The always-outspoken Willie D of the Geto Boys shouted his way through the late Eighties and early Nineties on songs like "Fuck a War," "Fuck the KKK" and "Fuck Rodney King" – so the gangsta rap pioneer is no stranger to confrontational lyrics and politically motivated outrage. On his inflammatory new song "Coon," Willie sets his sights on a handful of African-American media pundits, including Charles Barkley, Steven A. Smith and Raven-Symoné. Over a searing electric guitar, Willie D details a no-holds-barred evisceration of the media reaction to police shootings in Ferguson and Baltimore.
"Selling your people out while the police murder them/I wish them protestors would have shot you in Ferguson," he says of CNN's Don Lemon. "I wish that would have been Stacey Dash on the ground, instead of Michael Brown but with additional rounds." His rhymes are furious, accusatory and aren't shy about using sexist and homophobic epithets.
After re-emerging in 2012 for the explosive Trayvon Martin response track "Hoodiez," Willie has spent his time touring with the Geto Boys and writing an advice column for the Houston Press. But here he's returning with his first solo song in four years, re-igniting the Molotov-throwing feel of Nineties political rap and that of his own 1989 debut, Controversy.
Rolling Stone talked to Willie D about the racially and politically charged song and the climate of police violence it's being released into.
It's safe to say that this song is a little bit provocative.
Yeah... It's gonna be just a tad bit provocative. Just a tad.
When were you like, "OK I really have to sit down and write a song"?
When Don Lemon did the Ferguson reporting…. He was out there reporting the Ferguson case and he says that he smells weed. Then Charles Barkley … made the statement that this notion that cops are out here just killing blacks is, I think he said "is wrong," or "is not true." Even the cops were probably like, "This motherfucker, does he really believe that? Wow. Man, it's working." You have to be really brainwashed to not believe that you have a particular mindset of cops out there who are not targeting black people. If you had as many white [people] out there that were unarmed, being murdered by the police, you'd probably have an overthrow in government going on right now.
See, I've been on both sides. You do get a good summation of what law enforcement is about when you grow up in the inner city or the hood and then you make something out of yourself and you get some money and you're able to move out into a better environment. When I grew up, there was not one time where the cops were the nice guys, where I looked at the cops and I said, "Man, they're nice and they're good guys. I wanna be a cop when I grow up." Because the cops were just not nice guys. If they spoke to you, any type of exchange you see them having, they were always aggressive. So that left a lasting impression.
Then when I moved out the hood and got some money, I saw a different version of the police. I would drive my car in my neighborhood and they'd wave, and they'd say, "Hello, Mr. Dennis. How are you?" And they'd smile. And I'd go, "Oh, wow. Damn. I didn't know they do that." I mean, I saw it on television, but in real life? I never saw that unless I was playing some type of concert and the cops were hired to monitor the crowd or whatever. But I saw a big difference in the way they treated the poor [and the way they] treated the well-off. It made it crystal clear that the police is not there to serve and protect the people. They are there to serve and protect property. Most of the people that were against the Ferguson protestors, they were more angry about the protestors destroying property than they were about the cops destroying lives.
A lot of these kids that's been murdered, man, were not bad people. A lot of these kids were in school, you know, doing good things. I know some kids who were really from some real fuckin' bad seeds, some bad apples. And all kids, all kids, I don't give a damn what their ethnicity is, all kids have juvenile tendencies and have acts of being rebellious and doing dumb shit as a kid. So it just trips me out when people try to find little shit, like, "Oh he smoked weed. He a thug." You know, "He was on his social media, and he threw up a fuck-you sign." Man, who on God's green earth ain't never thrown up a fuck-you sign?
Fuck-you signs are universal. Even when I was living overseas in Azerbaijan. Azeris and Russians who were born in Azeri would see me, and they would sometimes snicker. In our culture, you look at people, snicker and laugh, that's rude. But they were just shocked to see a black man. Many of them had never seen a black man. When I'd walk into the town square, you'd have all the people, all the natives would gather in the square. And they'd be snickering. So I caught this one guy snickering one day. He was with a group of maybe three or four young, male Azeris. And he snickered. And on that day I just was not feeling it. So I threw up a 'fuck-you' sign. And he and the other guys in unison said, "Ahhh." [Laughs.] And they shut the fuck up. Everybody uses that sign. That's a universal language.
Why did you decide to go after media figures instead of cops in a song?
Well, who said I didn't go after cops in a song?
I mean in this song.
This particular song is behavior specific. And it's about coons, it's about the people who sell out their communities, who coon for capital, you know? Who are trying to sell out their communities for a paycheck or for acceptance. And that's why I called them out. And I'm not alone in this. This is a big discussion, specifically in the black community right now. And all of these people that I named are on the hit list. You know, people are tired. Many of them are speaking their minds, but they don't have that platform that I have, and they can't articulate the message like I can. But I can translate that motherfucker for 'em. I know what they're saying, and I know how they feel. And they're fed up. They're tired of being sold out … by these media puppets. Specifically these black media puppets who are basically echoing the messages of their executives, their bosses…. These corporations, these brands like CNN and ESPN and TNT... We could compartmentalize Fox for the moment, because everybody know that Fox has no pretension about what they are.
But the others, they're throwing rocks and trying to hide their hands with these media puppets. How else do you explain it that every time there's a social issue that's going on with black folks, they use these black puppets to speak on it? And every time they got something to say, they're always taking the side of somebody else who's pointing the finger at the black community…. I call these companies part of the institutional race machine, because they don't have anybody on those networks who are white doing the same thing. There is not one person, one employee that any of them have that has those same platforms, getting out there and pushing the message of "The white man is so bad, and the white community needs to clean up their act. The white community needs to get it straight, and I'm just speaking my mind, and don't be mad at me because I don't think like the rest of y'all." You know? They don't have anybody out there like that. So I can only come to one conclusion. And that is that those networks are paying these coons to say what they cannot say. They are using those coons to spew their message of self-hate in the black community.
The one thing this song reminds me of in your catalogue is "Fuck Rodney King" from 1992.
I knew you was going to say that. [Laughs.]
Did you get any blowback from that?
Maybe I missed a few opportunities or whatever, but I don't know. I mean, nobody came up to me and told me about it. I don't know, man. I'm a fighter. You know? I'm a lover and I'm a fighter... I don't like bullies. And when I see a bully, I am going to bully the bully. I'm not, I'm not afraid of the bully. You know? Some people are afraid…. Not me. I got tough skin. So if I see somebody, if I see injustice, I'm going to speak on it.
You wrote "Fuck the KKK" in 1989. Donald Trump made the Klan part of the news again.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. It's scary, isn't it? It's scary to have a person that's running for President of the United States in the year 2016, and after you've had your first black President, and that presidential candidate hesitates to distance himself from the KKK. Like … I really do believe that Donald Trump he's such a narcissist that he gets off on comparisons to Hitler. And, I mean, we can't have somebody like that being the President of the United States.
It's embarrassing that he's reached a level that he has in the primaries, you know, to even be a frontrunner. That's embarrassing to me as an American, because you gotta know the rest of the world is watching us, and they're going like, "Jesus Christ. Really? Really, America? This guy?" This is the guy that's going to potentially be the leader of the free world? This is the guy that's gonna unite everybody? The guy who encourages his supporters to beat up people who come to his rallies and protest? This is the guy?" It's very, very disturbing.
Sarah Silverman was pointing out that Howard Dean had to leave the election because he made a funny noise…
I would never have ever thought that you'd have a Presidential candidate saying things like, "I could shoot somebody right here in the middle of the street and nobody would say anything about it. They'd still vote for me." And throwing mud about the size of his dick. Like, in a presidential debate? This is not some off-color comment that was made at a party or something, or in the privacy of the White House that leaked out. This is on an internationally televised debate. And he's talking about the size of his dick. You know? And then people say, "Well you know, I like him because he's candid. I like him because he says what he, he says what's on his mind." Okay? My sister says what's on her mind. I would not fuckin' vote for my sister to be the President of the United States. We would fuckin' be at war today. The war would start today. You think we have a huge national debt right now? Shit. We got to make up a brand new bankruptcy code, goddammit, if my sister was the one that ran this motherfucker.
Are you going to vote Bernie this year?
I think Bernie is the guy. He has put in the work. I think out of all of the candidates on both sides that he seems to be the most consistent in his policies. He, I think he's the most honest. He has the most integrity out of all of 'em. I'll say that he has the most experience out of all of 'em. And he's a unifier. These are all the qualities that we look for in a President, so I don't understand why we won't just end this shit today and just vote for Bernie Sanders and just make Bernie Sanders our President here in the United States. He shouldn't even have to debate. His record, his record truly speaks for itself.
You have a line on your song about how people used up Bill Cosby and threw him under the bus. Why do you think the industry stopped protecting Cosby now as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago?
Well, he pissed somebody off. He pissed somebody off that's very powerful. And, you know, they unloaded on him. It's the same thing with Martha Stewart. How do you lock up a white, rich grandmother who's a celebrity and all she does is fuckin' make our home neater? How do you send a billionaire grandmother to jail? She pissed somebody off.
And, you know, for Bill Cosby, he should've known. Every time, anytime a black person shit on the black community, it always comes back to bite him. It always comes back to bite him. And they always rely on the black community to bail 'em out. Because quite frankly, white America is very unforgiving when it comes to black folks doing something fucked up. You know? "Hey man, we ride with you, man, but the minute you fuck up, you outta here." They will fuckin' destroy your ass. You know? You worried about black folks being vengeful about blaming you, you worried about the wrong shit. White folks are vengeful like a motherfucker. They will fuckin' destroy your ass if you fuck up. They like, "No, he did what? Ah, hell no. We gotta stop that shit. Hell no." Bill Cosby? "Hey man. Thanks for the 200 years of great songs and movies and giving and everything, but you fucked up this time! You outta here." I just used him as an example of, you know, what could happen to you in Hollywood once they are done with you.
I do believe that maybe he didn't rape every single one of those girls, but all those women are not lying. All those women are not lying. Many of those women are career women, many of those women have families. They make good money, they've carved out a nice little living for themselves, and many of those women were low-key living nice quiet lives…. I believe them. He maybe didn't do all of it, but he did a lot of it. You know, if you got to drug a woman to kick it, you need to goddamn get you a pimp book, step your game up. You know? Step your conversation up or something, because it don't take all that to kick it.
Anything coming up in the future that we should look forward to?
Yeah man. "Coon II." I kept some people off that list. I got a hit list, I've got some more of 'em I need to get at. Couldn't talk about 'em all on one song. Coming out with "Coon II." "Coon III," "Coon IV," "Coon V." I'm never letting 'em slide any more. Just don't end up on this list, because I'm going in.