JPEGMAFIA and rap legend Willie D of Geto Boys talk Trump, Russia, Steve Harvey, and more
May 23, 2017 | 3:00 AM
The first time I ever went to Texas was on a bus with curtains draped over the windows. I just joined the military and got shipped off to basic training in San Antonio. I didn't see much when I stepped out, because I had an armed soldier in my face telling me how much of a bitch I was even though I never met him. The second time I was in Texas I saw Kendrick Lamar perform 'Rigamortis' with no backing track. That shit was crazy. During Kendrick's performance, he stopped the music to give respect to the OGs of the hip-hop scene. From Bun B to Z-Ro to Big Moe, he named legend after legend as the crowd went crazy for their hometown heroes. Then he did something really interesting when he got to the Geto Boys. He specifically shouted out Willie D when he gave the group a name check. This made 21-year-old me giddy. Because not only were the Geto Boys icons that I bump on the regular, but Willie D's particular brand of brash uncut racially-driven reality rap had helped me foster a love for politically charged hip-hop and eventually led to the birth of the man you probably don't know as JPEGMAFIA—a grown ass man who can't ride a bicycle.
That's one of the stand-out moments in my life, period, because I felt a solidarity with Kendrick at that show. Like me and that nigga knew a secret that no one else did. And that secret wasn't much of a secret; the secret was that Willie D was that nigga. Everybody know that. And everybody in the crowd went crazy when Kendrick mentioned his name. But me and Kendrick was cheering for a different reason. Not to take anything away from the Geto Boys. I myself am just drawn to niggas that aren't scared to take the cuffs off and bitch slap a motherfucker one time. On wax or in life. Willie D exemplifies that in every facet of his life. From his music to his podcast, the man has got his shit together. Earlier this month, I caught up with him in the lobby of a hotel I could never afford and discussed everything from Trump to Soundcloud rappers.
JPEGMAFIA: OK, I know most people are familiar with the Geto Boys, so I have my own questions for you. I'm a personal fan of your first three albums. When I first heard the song 'Fuck the KKK,' I was like, "what the fuck is this?" I can't remember exactly how I felt, but I remember being really happy that song existed. I'm interested to know from your perspective, what was it like in the early '90s when it was more accepted and cool to be conscious or openly hostile towards supremacy? Before internet, before Snapchat and all of that, when you had things like the LA riots and Rodney King happening. What was it like to make music of that nature and go put it out into the world? What was the reaction?
Willie D: It was real cool you know? Because you had artists like Public Enemy and Ice Cube, etc. People who were putting it out there being conscious and stuff. But 'Fuck the KKK' was before the first Ice Cube album. That was '89 but I actually wrote that song like '87, '88. For me man, I just wanted to stand up to them bitches. Sheet-wearing cowards. I just wanted to take all that aggression and put it into lyrics. And show people that you don't have to be afraid of these people. They cowards, man. And you never see one of them by themselves. It's always a mob. A mob mentality. It's very similar to what you see out here today with these youngsters, out here mobbing on one person, beating up one person and shit. I just wanted to expose they ass and show them: "Look, I bet you won't try that shit with me."
JPEG: I'm glad you said that because there's a lot of people out here talking about race but I do notice that a lot of times when rappers talk about race, they usually point the finger at themselves, and not any other problems and I don't know why. No other culture does that and I mean, we get criticized enough in the media and in life in general, so why when you sit down to write a song addressing something as wide scale as race you immediately go in on yourself, I don't know. But yeah, I'm so glad you approached that topic, from that angle, at that time because it's still a line people are scared to cross even today.
WD: Some artists attempt to be "conscious," but I think that most of them are apologizing along the way or playing the victim along the way—they won't go there.
JPEG: Right, they won't go there.
WD: They won't be all the way unapologetic. They wanna tip toe around the issue or they play both sides of the fences. Like "I'ma talk about it and that's enough." But I'm gonna talk about it and give you some ideas on how to handle "them." And how to handle them is not being docile and forgiving and turning to Jesus you know? If you believe in Jesus and you're riding with Jesus that's cool. But if Jesus ain't telling you to stab that motherfucker or shoot his bitch ass or stab him in the face with a 2x4 then you need to get from 'round Jesus because Jesus gonna get you killed.
JPEG: Yeah, I feel the same. I don't subscribe to any religion, but when I see someone like that I just kind of shake my head at them because it programmed into us at this point.
JPEG: Yeah, that actually leads me into talking about your song 'Coon.' There's two of them and those shits are hard. When I see someone I consider a coon like Charles Barkley, Sheriff David Clarke, etc., on one point, I feel bad for them. But when you got guys like Steve Harvey on stage instructing white people to tell black folk to move on from slavery, that's when I'm like, "yeah, fuck them."
WD: I don't feel bad for the motherfuckers. I want them to die. I want them motherfuckers to die. I don't care how they die, I don't care if they die a slow gruesome death. I don't care if they die immediately. In their sleep peacefully, overdose on prescription drugs, somebody shoot 'em in the head, catch 'em on the subway, whatever—I don't care if a fucking meteorite land on they ass. It don't matter. I just want them to die. Because they're—
JPEG: Counter productive.
WD: Right. Counter productive. Took the words right out of my mouth. There's an old saying: If you're not helping you're hurting. To have the big platform they have and still do the things they do. It's unforgivable. It's like, how much more money do you need? You know you cooning! Like at what point do you stop cooning? But I guess it's just like any other thing you do to get your money. And the more you get, the more you try to keep doing what you doing.
JPEG: So, I'm part of a new generation of rappers that have a completely different moral code from the past generations. And one thing that's missing a lot from us is a sense of like honor and respect. I remember last year you had a Breakfast Club interview. And I learned from there that you actually joined the Geto Boys as a favor to J Prince. When I was listening to that story it showed me your loyalty. It was almost like noble and classy, the way you described the situation and you could tell you were someone who stuck with their people. I feel like that's something that's not as widespread in my generation's moral fiber. We're more about having no rules, no codes, and just acting out and being free. You ever think back on that and just laugh at where life took you? Because if you hadn't done that favor for him, there wouldn't be a Geto Boys.
WD: I mean yeah, I gotta say if we had not met each other, who knows where he would be, who knows where I would be? Who knows what would have happened after, if that shit didn't work? As far as me, I know I was gonna get some money some kinda goddamn way. I knew I was about that money. So I had two things I knew I could do legitimately. I had them hands and I could rap. I was literally gonna either fight my way out the ghetto or rap my way out.
JPEG: You follow politics closely. So I want to get some of your thoughts on this new Trump era. Were you surprised when he won? Because me having traveled so much for so long I had met way too many people with his mindset. So I knew this nigga was gonna win. As soon as he said he was gonna run I knew that with that money and that kind of rhetoric there's no way he wasn't gonna win.
WD: Well, I'll tell you why I thought he was not gonna win. There's really just not enough people in this country that think like him. There's a lot of people that don't wanna lose white privilege but they're not like him.
JPEG: See, I agree that there's not people exactly like him because you're right: He is an extreme version of it. But there are enough elements to his entire brand that someone who has a similar mindset will latch onto him and overlook his "bad traits."
WD: But again, he did not win. They stole it man. I really do believe that Russia fixed the election. There's just not enough people like that. There's enough racist white democrats that still would have voted for Hillary Clinton because she would have stayed on code. Their whole mentality was, we still got this shit together, we still got white privilege, we're gonna be OK. Because Bill Clinton was president and him and Hillary are one in the same. They have the same family values, so people were already familiar with it. But even with that, I think the elections were fixed. If the elections weren't fixed, why would he fire James Comey? If Comey helped him get in office, why would he fire him? It was Comey opening that email scandal on Hillary right before the election and that was her undoing. The people that were on the fence were like, "fuck it, I'm voting for Trump." So they were trying everything. They had all this shit but it still don't guarantee an election. But you know what the guarantee is? The guarantee is we just fix this shit. Think about this: Trump should have been loyal to Comey. He should have been kissing his ass because he gave him a good amount of votes. He had no reason not be loyal to him. It lets you know that Comey was onto something. He had evidence that motherfucker rigged that election.
JPEG: Shit. It's refreshing as hell to hear your mindset man. I feel validated.
WD: Shit, good.
JPEG: Yeah, man. OK, I'd love to ask you some Geto Boys questions but I don't have nothing dated and played out to ask you. So here we go: This is gonna sound weird but my favorite record from the Geto Boys is "The Foundation"—I think it came out in like '05? It had the 'Yes Yes Y'all' on it and because of that record I discovered your own personal records like "Controversy"—the whole basis for a lot of what I do is basically that record. That whole era where niggas was going in on supremacy with no fucks shaped me. So "The Foundation" has a special place in my heart because it was the gateway for me to find your music. Now, out of all the records you've made with the Geto Boys, all the classic albums that you guys have made that have helped shape Southern hip-hop and hip-hop in general, what is your personal favorite album and what's your favorite song off that album?
WD: I mean overall production and lyrics-wise: "The Resurrection."
JPEG: "Resurrection," ohh hell yeah.
WD: Yeah, "The Resurrection" is when I came back to the Geto Boys. Because I had left and then they did the album with Big Mike and then I came back. And it was like prodigal son coming home. And I had a chip on my shoulder. But it wasn't just that. It was the production and the lyrics came together so good. It was just a masterpiece overall. But I like all the records we did except "Da Good da Bad & da Ugly."
JPEG: Oh damn, is there a particular reason or you just didn't fuck with it?
WD: It was too many features on that album. It was like this whole No Limit posse shit happening at the time and they was trying to put the other artist on and showcase them. But I feel like they were taking up space—space where me and Brad could have been saying some shit.
JPEG: Understood. And what was your favorite song off "The Resurrection?"
WD: Fucking 'First Light Of Day.' It's just that vicious, just aggravated type of song. That's the one.
JPEG: And what about your own records? Because your records are wild as shit. I showed my mom your first record "Controversy" back in the day and she was like, "what the fuck is this?"
WD: Probably 'Fuck Rodney King.' Fuck that nigga. To this day, real talk. I think them type of dudes set us back. Every time they come out there with that forgive and forget shit. Nah motherfucker, let's burn this bitch down!
JPEG: Yeah, why is it that narrative every time? Like why is that the go-to?
WD: Black people don't have a bargaining chip. Everybody else does but not us.
JPEG: It's Stockholm Syndrome honestly. I think it's important for black people in general to be aware of what's going on and do what you got to work around it. Not bow down to it publicly.
WD: You got to. I just had this conversation with my 17-year-old son two days ago. My son goes to a predominantly white school. But at the same time, I make sure he knows what's going on. He knows his history and I make sure he understands that. If you ever want me to be disappointed in you, then become a coon. That's the type of shit that will disappoint me.
JPEG: Sad. OK, so you've been to Baltimore probably too many times to count. Do you have a favorite memory from Baltimore from over the years?
WD.: Shit. Probably filming that 'Clean Man' video.
JPEG: Really, you filmed that here?
WD: Yeah, 'Clean Up Man' and 'U Still A Nigga' was filmed here.
JPEG: In the city?
WD: Yeah, at a house.
JPEG: Damn, I thought you were gonna say you ate crab here or some shit.