be treated as an equal. His references to getting respect one way or the other, although many times violent, and proving his belonging to a world much bigger than him, was in inspiration to me. His courage not to back down or be type cast and forge his way with unbridled ferocity, grit, and toughness helped show me a way through my own life challenges. His fiery disposition and big energy that came across in his music helped fuel my own music and creativety.
It wasn’t just his ferociousness that defined him and his music. Bushwick had a huge amount of charisma and crazy wrapped up in a small package. Whether it was his macabre, cinematic story telling or violent, dark humor, in interviews and his music, he was always so intriguing and original, especially when you consider the manufactured image of most of his fellow gangster rap comtemporaries. His music and style was always unique, with horror movie references like Chucky and Phantom of the Opera, eye patches, braids, overalls, and just strange dark tropes that he would espouse.
When the Geto Boys dropped their most commercially successful album, “We Can’t be Stopped” and the cover was a real picture of Bushwick being rushed to the emergency room having shot his own eye out, we got a glimpse into the chaos and darkness of this man’s life. This kind of emotional vulnerability that came from a suicide attempt was unheard of in the often guarded, bravado, and posturing personas tha existed in gangster rap music. At the height of his commercial success as a musician we got to hear through interviews and in his actual music, stories of a troubled soul that had faced the ultimate adversity of nearly losing his life, and then later we got to hear of his redemption and rise again.
And at 52 when he passed fighting cancer long after it was diagnosed and announced publicly, we saw the short man live a long, fruitful life and create a legacy that will be remembered for a very long time.
R.I.P. Bushwick Bill… pound for pound, inch for inch, on of the baddest motherf@#kers that existed on the earth!