Late last week the Cruz campaign released an attack ad against Hillary Clinton, spoofing the iconic printer-destruction scene from the 1999 film Office Space.
The ad itself completely misses the mark. Though the lyrics to the re-written parody of Geto Boys’ “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta” play over the ad, painting a picture of Clinton as a corrupt, entitled Washington insider—the scene itself depicts Clinton as a take-no-shit badass.
The problem, and where the commercial totally fails as an attack ad, is that it depicts Hillary Clinton as one of the heroes from one of the most iconic and well-loved scenes of one of the biggest cult films of the last twenty years. On a subconscious level, if you are a fan of Office Space, you can’t help but view Clinton as the hero of this ad. They may as well have made a Bernie Sanders attack ad, casting him as “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski. It just doesn’t work to cast your political foe in a role completely associated with a hero—an anti-establishment hero AT THAT. Even the camera angles, parodying the original Office Space scene, make Clinton look larger than life and totally in charge. The ad works as a parody of a famous movie scene—as a political attack ad, it’s an utterly dismal failure. The Clinton campaign could take this spot as-is and dub in some different music (perhaps the original Geto Boys cut), and have a great ad of their own.
Republicans seem to have trouble getting the nuances of humor correct and they also seem to have a major problem with musicians getting angry when songs are used without permission in political campaigns.There’s a long history of this, and Cruz’ use of the Geto Boys’ music is the latest in that history.
Willie D of The Geto Boys, center
Willie D of the Geto Boys had some choice words of his own about the ad and the Cruz campaign’s (parodied) use of the Geto Boys’ music. Willie D called the ad “blasphemy” and “garbage” and asserted that the Cruz campaign runs completely counter to the Geto Boys’ ideals. “I don’t believe he’s all the way human,” he continued, comparing Cruz to “The Tin Man” from The Wizard of Oz. Willie D went on to call Cruz the “scum of the earth” and “a self-aggrandizing, insufferable douchebag,” ultimately demanding, “you owe us and our fans an apology. I want an apology, Ted.”
One of the most crucial and influential gangsta rap acts since the late ‘80s, Houston Texas’ Geto Boys have always played by their own rules, never selling out, always on that “other level of the game.” Still “not kissin’ no goddamn ass to be accepted” in 2015, it’s been a busy year for the three members of the most famous line-up of the group, Willie D, Scarface, and Bushwick Bill.
It’s general Dangerous Minds policy to avoid reporting on Kickstarters, but it’s worth noting that among the “rewards” being offered by the Geto Boys for donating to the recording costs of their new album are: a night of barhopping with Bushwick Bill, a round of golf with Scarface, or—if you have the big bucks—a custom-designed Geto Boys coffin.
I’ve been a fan of the Geto Boys since the release of their transgressive Grip It on That Other Level album. My personal discovery of the Geto Boys came about as a result of already being a huge fan of Willie D’s 1989 solo Rap-a-lot Records recording, Controversy. I’m not entirely certain why Controversy came to be one of my favorite rap releases—or quite possibly—ACTUALLY MY FAVORITE RAP ALBUM EVER. There’s certainly better-produced and more thoughtfully-written albums out there for sure. I guess it was one of those time and place events. Willie D had a surprising number of unexpected fans in the punk scene I came up in. It may have been a combination of the overall envelope-pushing filthiness of the lyrics and the stripped-down DIY-sounding production, or the seemless blending of the politics of groups like Public Enemy, the gangsterism of groups like NWA and the sheer sexual nastiness of groups like 2 Live Crew. Somehow the mixed bag works—or at least it worked for me in 1989. Never released on vinyl, except for a DJ twelve inch sampler of some tracks (if you have one to sell, get at me!), I’ve worn through three copies of the original cassette on Rap-a-lot.
The album on which Mr. D proposes a bill to Capitol Hill to kill all bald-headed women at will.
So it came to be one of the more memorable nights of my life when, a week ago, I FINALLY got to see Willie D and the Geto Boys live on stage—and being right up front, singing along (with most of the audience), at some point I yelled out “Whatcha see D?” and Willie D looked down. The DJ cued up the “Dragnet” intro music and I yelled “y’all thought this was Dragnet, didn’t ya! Wrong answer again!” And then, unbelievably, the “Underground Master” himself pulled me up on stage to sing “Bald Headed Hoes” (Controversy‘s most notorious cut) with him. Luckily those lyrics are branded upon my brain and came out effortlessly, because the whole time I was onstage with the Geto Boys I was thinking “how the fuck is this happening?!”
But even without that, it would have still been an unforgettable night, because the Geto Boys were ON FIRE. Their current live show is a “don’t miss” event, and I can attest from the personal interactions I witnessed, that the Geto Boys care deeply about their fans. I would never suggest that the Geto Boys, now certainly Geto Men, have mellowed with age, but the three “ghetto soldiers” appear remarkably more thoughtful, dare I say, sagelike in 2015. I can’t say if the hardest out, trigger-happy, motherfuckin’ Geto Boys are still looking to win Fifth Ward murder contests, but they’re definitely still willing to cuss their asses off for your daughters and sons. If you have an opportunity to see them on this tour, don’t sleep.
Although Willie D states (jokingly?) in a recent Rolling Stone interview, “We fuckin’ hate each other, man. It’s like, ‘Motherfucker, I don’t even wanna be onstage with you. Can we put up three stages, man? I’ll sing my verse, you sing your verse,’” there didn’t seem to be a bit of animosity between him or Scarface or Bushwick onstage. They appeared to be having a blast with each other. Bushwick Bill went all-in, destroying a printer with a baseball bat, in homage to the infamous Office Spaceprinter massacre scene (which features the Geto Boys song “Still”).
Bushwick Bill, pictured here after being shot in the eye by his girlfriend in the Summer of 1991. The group took this rare opportunity to take publicity photos, using one image from the hospital photo shoot for the cover of their 1991 album “We Can’t Be Stopped.”
The most “what the fuck” moment of the show, however, came from the “Mastermind of Wreckin’ Shit,” Scarface, who—out of nowhere—suddenly decided it was time to bust into the theme from All in the Family. Thankfully a quick-thinking audience member with a handy cellphone was able to capture (at least the last part of) this baffling moment. At the end of the clip you even hear Willie D actually say “what the fuck?!”
“When goils were goils and men was men.”
Scarface has a history of breaking with the conventions of his hardcore gangsta rap image. As well as being an avid golfer, his Facebook page often features uploaded videos of himself playing soft-rock jams like “Hotel California” and “Landslide” on acoustic guitar.
Still, we’re filing this one under “weird shit we never thought we’d see at a Geto Boys concert,” or better yet, under “playing by their own rules, never selling out, and always being on that ‘other level of the game.’”
Here’s the Geto Boys taking it to that other level and doing Archie and Edith Bunker like a G.O.: