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Sample Sunday: Geto Boys - "Mind Playing Tricks on Me"

As some of Houston’s most legendary rappers, Geto Boys have spent their careers shaping the way Southern Hip Hop is made. On their debut album, Making Trouble, they brought the world of Hip Hop into a darker setting – focusing on themes of horror, transgressive lyircs, and violence. The make-up of the group has changed over the years, but the trio of Bushwick Bill, Scarface and Willie D act as the most consistent members, and those responsible for the aesthetic of the Geto Boys.

Their 1991 album We Can’t Be Stopped, was one of their most successful releases, and paved a path for the future of Hardcore/Horrorcore Hip Hop. After the popularization of Gangsta Rap, audiences were primed hard-hitting music, and that’s exactly what Geto Boys delivered on with this release. Songs like “Fuck a War” and “Aint with Being Broke” are fierce and overtly political, causing controversy when they first came out, and still maintaining that weight to this day. The album’s single, “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” was a monumental hit for the group, leading the album to go Platinum.

At the core of this song is a sample from Isaac Hayes’ “Hung Up On My Baby.” Two different sections of this song are sampled, a guitar riff appearing at 0:10, and then a slightly more complex one appearing at 0:29. It’s that first riff that provides the foundation for this track to be built upon. It’s just a few notes, looped throughout the entire song, establishing a Soul-inspired base. Since this song doesn’t have a chorus, the second Hayes’ sample acts as one instead. The use of these riffs bring a much needed balance to the heavy lyrics, and allows for a quick and easy transition between verses. It’s lyrically dense as well, describing the mental stress brought on by the gangsta lifestyle.

By the time you reach the end of “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” you feel like you’ve gone throughout a lengthy adventure in the personal lives of Geto Boys. The intensity of the track skyrocketed it to the top Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart after its release, the group’s only number one single to date. In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked it as the 5th greatest Hip Hop song of all time, and has been featured on similar type lists from outlets like VH1 and Pitchfork. Despite coming out in 1991, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” stays relevant to this day, and remains as one of the greatest Hip Hop tracks of all time.

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