Bushwick Bill, a core member of legendary Houston rap group Geto Boys, has died at the age of 52.
According to a statement from his publicist, “Bushwick Bill passed away peacefully this evening at 9:35 p.m. He was surrounded by his immediate family. There were incorrect previous reports that he had passed away this morning. We are looking into doing a public memorial at a later date. His family appreciates all of the prayers and support and are asking for privacy at this time.”
In February, Bushwick Bill was was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. At the time, Bill said doctors believed the mass was benign. “‘We see a mass on your pancreas and we can’t understand it. It’s not alcohol, it’s not sugar, it’s not diabetes,’” he recounted the doctors saying. “They went through all kinds of stuff. And finally, by February 8th, they said it was stage 4 [pancreatic] cancer.”
“I figure keeping it myself is not really helping nobody,” Bill explained of his decision to go public with his diagnosis. “And it’s not like I’m afraid of dying, because if anyone knows anything about me from ‘Ever So Clear’, you know, I died and came back again in June 1991.” “Ever So Clear”, Bushwick Bill’s 1992 debut solo single, references his 1991 suicide attempt, which left him blind in one eye.
While receiving treatment for his cancer, Bill planned to work on several projects, including new albums, a book, and a documentary, so that his family will have a sustainable income in the event of his passing. He also announced reunion tour dates with Geto Boys, but the tour was later canceled after Bill concluded promoters were exploiting his illness.
Bushwick Bill was born Richard Stephen Shaw in Kingston, Jamaica on June 9th, 1966. He and his family eventually moved to the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, which inspired his stage name “Bushwick Bill”. In 1986, at the age of 20, Bill joined Geto Boys as a dancer under the name “Little Billy” (he was born with dwarfism and stood 3 feet and 8 inches tall). He eventually transitioned to rapping and completed Geto Boys’ core lineup alongside Scarface and Willie.
Geto Boys’ 1991 album We Can’t Be Stopped featured a graphic photo of Bill in the hospital after losing an eye in a gunshot incident. The album proved to be the group’s most successful release to date, going Platinum and producing a No. 1 rap single in “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”. Subsequent albums, including 1993’s Till Death Do Us Part and 1996’s The Resurrection, achieved Gold status and peaked at No. 11 and No. 6, respectively, on the Billboard album charts.
Beyond his work in Geto Boys, Bushwick Bill released six solo albums.