Willie D: Coming Clean

Willie D of the Geto Boys turned himself in last week after he was sentenced to a year in prison for an iPhone scam. Before he went away, the Houston Hip-Hop icon talked to OZONE magazine about the case and offers sobering clarity on what he did wrong.  For more, visit OZONE.

Of course people are familiar with you as part of the Geto Boys, and everything you accomplished over the years, but what solo projects have you been working on recently?I’ve just been working and making a lot of music. I don’t have a distribution deal or a label deal at this point, so I’m just making music. I’m doing a series of mixtapes called Gangsta Love. I’m planning on having Volume 1 out by March. Basically, it’s a whole album of fuck songs, but instead of just talking about sex, I’m giving you some game too. It’s not just game for the men, but there’s game for the women too. I’m gonna have a bunch of game in the songs as opposed to just being sexy, so it’s gonna be real sex education. In the words of Pimp C, “It’s gonna be sex education on a compact disc, mane. I’m telling you, mane.” (laughs)

Do the Geto Boys have any plans to get back together?Naw, there ain’t no plans.

Are you guys on good terms?I ain’t gonna lie. We’ve never really been on good terms. We just kinda stay out of each other’s way.

Well, how do you feel about the state of Southern rap music today, since the Geto Boys really helped pave the way for this movement?Some of the artists are holding it down, but of course there’s a lot of garbage out there too. There are some artists who are really, really holding it down, and you can tell they’re gonna be around for a minute. But from my viewpoint, the artists that came before the current artists are always going to have a problem with the newest guys in the game. It’s the same thing with sports; the past generation always has something to say about the current generation. The guys who came up when [Michael] Jordan came up think that ballplayers today ain’t nothing. The ballplayers who came up before Jordan think his era wasn’t nothing. And so on and so forth. But let’s not forget that there were some artists who came up in our era that were garbage too. People act like everybody was jammin’. Everybody wasn’t jammin’ in the 90s. Everybody wasn’t jammin’ in the 80s, you know? There were some garbage artists back then and there were some one-hit wonders back then. You don’t even know who they are, because they were one-hit wonders. (laughs) And a lot of artists today who are one-hit wonders, you know, they aren’t even gonna be a footnote five or ten years from now, because nobody is gonna remember their name. So it’s the same thing. The artists today who are really, really solid artists and work on their craft will be remembered years from now. The artists who are in the game right now, the one-hit wonders who run around here asking for $30,000-$40,000 and they only got one song, they’re gonna have problems. I can tell you right now: take those $20,000 and $30,000 licks you’re making once a month and save your ass off, cause when it’s over, it’s over.

Let’s talk about your legal situation. You’re about to serve a year in prison, correct?Yes. A year and a day.

So basically you were accused of taking money from people overseas and promising to ship them electronics, and you kept the money instead of shipping the product. It doesn’t sound like a real foolproof plan, if that’s actually what you were doing. Is that actually what happened?Yep. That’s what happened.

Why did you think that would be a good idea? It doesn’t seem like something you’d be able to get away with long-term.Cause I’m crazy like that, you know? When somebody does something to me, sometimes I don’t use my better judgment in evening the score. Basically, this is what happened. I was running a cell phone business, me and my partner, for about a year solid with no problems. Then we started doing business online and everything was cool. I started doing business with some folks overseas and that’s when everything got twisted. The first few transactions were beautiful and then we got burned for a couple of phones. We felt like that was an isolated incident, but then we got burned again.

How did you get burned by overseas buyers? Were they giving you fake credit card numbers?Nah, nah. What they would do is buy phones from us on eBay. They would purchase our phones, we would ship them, and then they would say that they didn’t receive them. EBay works on the honor system, and the buyer has the almighty power to give you a bad score. We had a perfect score, we were at 100%. We had done over 100 transactions with a perfect score. If somebody gives you a bad score on eBay, you can never get that 100% back. Even if you had a million transactions and every single person gave you a positive score, the best you can do is 99.9%, feel me? When people look at that rating, it gives you credibility when they’re looking to purchase something. So rather than risking having a disgruntled buyer or a thieving buyer giving us a bad score, we just decided to eat it and shoot them a refund. EBay and Paypal are one and the same, and they’ll hold your money if there’s a problem with the sale until it gets resolved. So we went ahead and accepted the loss. We did that twice. After that, we decided that anytime we came across someone who seemed like they were unscrupulous, we would get them before they got us.

How do you determine which buyers are “unscrupulous”?You can tell by the way they send their emails; the way they communicate with you. There’s certain tell-tale signs that you can look for when you want to know if somebody is trying to dupe you. One example is when they don’t want to do business on eBay. They’ll start doing business with you on eBay, but once they get your information and you start communicating, they’ll say, “Let’s do this outside of eBay, so I don’t have to pay their fees.”

Well, some of these transactions were pretty large, right? Like, you had large bulk orders that you never shipped?Yeah, it’s all the same though, whether it’s 2 phones or 20 phones. If we felt like we were dealing with somebody that was unscrupulous, we would sting them before they stung us.

But why not just refuse to do business with them at all, if you felt like they were unscrupulous?Because we wanted some payback. We had already been burned a couple times.

But do you think it makes sense to get payback from one person for another person’s unscrupulous behavior, just because they are both from overseas?We felt like if they were trying to get us, we were gonna get them, period.

Okay. So you were charged with wire fraud? How did you plead?Guilty by reason of insanity. (laughs) No, I’m just kidding. I pled guilty.

Do you feel like you deserve the sentence that was handed down?I don’t think anybody feels like they deserve to be in prison, you know, even a murderer. I don’t think anybody thinks they deserve to be locked up. But I do understand what I did. I always take the bitter with the sweet. I understand what I did. I understand I broke the law, and in America, if you break the law, you go to jail. That’s just how it is. So I’m going to jail. As far as paying my debt to society, personally, I feel like I’m already doing that. Even before I got arrested, I was mentoring kids, warning them of the dangers of putting themselves at risk. I’ve been doing that all my life, ever since I learned that my name had some type of clout. I’ve been doing that for over 20 years, just going to prisons and alternative schools and hospitals and universities. I put on my first health fair this past June. It was supported by the City of Houston and St. Luke’s Hospital. We tested hundreds of people for HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, hepatitis B, breast cancer, you name it. No matter what, I feel like the good I do outweighs the bad. But I understand why I’ve gotta do this time.

How do you plan on spending that year?I’m gonna do a lot of reading. I haven’t read a book in years, so I’m gonna get caught up on my reading.

Are you gonna have a six-pack when you come out?I’ve got an eight-pack now. (laughs)

Okay, a twelve-pack then?Yeah, I’ve never stopped being in shape. I’ve always worked out, so that ain’t gonna stop.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?Look out for the mixtape Gangsta Love Vol. 1. You’ll be able to purchase that online at WillieD.com. You can also check me out on Twitter, @TheRealWillieD. I’m looking for a record label situation, so record labels should definitely holla at me.

You can write to Willie D here:William James Dennis #99063179FCI BEAUMONT LOWFederal Correctional InstitutionPO Box 26020Beaumont, TX 77720

Related Stories