In New York, rappers are inseparable from their neighborhoods. Biggie and Bed-Stuy; Nas and Queensbridge; Cam’ron and Harlem; 50 Cent and Connecticut. The list goes on. But what does it say about your neighborhood when it shares a name with a clinically insane midget rapper whose bizarre suicide attempt led to one of the greatest album covers in hip-hop, not to mention a lawsuit against Everclear grain alcohol?
It means you live in Bushwick, where Richard Shaw, aka Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys, grew up. This has long been a source of confusion, because the Geto Boys are well known to be from Houston’s Fifth Ward. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Bill’s music rarely deals with his childhood in New York. But, it was here that he first discovered hip-hop. Bill grew up on Linden and Irving, and became a member of the breakdancing group Linden Crash Crew at nine years old. From Bushwick, Bill moved to Houston and got a gig as a hypeman for a new rap group then called the Ghetto Boys. The rest, as they say, is history.
Unfortunately, Bill never seems to make mention of his stomping grounds in any Geto Boys songs. The closest he comes is a track off of Til Death Do Us Part, “Murder Avenue,” — Myrtle Avenue’s old nickname. Really it’s only a tip of the hat; the song mostly describes bizarre murder fantasies taking place in Houston (thank goodness!). But the title does serve as a reminder of how much Bushwick has changed since the ’80s and early ’90s. As it turns out, both the neighborhood and the man have experienced rebirth in recent years. Bushwick Bill was recently born again as a Christian, and his latest work is a Gospel Rap album.