Mind Playing Tricks On Me: We Can’t Be Stopped Turns 30

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Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped

Released July 9th, 1991 on Rap-A-Lot Records

Produced by Bushwick Bill, James Smith, John Bido, Johnny C, Roland, Scarface, Simon, and Willie D

Peaked at #24 U.S.

Singles:

Mind Playing Tricks On Me” (#23 U.S.)

Ain’t With Being Broke

A lot of the pearl-clutching white family values people in the 1988-1993 first wave of hardcore rap concentrated their ire at the L.A. gangsta scene. The Rodney King beating ad the L.A. riots probably had something to do with that, giving middle America a more visceral look at the racial tensions and police bullshit that musicians like the N.W.A. collective were taking about bluntly on their songs. Some of it, however, was reserved for a group out of Houston’s Fifth Ward that went even further than their L.A. brethren in terms of the violence, anger, and disgust present in their lyrics. They saw horror in their everyday life and it was represented well in their music. Kool Keith likes to make the claim that he originated horrorcore rap, but ICP’s Violent J gives the nod to the Geto Boys and their 1988 debut Making Trouble. We Can’t Be Stopped is full of tracks that would go on to have a huge influence on the genre. “Chuckie” takes its inspiration from the Childs Play films, which themselves are rooted in the horror of inner city Detroit life. “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”, the big single, is a paranoid and murderous trip, and “Another N****r In The Morgue” talks about the insanity of constant turf wars and the predations of drug dealers. Social commentary was also a part of their unflinching look at the world they grew up in. “Fuck A War” discussed the pointlessness of going off to fight America’s imperialist wars when the country wouldn’t even stand up for you. “Ain’t With Being Broke” looked at the reality of deep urban poverty and the poor options available to rise up out of that poverty.

It is, however, also an artifact of its intersection of time and genre. That is, there’s way too many misogynistic sex raps here, which is a common complaint of this era of hip hop. I mean, it was N.W.A. that first introduced us to the idea that bitches ain’t shit, and Easy-E was a stone cold bastard when it came to women. Geto Boys weren’t much better; “Quickie” and “The Other Level” are just an excuse for horny young dudes to go on at length about their sexual prowess without regard for other people, and “I’m Not A Gentleman” mistakes objectification and denigration of women for being edgy and masculine. Then, naturally, they have the idea to bookend the album with rants about how the industry doesn’t get them and how they should be given more recognition (and Grammys, if “Trophy” is anything to go by). The unspoken connection between the two is, of course, the central tension of the album.

The cherry on top of it all is the album’s cover, of course. Bushwick (Motherfucking) Bill had been suicidal and in a struggle with his girlfriend over a gun that he wanted her to shoot him with. The gun went off during the struggle and he took a round straight to the face. The cover is at the hospital afterwards; Scarface and Willie D flank the hospital bed where Bill sits, his wound gaping to the world, an old school cell phone held up to one ear. Bill expressed regret about using the photo as an album cover later on, claiming he went with the program at the time but that it’s still painful to see it every time, since it represents such a bad moment in his life. Still, the message is there: this was the savage undercurrent of hip hop circa 1991 and they could not be stopped. Except, of course, two years later when the Wu swept out of Staten Island and changed everything.

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