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Friday, August 17, 2007

“My Mind Playing Tricks on Me” by Geto Boys

posted by on August 17 at 11:12 AM

There’s never been a song to better portray the dark side of gangsterdom than “My Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

This is one of those hiphop songs that you know EVERY. WORD. BY. HEART—an ensemble piece by three guys that live the life, that know the material they’re rapping from experience, that describe it in painful detail. And with a sense of humor—Willie D mistakes “three blind crippled and crazy senior citizens” for his arch-enemies.

There are so many awesome lyrical details and killer points of delivery, especially in Willie D’s verse: the way he pronounces the “W” in “sword,” for example.

I remember the first time I heard this tune—An older friend from New Jersey was visiting me in Florida, and he played it for me while we were sitting in his grandma’s car. I was immediately entranced, and I went out and bought the cassingle (that I still have, miraculously). I never got into NWA or much West Coast gangsta rap, mainly because it felt so cartoonish, caricatured, so far from my South Florida high school existence. Geto Boys certainly made larger than life music, but this track was the most real, honest, and prickly portrayal of G-ism that I’d ever heard. At the time I had just started smoking weed, at which point everyone not in your immediate weed-smoking circle becomes the enemy. Weed-headed paranoia ran rife in my crew of friends; it sounds bad, but that was part of the fun of getting high.

My favorite verse, by Scarface:

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope
I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope
Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous
Every Sunday morning I’m in service
Praying for forgiveness
And tryna find an exit out the business
I know the Lord is lookin at me
But even still it’s hard for me to feel happy
I often drift when I drive
Having fatal thoughts of suicide
BANG and get it over with
Then I’m worry free, but that’s nonsense
I gotta little boy to look after
And if I die then my child’ll be a bastard
I had a woman down with me
But to me it seemed that she was down to get me
She helped me out in this shit
But to me she was just another bitch
Now she’s back with her mother
Now I’m realizing that I love her
Now I’m feeling lonely
My mind’s playing tricks on me

That’s about as raw and real as hiphop can get—seeking solace at church, getting lost in thought behind the wheel, considering suicide but staying strong for family, missing the lost girlfriend… This was before “emo rap,” and this is Scarface, a motherfucking gangsta, but dude’s about as troubled as a human can be.

Interestingly, “My Mind Playing Tricks on Me” is an example of the radio edit being a stronger version than the original. A bunch of rhymes are way stronger without the profanity—“I got my hand on a chrome-plated trigger” is more descriptive than “I got my hand on a motherfucking trigger.” And in Bushwick’s final verse: “It was dark as death on the street” sounds a lot darker than “It was dark as fuck on the street.”

But that last line

“…My hands were all bloody from punching on the concrete. Ah man homie! My mind’s playing tricks on me…”

Damn! That’s hard.

And there’s no chorus! It’s all about that guitar lick, sampled from Isaac Hayes’ “Hung Up on My Baby.” That lick, and this song in general, has been sampled and suggested left and right since this song appeared in 1991, most recently by Clipse—direct descendants of Geto Boys—on Hell Hath No Fury.

A five-minute-long hiphop song with no chorus that’s totally unforgettable… minimalist, unique, one of the most visceral hiphop songs of all time—and certainly the Best Song Ever (This Week).

RSS icon Comments


Damnit, I didn't even know there was an emo rap.

Who are the emo rappers?

Posted by trent moorman | August 17, 2007 1:03 PM

scarface was the one that spit that verse, willie d spit the "3 blind crazy crippled senior citizens" quotables, simple mix-up

bushwick's verse is my favorite, straight classic

Posted by thatguy | August 17, 2007 1:11 PM

NW Noise interviewed an ex-producer at Rap-A Lot Records who worked producing Geto Boys singles. Give the show a listen!

Posted by Tim | August 17, 2007 1:25 PM

@2, youre totally right. im gonna go in a change that.

Posted by jz | August 17, 2007 1:57 PM

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