From the Archives: Bushwick Bill for President (1996)

The former Geto Boy has higher aspirations.
Bushwick Bill
Courtesy High Times

“I’m the biggest, toughest little brother you know,” raps Bushwick Bill on “Who’s the Biggest” from his latest album, Phantom of the Rapra. At 4′ 2″ tall, Bill has survived the ghettoes of Jamaica’s Trench Town, Brooklyn and Houston’s notorious Fifth Ward, as well as the barbs of everyone from David Geffen—who refused to release the album by his band, the Geto Boys, that featured the infamous slasher epic “Mind of a Lunatic”—to Bob Dole and William Bennett, who have used the same song to fuel their recent attack on gangsta rap.

Like the similarly short hero of Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum, Bushwick Bill’s an angry prophet preaching reason but predicting doom. And, if his Republican rivals only knew his stance against both welfare and abortion, they’d see him as their poster boy for the American dream.

“Rap has created entrepreneurship for the black community,” explains the 28-year-old rapper, while demonstrating his technique of rolling a Phillies Blunt into a cone-shaped spliff. “It’s kind of like the dope game, in that it’s a way to economically support your family. But with drugs, you’re destroying the ’hood to build it up.”

A Scriptures-quoting Bible student, Bushwick Bill graduated from a Minneapolis seminary before moving to Houston, where he was discovered by the head of Rap-A-Lot Records in a restaurant “pop-lockin’ and doin’ the Pee-Wee Herman” in between busing tables. Bill taught himself to rap after joining the Geto Boys in 1986. When his right eye was shot out by a girlfriend in a dispute he recounts on “Ever So Clear,” a track from his nearly gold ’92 solo debut. Little Big Man Bill underwent a born-again experience. “It’s fucked up I had to lose an eye to see things clearly,” he laments.

Insisting “I love democracy, but I want my Republican dollar,” Bill’s politics are eclectic. “I cannot be mixed, diluted or shook, but I can be packaged.” As for the ’96 election, Bill says about another Bill: “Clinton is all right with me. So what if he smoked weed and didn’t inhale? He’s still one of us. We got one of us in the White House. He’s smokin’ weed on the cool, tappin’ his wife from the back, drinkin’ a 40 and watchin’ the news. He’s as nigga as the White House can get.”

How ’bout Bushwick Bill for our Commander in Chief?

“Hey, if Ronald Reagan, an actor, can become President,” asks Bill, “why not a rapper who can act like a President?”

Demonized by the media and politicians, Bushwick Bill has the last word: “I don’t look at myself as handicapped. I look at the system of government as the real handicap. It makes you believe you can only get to a certain level in life. I don’t believe there’s anything I can’t achieve if I put my mind to it.”

High Times Magazine, March 1996

Read the full issue here.

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