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Bushwick Bill, Geto Boys Rapper, Dies at 52

Founding member of the iconic Houston-based rap group had pancreatic cancer

Bushwick Bill, the rapper who blended vulnerability and disarming comedy with horrific imagery as a founding member of the Geto Boys, died Sunday at the age of 52, a representative said.

The rapper had stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which was announced in May. The group had been slated to go on a tour this year that would have been billed as “The Beginning of a Long Goodbye: The Final Farewell.” But the tour was later canceled over Bill’s unwillingness to have his cancer diagnosis exploited. His Geto Boys co-members, Scarface and Willie D, would have joined him for the reunion.

Born Richard Shaw, Bushwick Bill joined the group in the late ’80s originally as a dancer named Little Billy, and by the early ’90s, they became one of the first groups to bring Texas rap to the mainstream. In 1991, he shot himself in the eye during an argument with his girlfriend. His injury was immortalized on the cover of the group’s 1991 album, “We Can’t Be Stopped.”

That album contained arguably the Geto Boys’ masterpiece, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” which featured the rappers trading verses in character as dealers and fiends ground down by the pressures of  criminal life. Bill, who was born with dwarfism, imagines himself fighting a giant of a man, then realizing in a moment of clarity that it’s all been a hallucination. “My hands were all bloody/from punching on the concrete,” he rapped.

The Geto Boys achieved cinematic fame when their 1992 song “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta,” was featured in Mike Judge’s 1999 film, “Office Space.”

Rolling Stone quoted Bill as saying he didn’t fear death, because he had already survived shooting himself in the eye: “I died and came back already in June 1991, so I know what it’s like on the other side.”

Fellow group member DJ Ready Red died in 2018 at the age of 53 from a heart attack.