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?Ive just been working and making a lot of music. I dont have a distribution deal or a label deal at this point, so Im just making music. Im doing a series of mixtapes called Gangsta Love. Im planning on having Volume 1 out by March. Basically, its a whole album of fuck songs, but instead of just talking about sex, Im giving you some game too. Its not just game for the men, but theres game for the women too. Im gonna have a bunch of game in the songs as opposed to just being sexy, so its gonna be real sex education. In the words of Pimp C, Its gonna be sex education on a compact disc, mane. Im telling you, mane. (laughs)
Do the Geto Boys have any plans to get back together?Naw, there aint no plans.
Are you guys on good terms?I aint gonna lie. Weve never really been on good terms. We just kinda stay out of each others 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 theres a lot of garbage out there too. There are some artists who are really, really holding it down, and you can tell theyre 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. Its 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 aint nothing. The ballplayers who came up before Jordan think his era wasnt nothing. And so on and so forth. But lets not forget that there were some artists who came up in our era that were garbage too. People act like everybody was jammin. Everybody wasnt jammin in the 90s. Everybody wasnt jammin in the 80s, you know? There were some garbage artists back then and there were some one-hit wonders back then. You dont 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 arent even gonna be a footnote five or ten years from now, because nobody is gonna remember their name. So its 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, theyre gonna have problems. I can tell you right now: take those $20,000 and $30,000 licks youre making once a month and save your ass off, cause when its over, its over.
Lets talk about your legal situation. Youre 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 doesnt sound like a real foolproof plan, if thats actually what you were doing. Is that actually what happened?Yep. Thats what happened.
Why did you think that would be a good idea? It doesnt seem like something youd be able to get away with long-term.Cause Im crazy like that, you know? When somebody does something to me, sometimes I dont 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 thats 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 didnt 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 theyre 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 theyll hold your money if theres 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. Theres 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 dont want to do business on eBay. Theyll start doing business with you on eBay, but once they get your information and you start communicating, theyll say, Lets do this outside of eBay, so I dont 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, its all the same though, whether its 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 persons 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, Im just kidding. I pled guilty.
Do you feel like you deserve the sentence that was handed down?I dont think anybody feels like they deserve to be in prison, you know, even a murderer. I dont 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. Thats just how it is. So Im going to jail. As far as paying my debt to society, personally, I feel like Im already doing that. Even before I got arrested, I was mentoring kids, warning them of the dangers of putting themselves at risk. Ive been doing that all my life, ever since I learned that my name had some type of clout. Ive 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. Lukes 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 Ive gotta do this time.
How do you plan on spending that year?Im gonna do a lot of reading. I havent read a book in years, so Im gonna get caught up on my reading.
Are you gonna have a six-pack when you come out?Ive got an eight-pack now. (laughs)
Okay, a twelve-pack then?Yeah, Ive never stopped being in shape. Ive always worked out, so that aint gonna stop.
Is there anything else youd like to add?Look out for the mixtape Gangsta Love Vol. 1. Youll be able to purchase that online at WillieD.com. You can also check me out on Twitter, @TheRealWillieD. Im 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