On Sunday (June 9), Houston rap staple, Geto Boys, lost one of its founding members in Bushwick Bill to pancreatic cancer. He was 52. Rocked by the devastating loss, a slew of stars such as Juicy J, Bun B, and Cypress Hill paid their respect to the pioneering MC on social media, highlighting his charm and high-octane energy onstage.
Born Richard Shaw, Bill played an integral role in the rise of the Houston triumvirate, who doled out an impressive six albums from 1988 to 1998, including their Platinum-certified 1991 release We Can’t Be Stopped. While critics lauded Scarface for his lyrical prowess, it was Bill’s magnetic energy that shined on rap classics such as 1991’s “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” and 1993’s “Six Feet Deep.” What the 3’8” lyricist lacked in height, he packed in passion, according to J. Prince, founder of legendary Houston label Rap-a-Lot Records, who first signed the group in the late 1980s.
“The first time I had an opportunity to lay eyes on him, he was dancing,” recalls Prince in an interview with Billboard. “The energy that he was putting in that dance was amazing. He kinda carried that same energy throughout the day all day.”
And when Bill wasn’t dancing or stringing together verses, he was educating his peers on the importance of the bible. “As a person, Bushwick was really knowledgeable on the word of God,” Prince recalls. “He really impressed me with the knowledge he had when the word of God was concerned. He was almost like a Bible scholar, or a walking bible. You know, me being a believer in our creator, that really connected with me in a major way. I hung out with him a lot to teach him and to learn from him. We learned from one another.”
Even on the solo front, Bill was a workhorse, carving out six solo projects from 1992-2010, with his most successful album Little Big Man, peaking at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 in 1992. After he announced his bout with stage four pancreatic cancer last May, Bill eyed a return on the road. Sadly, his plans were derailed after he reportedly pulled out of the Geto Boys’ The Beginning of a Long Goodbye: The Final Farewell Tour last month.
“He’s one of the pillars when the city of Houston is concerned,” Prince says of Bill. “He really was special in helping me lay that foundation. He was the voice for the Geto Boys. He was the spokesperson. Everybody had a role. One of Bushwick’s main roles was speaking. I had him speak to the press the way I’m doing right now. I can send a message through him, and it wouldn’t get messed up too bad. He knew how to deliver.”