Rapper Bushwick Bill, of Geto Boys, dies at 52, publicist says

Singer Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys performs on stage at the Growlers 6 festival at the LA Waterfront on October 29, 2017, in San Pedro, California.
Singer Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys performs on stage at the Growlers 6 festival at the LA Waterfront on October 29, 2017, in San Pedro, California. (Matt Cowan/Getty Images)

Bushwick Bill, the diminutive, one-eyed rapper who, with the Geto Boys, helped put the South's stamp on rap with hits such as "Mind Playing Tricks On Me" and "Six Feet Deep," died on Sunday at the age of 52, according to his publicist.

Dawn P. told The Associated Press that the rapper died Sunday at 9:35 p.m. local time at a Colorado hospital. The publicist said the rapper, whose legal name is Richard Shaw, was surrounded by family when he died.

His Dallas-based business manager, Pete Marrero, said the rapper was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in February. He had been planning to go on tour around the time he was hospitalized.

READ: The Geto Boys: A look at the history of the Fifth Ward rap group

In an interview with TMZ, Bushwick Bill said he wasn't afraid of dying, referencing one of his songs, "Ever So Clear," from his 1992 solo album, in which he talks about shooting himself in the head and losing an eye when he was high on drugs.

"I died and came back already on June 19, 1991, so I know what it's like on the other side," he said.

He said he was working on new music because, "I notice, when most celebrities pass, they really don't have nothing set up for their children and everything's in disarray so I figure, old music will sell but if I have new music for them, at least they will have residual income from those things."

The Houston-based Geto Boys was a trio consisting of Bushwick Bill, Scarface and Willie D that launched in the late 1980s. Their gritty verses punctuated by tales of violence, misogyny and hustling made them platinum sensations and showed that rap had strength outside the strongholds of New York, where it got its start, and Los Angeles.

"These were the guys. Our guys, right out of Houston, Texas, were the ones who kicked the door down," said Rob G The General, a long-time disc jockey in Houston, from 97.9 The Box.

Callers on Monday morning shared their thoughts on Bushwick Bill and the sound the Geto Boys worked to create, one centered on the truth they saw in their community.

"What they were talking about was their reality and what they were talking about wasn't something fictionalized, wasn't something made up," Rob G said.

Rob G said Bushwick Bill's art didn't imitate his life, it authenticated it -- and countless others.

"It's always sad when you lose someone historic who can, who is there at a place in time when things shifted, when things turned and who was responsible for that turn," Rob G said.

Bushwick Bill was the group's most explosive member and played up his real-life chaos. The cover of the Geto Boys' "We Can't Be Stopped" features him on a gurney with a garish eye wound. Later, he would compare himself to the horror character Chucky, even writing a song about it.

On another of the group's tracks, "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta," he rapped about being a smart gangster who was positioning himself for success and longevity rather than a violent early death. The song was featured in Mike Judge's 1999 workplace satire "Office Space."

The Jamaica-born rapper was widely reported to have died early Sunday after a bandmate wrote a post on Instagram suggesting so, but his publicist said Sunday afternoon that those reports were premature.