An astute chronicle of the life and cultural significance of Bushwick Bill, who remixed spectacle as he exposed and exploited ableist and racist assumptions to become a singular voice in rap and the relentless battle over free speech in the United States.
Series: Music Matters
In 1989 the Geto Boys released a blistering track, “Size Ain’t Shit,” that paid tribute to the group’s member Bushwick Bill. Born with dwarfism, Bill was one of the few visibly disabled musicians to achieve widespread fame and one of the even fewer to address disability in a direct, sustained manner. Initially hired as a dancer, Bill became central to the Geto Boys as the Houston crew became one of hip-hop’s most important groups.
Why Bushwick Bill Matters chronicles this crucial artist and explores what he reveals about the relationships among race, sex, and disability in pop music. Charles L. Hughes examines Bill's recordings and videos (both with the Geto Boys and solo), from the horror-comic persona of “Chuckie” to vulnerable verses in songs such as “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” to discuss his portrayals of dwarfism, addiction, and mental illness. Hughes also explores Bill’s importance to his era and to the longer history of disability in music. A complex figure, Bill exposed the truths of a racist and ableist society even as his violent and provocative lyrics put him in the middle of debates over censorship and misogyny. Confrontational and controversial, Bushwick Bill left a massive legacy as he rhymed and swaggered through an often-inaccessible world.
- A Note on Terminology
- How Little Billy Became Bushwick Bill
- Bum-Rush the Freak Show
- “Size Ain’t Shit”
- Can’t Be Stopped
- “He Ain’t What You Expect”
- Child’s Play
- “Brand New Preacher, Rap Game Teacher”
- Greatest Showmen
“Why Bushwick Bill Matters is what I have been waiting on in hip-hop scholarship! Charles Hughes is the one to do Bill justice, delivering a deep dive of thoughtful and bold analysis of his legacy in hip-hop. Hughes’s storytelling lures you in as a fitting tribute to Bill as a pioneering artist in southern hip-hop, but his analysis is what really shines through. Hughes masterfully connects disability studies to hip-hop studies, an underappreciated yet necessary intervention that will break new ground in how hip-hop seeps into every crevice of American society.”
Regina N. Bradley, author of Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South