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The Secret History of Texas Music

“Mind Playing Tricks on Me” (1991)

Written by: Scarface, Willie D, Bushwick Bill Recorded by: the Geto Boys

Scarface in Houston in 2015.
Photograph by Todd Spoth

“I was in a real f—ed-up state of mind, to the point where I just wanted to die.” That’s how Scarface would later describe his mental well-being back in 1990, when he wrote the Geto Boys’ biggest hit. Just nineteen years old at the time, the Houston rapper was living with his grandmother, who knew him as Brad Terrence Jordan. He’d had a rough youth, and his struggles with manic depression and regular drug use—LSD, mushrooms, weed, paint, glue—had left him deeply unsettled. One day, he heard his grandmother mumble something to herself. When he asked what she was talking about, she replied, “Oh nothing, my mind’s just playing tricks on me.” Scarface could relate. He also knew a hook when he heard one, so, pen in hand, he let his own mind take over. 

In the studio, Scarface added a breezy guitar riff sampled from Isaac Hayes’s “Hung Up on My Baby,” and the song appeared on the Geto Boys’ 1991 album, We Can’t Be Stopped. The disturbing and violent track—helped by the album’s cover art, which featured a photo of band member Bushwick Bill in a hospital bed after getting his eye shot out—made it to number 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100. More important, it let the world know there was more to rap than East Coast and West Coast. Houston hip-hop had arrived.

At night I can’t sleep, I toss and turn
Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies bein’ burned
Four walls just starin’ at a nigga
I’m paranoid, sleepin’ with my finger on the trigger.

In the studio, Scarface added a breezy guitar riff sampled from Isaac Hayes’s “Hung Up on My Baby,” and the song appeared on the Geto Boys’ 1991 album, We Can’t Be Stopped. The disturbing and violent track—helped by the album’s cover art, which featured a photo of band member Bushwick Bill in a hospital bed after getting his eye shot out—made it to number 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100. More important, it let the world know there was more to rap than East Coast and West Coast. Houston hip-hop had arrived.

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  • Barbara Lorand Hanczaryk

    I love early hip hop, especially Sir Scarface. Oh that voice.