100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #51 Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks on Me

Released : 1991

What’s your poison – an eye for an eye, or judging not so as not to be judged? Rap’s complicated relationship with the communities that fostered it and then lived with the consequences was always hard for outsiders to understand; in this moral maze for instance is the real victim, the dealer or the dopefiend? Did people think the stories told within the music were exaggerated fantasy, or real events dressed as nightmares?

The Geto Boys – Willie D, Brad Jordan, AKA Scarface and the late Bushwick Bill – set out to shock and polarise, the cover of their third album We Can’t Be Stopped featuring a picture of the latter in the moments after he lost an eye when shot after an argument with his then girlfriend. From the beginning the trio knew they had to work hard to shift attention from the movement’s East/West coast axis, but Jordan’s lyricism gave them an edge that would’ve granted prominence regardless of geography.

Mind Playing Tricks on Me stood at the time as a unique statement of truth to power, not in lessons for the authorities, but fighting the idea that street life makes everyone a hero consciously rebelling against the system. To a vintage R&B riff here was Scarface trapped in a social and economic prison, rhyming about depression, paranoia and even thoughts of suicide, going places lyrically nobody had been to before. All of a sudden the lions and the lambs looked just as haunted as each other.

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