Last week the legendary Richard “Bushwick Bill” Shaw passed away from Pancreatic Cancer. As a member of the legendary Hip Hop group, the Geto Boys, Bill was no stranger to drugs and alcohol. The group’s most recognized album cover features Willie D and Scarface standing next to Bill in a hospital bed after shooting himself in the eye while under the influence. Although, Bill was not the group’s hype man he started off as a mascot of sorts. Growing up Bill was the most recognizable member, especially since he had no shame in his game and would show off his maimed eye whenever. Bushwick Bill parlayed his crazed-gangster image into an iconic character within Hip Hop Culture. Bill will never be forgotten for his contributions despite not having released any new music since 2015. The hype man is a lost art in Rap performances because everyone wants to be the star. The hype man can become bigger than their rapping counterpart but people don’t like marathons, they’d rather sprint.
Some of the greatest contributors of Hip Hop started off as “hype men”. 2Pac, Freaky Tah, and Spliff Star to name a few. Flavor Flav is probably the most popular hype man of all time. Becoming friends with Chuck D at Adelphi University the two cultivated a relationship that held strong when Chuck D was offered a solo deal by Rick Rubin. Chuck D refused to sign unless Flav came along for the ride with him. A hype man is an emcees best friend. They know all the rhymes, they know when to fill in, and when to stretch a song or two. A hype man has to be a fan of the lyrics and the person spitting them. You don’t think Jay Z was a fan of Jaz-O? Kidd Creole was the original hype man! From marketing to hauling turntables, Kidd Creole used that to solidify his place in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and I’m sure the Hip Hop Hall of Fame will undoubtedly honor him as well.
Today a hype man is just the homie from around the way that knows the words to the song. Anyone can be a hype man but not everyone can hype up a crowd. A lot of today’s performers can’t hype up a crowd without a lot of stage tricks. Lighting, 808s, rollercoasters, smoke, bubbles, and fake money are all distractions so you don’t see how washed up your favorite is. Performing is an art in and of itself so to be a hype man is to be a one man/woman show. Can you rap, sing, dance, dj, beatbox, and model your stage threads? Or do you smoke before every show, run out of breath, lip sync, pull up your pants, and hold the mic to the audience? A lot of artists bank on their audience being inebriated anyway so if you’re high it’s highly unlikely that you will notice any mistakes. It takes more than a lot of energy to do what Bill, Flav, Pac, and Creole did. That’s why it’s called “hype man” and not “hyper-man”.
“I had to come up strong to get where I’m at.” – Bushwick Bill (Little Big Man)