In part 1 of A Conversation with Willie D, the man born William James Dennis waxed poetic about the upcoming Presidential Election, violence that permeates the inner-city, and the Geto Boys’ place in rap history.
In part 2 the trigger happy Geto Boy breaks down why he recorded the song Rodney K, details his beef with female rapper Choice, explains why he’s not too old to rap, and gives insight into what Willie D has planned for 2013.
TRHH: Twenty years ago you wrote the song ‘Rodney K‘. Rodney King has since passed but take us back to the time when you wrote that song. What was the feedback you received from people either negative or positive?
Willie D: The feedback that I received first of all was all good. It was low key good. People was like, “Damn man I can’t believe you said that shit. We was trippin’ out when we heard that shit, Willie D you fuckin’ crazy!” A lot of rappers told me that shit—a lot of big rappers. See what happened with that song, I was pro-Rodney King when it first happened. I was like, yeah, let’s tear this motherfucker up! Then Rodney is on TV saying “Can’t we all just get along,” after these people just beat your motherfuckin’ ass into the concrete. No motherfucker we can’t all just get along! The motherfuckers we cannot get along with need to be punished. If it can’t be done legally, it needs to be done illegally. You cannot let people walk over you. It’s gotta be done some kind of way. You can’t let them get away because they’re going to keep on getting away with it. The United States is not even built like that.
The United States will tell you in a minute, you fuck with us, we gonna get you. They not letting nobody get away with attacking Americans, not even overseas. What did Barack Obama say? “The individuals who did this will be brought to justice.” They not bullshittin’! Listen, it’s gonna be some innocent motherfuckers that’s gonna get brought to justice, too. “You know this motherfucker? You knew something? You’re a seventeenth distant cousin? Come on, you too.” Your ass gonna talk and you’re gonna get brought to justice. That’s why I think it’s hypocritical when something like that happens to somebody black for cops to go and get put on trial when you automatically know they’re going to walk so why even go through this shit anyway? It’s some straight up bullshit. It’s hypocritical to let them off the hook and not punish them. When thy get exonerated people say, “The law works; they were tried by a jury of their peers, and bla bla bla.” Americans don’t think like that when you fuck with America. They didn’t think like that when O.J. Simpson got off. They were dead set on punishing O.J. Simpson for the rest of his life. They knew he did that shit! I’m a fan of O.J. Simpson as a football player, but O.J. Simpson killed them people.
TRHH: [Laughs]. Yeah he did, but he went to jail for robbery though. He’s going to be in jail for life for a robbery. I know people who have killed people that’ll do less time than O.J.
Willie D: He was robbing the motherfucker of his shit! So when I wrote the song I was like, you know what, fuck Rodney King. Can we all get along? Naw, fuck that! The minute black people revolt and shed some blood all of sudden, let’s get along. Naw motherfucker, a motherfucker warned y’all. Y’all better do the right goddamn thing. They were like, “Fuck them niggers. They ain’t gonna do anything. We’ll just shoot them motherfuckers or get other niggers to come and shoot ‘em.”
TRHH: Your first solo album Controversy is a classic. I still quote lyrics from that album. Take me into your mind when you were working on that project. Did you know it would become what it became?
Willie D: Man Controversy was me saying every motherfuckin’ thing I had to say that I was mad and pissed off about. It was all of the shit that I had just seen through the years growing up. What the fuck I’m mad about? I’m mad about bald head hoes, let me talk about that. What the fuck I’m mad about? Welfare bitches, I don’t like welfare bitches, let me talk about that. KKK I don’t like them motherfuckers, let me talk about that. 5th Ward, that’s my motherfuckin’ hood, we gonna talk about them. We don’t play that shit. I’m mad, I’m from the ghetto and everything but I’m still a man and I get horny so I need some pussy—let me talk about that! It was just me thinking about all the shit that mattered to me. Even with New York not playing our music, I was mad about that shit. A lot of rappers was scared to put that on record. It was common knowledge that New York radio stations didn’t support Hip-Hop outside of New York. But nobody wanted to say it on record. I was like fuck it, “The east coast ain’t playing our song/I wanna know what the hell going on/Give me my card radio sucker/Or I’ll kick your ass and take the motherfucker.” I believe in dialog and trying to come to an understanding. I listen to your side you listen to my side though. I believe in being civil first but if that shit don’t work then let’s go to war motherfucker. You not gonna run over me.
I’m not some barbaric motherfucker where every time you see me I’m ready to fight. Violence is an expensive business. If you kill somebody you have to answer to that. If you don’t go to jail you still gotta watch your back because that person probably got somebody that loves them that’s saying, “I’m gonna get that motherfucker.” If somebody you’re trying to do business with finds out that you’ve killed before they’re probably not going to want to do business with you. They thinking this motherfucker might kill me! You go to jail and get convicted of murder you’re up shit creek. These days if you have a damn misdemeanor on your record companies don’t wanna fuck with you. If you have a murder on your record you’re assed out. You might as well get you a motherfuckin’ lawn mower and become self-employed. Your ass ain’t gonna be able to work at Bubba’s Burger Bar with a murder case on your record.
What happens is if you go to jail it cost money for a lawyer, it cost money to pay for commissary, letters and stamps. You can’t provide for your kids and what’s going to happen is some motherfucker who don’t give a shit about your kids is gonna be the overseer for your kids. He’s going to be mainly in there to fuck. At some point your daughter is going to start getting some hips and some titties and he’s going to look at your daughter. Will he make a move? That remains to be seen but why take the chance? Your son is going to try to be the man of the house too soon. He might try to get it the legal way first but he’ll realize that he’s uneducated. He might be smart but he don’t have any degrees to prove he’s smart. He didn’t even finish high school. He does what he sees everybody who is getting money doing, he gets in the trap. It’s a reason why they call that motherfucker the trap. Now he’s trapped and he’s got a record. It’s a vicious cycle—repeat. Violence is an expensive business so you want to try to avoid it all costs. But if that’s where it’s got to go then that’s what it is.
TRHH: How did the beef with Choice come about because she was on your first album and then on your second album you dropped ‘Little Hooker’? What went wrong?
Willie D: Naw, well see, first of all the Choice that’s on my first solo record is a different Choice. If you listen to their voices the one that’s on my Controversy album has a much softer voice. Listen to the voice on my record and the voice on her record. So the first Choice was a different Choice and my first choice [laughs]. [Sings] Read between the lines.
TRHH: [Laughs] I got you.
Willie D: The original Choice, her momma didn’t like her doing that style of rap. Her momma was deep into the church. Her momma had to bring her to the studio all the time. Her momma found out the kind of rap she was doing and she was torn between doing what she wanted to do versus what her mother wanted her to do. So she basically hung up the mic. The other Choice was trying to get in. J. [Prince] kept telling me, “Will, she wants to work with you,” so what we did we basically flip the script and stripped down the vocals and replaced the original Choice vocals with the Choice that you know vocals. We added a few songs and that gave you that Choice.
Choice did ‘The Big Payback’. That was her attempt to get on to do a diss song where she’s dissing all the so-called reality or gangta rappers. She dissed the Geto Boys, Ice Cube, N.W.A., and Too $hort. I’m a team player so it was cool with me to do some shit like that to get her on. What she didn’t know is I don’t let no motherfucker hit me and not pass a lick back. So when I came out with ‘Little Hooker’ that fucked her up ‘cause she wasn’t expecting that [laughs]. She didn’t know I was gonna answer her and I went hard on her ass. “Your granny was a hoe, your momma was a hoe and then came you/And if I looked up the rest of your family roots I’d find nothing but some bitches and prostitutes.”
Willie D: Yeah that shit there destroyed her [laughs].
TRHH: What ever happened to her?
Willie D: I’m not sure.
TRHH: I saw you perform in ‘91 on a tour with Public Enemy, Naughty By Nature, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and others. There was so much parity on that tour and during those times. What do you think killed the parity Hip-Hop?
Willie D: The thing that killed the diversity was the same thing that has been killing America, the lack of morality. Money, capitalism killed the diversity. One of the reasons why the groups were so diverse was because the producers would work with these artists exclusively. The producers might do a little work with an outside artist but they wouldn’t do whole albums. Now you have almost all the producers working on the same records for everybody so now everybody’s music sounds alike. The music sounds alike and the lyrics sound alike. When we were coming up it was a cardinal sin to sound like somebody else. You couldn’t get in the door if you sounded like somebody else. They’d say we already have a Chuck D, an Ice Cube, and a Salt-N-Pepa. We don’t need another Eazy-E, we got one. We don’t need another Common, we got one.
I think the switch started happening, now this is going to trip you out, if you go back and listen to Jay-Z’s early records when he was paying homage. He would say something that Biggie said and repeat it. When we came up it was called biting, you couldn’t do that. You definitely couldn’t get away with the shit if you did do it. Jay-Z made it cool and hip and once he made it hip everybody else started doing it. That knocked down a wall. Then you had Puffy sign Shyne. He was very similar to what B.I.G. was doing with his flow. Once that became acceptable inside of camps it started becoming acceptable outside of camps. You start seeing other people doing the same kind of flows and shit like that. Now you got people doing similar flows and they’re rapping on the same tracks designed by the same producers. It knocked down another wall so now when you listen to the radio it sounds like one long ass guest appearance record. You could listen to the radio a whole hour and it sounds like one long ass collaboration. Now you got so many artists working together and you can’t hear a single unless it’s got 5,6,7,9 motherfuckers on it.
TRHH: To me it takes away the specialness of collaborations. I remember when Ice Cube got on your record ‘Play Witcha Mama’ I was like, holy shit! I was excited about it because Ice Cube didn’t jump on nobody’s records. He did one with Public Enemy and he did yours, that was it and it was special.
Willie D: Right and I didn’t do that. I didn’t get on a lot of peoples shit and I still don’t. When we would do Geto Boys records you’d hear Geto Boys. It might be one or two appearances but that’s it. The only time we did a bunch of features was Da Good, Da Bad, & Da Ugly album which is something I didn’t approve of. I basically accepted it because J. was like this is what’s happening and we gotta put these other boys on. I was not with that shit. I feel like when people buy a Geto Boys record they’re buying a Geto Boys record because they want to hear the Geto Boys. For every second that another artist is on that record they’re taking away that special experience for the fan to hear something that Brad, Bill, or myself might say.
TRHH: I’ve asked this question to a few people recently, a lot of younger people are under the impression that there should be an age limit on Hip-Hop, like it’s a young man’s game. I’m in my late 30’s and all of my favorite rappers are in their forties or approaching forty like Jay-Z, Common, Nas, Ghostface, Eminem, and others. Do you think there should be a time when rappers throw in the towel?
Willie D: Yeah it should be a time when he should throw in the towel, when he can’t do it no more. When you can’t rap no more then throw the towel in. Just like when you can’t sing no more. But goddamn if Frank motherfuckin’ Sinatra can sing till the day he died, Willie D gonna rap like a motherfucker. If you still got Wayne Newton, come on man! Tony Bennett? Get the fuck outta here! Tony Bennett is still rocking crowds and shit and he has to be every bit of 87-years old. Nobody putting an age limit on Patti LaBelle and telling her she can’t sing no more. Man as long as you can rock that motherfuckin’ audience you better rock on, brother. I know Im’ma do it. Im’ma stop doing it when a motherfucker show me I can’t do it. Show me right now I can’t rock a motherfuckin’ crowd then I’ll stop.
My own nephew told me, “Uncle Willie you too old to be rapping.” So is it my age or is it I can’t rap no more? He said, “No I ain’t saying you can’t rap, you’re just too old.” So why is it cool that a football player can play football up to any age as long as he can perform? As long as he’s producing he should be able to play. A baseball player will play until his forties as long as he can produce. Rap has much longer longevity than that because it’s not as physical as something like football. You ain’t gotta run, catch balls, slide, or get tackled and all that shit. You don’t have to rip ACL’s all you gotta do is rip the mic and you good. Show me I can’t motherfuckin’ make a rap again, or write a song with some substance in it, in fact, you ain’t even gotta show me, I’ll show myself to the door.
If I can’t do it I’ll know, but right now I don’t see nobody fuckin’ with me. I can’t see it [laughs]. Motherfuckers told George Foreman he was too old to box and what did he do? He didn’t do nothing but become the oldest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing, that’s all he did. For the artists that’s up there in age or even the artists that are young that are putting a cap on their lifespan in Hip-Hop, Im’ma tell a motherfucker out the gate, don’t believe the hype. If you wanna be a fool and believe that shit, it’s on you. I know I just got through rocking a crowd of 80,000 motherfuckers a month ago nonstop. They were holding on to every single word that I said. I don’t know a whole lot of motherfuckers that’s 18-years old that can do that.
TRHH: You released the song ‘Hoodiez‘ earlier this year, and it seemed like everyone was riled up about the Trayvon Martin murder at the time. Now you don’t feel that same kind of energy or anger about the situation. Why do you think that is?
Willie D: George Zimmerman is just sitting and waiting on his trial. It’s out of the media right now. Everybody is waiting on the trial. Once the trial goes down you’ll see it crank up again. People move on, people got shit to do. Seriously man I hate to minimize it but it’s a lot more people been killed since Trayvon Martin under similar circumstances. They’ll get back on it when it’s pushed back to the forefront of the media.
TRHH: You touched on so many topics in your music and throughout your career. Why do you think more rappers don’t speak on social issues in this era?
Willie D: A couple reasons, one, they don’t care. Two a motherfucker don’t wanna speak on it. They just wanna have fun and talk about money, clothes, and hoes. Some motherfuckers just wanna have fun and party. It’s not their responsibility to be socially active, that’s why you got community activists. Sometimes I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I’m a community activist, a politician, a rapper or a gangster. I just don’t have no fear. The reason why I talk about the shit is because I feel obligated to enlighten people because I know there are millions of people out there who are going through a lot of these things and need to hear this type of inspiration.
They need to hear these lyrics and I’d feel like a sucker knowing the type of things that I know and not saying something about it or speaking up. I know some shit so I’ll speak on it. It cost me records sales. I could easily make songs that they make. All the shit that everybody likes now, I can do. I can make straight gangsta shit or do some money songs or partying and balling. I know a little bit about all of that shit. That’s easy, but that aint where my hear is. My heart is with the people that are struggling. They need that information. For me, when I was growing up I got the information from Stevie Wonder and The Last Poets. That’s where my information came from so I feel a responsibility and a duty to regurgitate that information to the people who need it.
TRHH: To that point I would be foolish if I didn’t say, I was raised on you, Chuck D, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, and Ice Cube. That era when y’all came out was like my formative years. So many guys had shit to say when I was a young man and it shaped the person that I am today. It makes me sad for the kids now, who are they learning from?
Willie D: Let me tell you something, very early on I didn’t realize how many kids that didn’t have a father in the home were looking at us and being raised off the music. They weren’t just listening to the music as fans they were taking the information in and using it as a road map and manuscript for becoming a man. I didn’t know that. And now for the last few years I been having dudes come up to me all the time saying, “Man you raised me. I ain’t have no daddy, man. Y’all was my daddy, man. Y’all was that uncle that raised me and taught me how to be a man.” That’s very gratifying but I had no idea early on that youngsters were taking to the music like that. They were getting information about life but I didn’t realize that we were actually surrogate fathers to a whole generation.
TRHH: I think the younger rappers today can be too but they really don’t know it. As much as I disagree with Lupe Fiasco, I’m happy he’s saying some of the shit he’s saying because somebody is listening. I don’t think it’s right to tell kids not to vote, but at least he’s saying more than what a lot of rappers are saying now.
Willie D: Naw it’s outright reckless to say, don’t vote. I can understand his frustrations and sometimes I wanna say it. I be like, fuck that shit! But man that’s what the Republicans want you to do anyway. They want to create strife and they want you to get frustrated. That’s why they tried to enact this law to make you show a photo ID now–anything to inconvenience you. If it takes you 4-5 hours to stand in line on Election Day you might say, “Fuck that shit,” but man you got 4-5 hours to stand in line once a year and cast your ballot. At the minimum it’s once a year, once a year, man, to get involved with the process and have a say in how your life is going to be structured.
If people thinking voting don’t count why in the hell you think they spend so much money trying to stop you from voting? That right there is enough to make a motherfucker go, “You know I don’t understand the rest of this shit, but that shit that he just said make a whole lot of goddamn sense. I’m finna go vote! I don’t need all that other information goddamnit. That’s all I need right there, man.” Them motherfuckers don’t spend money where it’s not needed. They’re spending money to try to stop your ass from voting, why do you think that is so? It’s simple. This shit ain’t motherfuckin’ complicated.
TRHH: What’s next up for Willie D?
Willie D: Right now I’m filming a movie called Grinding Off the Muscle: The Business of Hip-Hop. I’m going around interviewing the guys in Hip-Hop that started on a business level like J. Prince, Baby, and Damon Dash. I’m also interviewing the artists that they produced. What they’re doing is sharing that information about how to survive and thrive in the music business. That’s what that’s about. They’re giving personal insight on the struggles they’ve faced and how they overcame them.
TRHH: When will we see that?
Willie D: I gotta finish filming it first. I should be finished around March. When that’s done I got a couple of albums I’m working on. If anybody think I should hang it up I would say listen to the records first. When I put that new shit out, listen to that and then tell me what you think [laughs]. If they tell me I should leave it alone after they hear this new shit, shit I’ll go head and leave it alone.