The H-Town Countdown, No. 1: The Geto Boys' We Can't Be Stopped

Roughly 84,000 rap albums have been released in Houston since 1989. We're counting down the 25 best of all time every Thursday - or we were. Got a problem with the list? Shove it. Just kidding. Friendship. Email it to sheaserrano@gmail.com.

Note: With all due respect to Prince Johnny C, Raheem, K-9, Sire Jukebox and Big Mike, we're going to recognize the line-up of the Geto Boys to be 'Face, Willie D and Bushwick, with DJ Ready Red moseying around in the background.

The Geto Boys

We Can't Be Stopped (Rap-A-Lot/Asylum, 1991)

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This being the greatest, most consequential Houston rap album of all time, the temptation was to write a 6,000-word treatise about it (and them). Instead, we've settled on these nine bullets:

  • Grip It! On That Other Level, the first GB album to feature 'Face, Willie and Bushwick, did well to gain a lot of notoriety, but this album ushered Rap-A-Lot into the status of regional powerhouse more than any other. In hindsight, it feels a lot like Grip It! was a test run. "Mind of a Lunatic" was "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"; "Let A Ho Be A Ho" was "I Ain't A Gentleman"; "Gangsta Of Love" was "Quickie," etc.
  • The album starts with a diss song aimed at the music industry, specifically mentioning the label that refused to release their album after it was recorded, and ends with a track about how they should receive more accolades. This sort of long form thinking is something that all three of the MCs embraced. Which ties into...
  • I'm not sure you could name three hip-hop groups that had a more interesting and fulfilling dynamic. They were different, to a point - 'Face was the street-certified one, Willie was the In Your Face one and Bushwick was the wild card - but they all relied heavily on the same themes of paranoia and destruction to drive their interpretive lyrics. That's why it always felt like they were moving as one, like pilot fish following each other around. You can't overstate how important this is.

  • Name one Houston rap album that made better, more creative use of samples than this one. You can't. You know why? Because it doesn't exist.
  • There are several parts on the album where one of the guys tells the future. The two best: In "Fuck A War" Bushwick argues against fighting in the war by rapping, "I ain't getting' my leg shot off/ While [George] Bush [Sr.] old ass on TV playin' golf." This was the exact sentiment people expressed about George Bush Jr. ten years later, down to that infamous clip of him talking about the war while he's on TV playing golf. In "Mind Playing Tricks On Me," there's a part where Willie is trying to figure out who is following him. He suspects it might be someone he scammed, saying, "Or is it the one I beat for $5,000 dollars, thought he had [cocaine] but it was Gold Medal Flour." This is pretty much exactly what he's about to go to prison for now.
  • Willie D claimed that they recorded WCBS in somewhere between four and six weeks. Bushwick said it took no longer than two. Think on that. Two to six weeks? We're talking about one of the greatest rap albums of all time. And it's not like it was even their debut and they had been writing it for eight years or whatever. This was their THIRD ALBUM (Geto Boys was actually the third album they released, but there were ten rehashed tracks on it, so we'll just pretend like it didn't happen). And more than that, IT FOLLOWED Grip It! On That Other Level, AN ALBUM THAT THE SOURCE PICKED AS ONE OF THE TOP 100 RAP ALBUMS EVER. Yeah, that's a lot of caps-locked typing, but shit, man, it's necessary. Dre's been recording Detox for 97 years.
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