It would be hard to overstate the importance of Houston rapper Bushwick Bill, one third of the legendary Geto Boys. Bushwick Bill, then known as Little Willy started with the Geto Boys (then known as the Ghetto Boys) when the group first formed in Houston in 1986. He’s the only member of the Geto Boys’ classic lineup who was there from the very beginning; Scarface and Willie D joined up two years later. The Geto Boys were one of the first Southern rap groups to ascend to national popularity, and their dark, theatrical, bloodthirsty stories (and rampant cursing) helped change the scope of what people could rap about. And when Rick Rubin signed them to his Def American label, he had to move his imprint from one major label to another; Geffen Records didn’t want to release anything that explicit. Geto Boys had their ruptures over the years, but they kept recording great music long after their commercial peak. And Bushwick Bill was absolutely key to their appeal.
Bushwick Bill, born with dwarfism, transformed himself into a larger-than-life horror-movie figure, stealing the show in the Halloween bit on the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” video. He rapped grimy, shocking stories about crime and murder, but he also talked forthrightly about his own struggles with depression and addiction. In 1991, while high on PCP and arguing with a girlfriend, he shot himself in the eye. That year, the Geto Boys used a photo of Scarface and Willie D pushing a bloody Bushwick Bill through a hospital hallway on the cover of their classic album We Can’t Be Stopped. It’s one of rap’s great indelible images. Bushwick has also released six solo albums over the years, starting with 1992’s Little Big Man, and he’s the only non-California rapper who appeared on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.
Today, in a video announcement to TMZ, Bushwick Bill, now 52, said that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a grim diagnosis. In the video he still seems stunned, talking about how doctors thought it was only a benign mass. He says that he hasn’t even told Scarface and Willie D about the diagnosis yet. But he also says that he’s currently making three solo albums:
The reason why I’m doing three albums right now: Because I notice when most celebrities pass, they really don’t have nothing set up for they children, and everything’s in disarray. So I figure old music will sell, yes. But if I have new music for them, and I have a book, and I have a documentary, and I have any other endeavors that I get into now, at least they’ll have residual income from those things instead of just knowing that I’m their dad and my old records are selling. That publishing belongs to somebody else. I’d rather know for sure that I did my part.
Below, watch Bill’s announcement and a couple of his videos: