The Geto Boys earned notoriety for its lyrics which included misogyny, gore, psychotic experiences, and necrophilia. Despite the explicit content of their songs, critic Alex Henderson argues that the group "comes across as much more heartfelt than the numerous gangsta rap...wannabes who jumped on the gangsta bandwagon in the early ’90s." The Geto Boys broke new ground with their soulful southern sound (a precursor to the Dirty South style).
The original Ghetto Boys consisted of: Prince Johnny C, The Slim Jukebox, DJ Ready Red and Little Billy, the dancer who later came to be known as Bushwick Bill. The group released an album titled Making Trouble in 1988, which got very little attention. The group broke up shortly after and a new line-up was put together with the inclusion of Scarface and Willie D, both aspiring solo artists.
The group’s 1990 album The Geto Boys caused Def American Recordings, the label to which the group was signed at the time, to switch distributors from Geffen Records to Warner Bros. Records (with marketing for the album done by WB sister label Giant Records) because of controversy over the lyrics. In the early part of the decade, several American politicians attacked gangsta emcees, including the Geto Boys. A high-profile incident in which Bushwick Bill lost an eye in a shooting with his girlfriend helped boost sales of its third album, We Can't Be Stopped. The album cover had a picture of the injured Bushwick being carted through a hospital by Scarface and Willie D. On the album's title track, the group responded to Geffen Records ending its distribution deal with Def American. The album featured the single "Mind Playing Tricks on Me", which became a big hit in the hip-hop community.
All three members began solo careers, but Willie D. was the only one who actually left the group. Scarface and Bushwick Bill continued with the Geto Boys, adding Big Mike for Till Death Do Us Part in 1993. Although Till Death Do Us Part was certified gold it was not as well received by fans, as the lyrically gifted shoes of Willie D who also wrote for Bushwick, proved too big to fill for Big Mike. Subsequently, Big Mike was dropped and Willie D returned for 1996's critically acclaimed The Resurrection and 1998's Da Good Da Bad & Da Ugly.
The song "Street Life" from the album Till Death Do Us Part was featured on the motion picture South Central. A video clip for the song with footage from the film was released.
Although the band rarely releases albums or perform together, the interest in the group has never wavered as fans anxiously await one more album or performance. However, the group did come together for a much anticipated reunion at the Smoke Out Festival in San Bernardino, CA on October 23, 2009.
In 2010, Richard Stephen Shaw (Bushwick Bill) was threatened with deportation to Jamaica. In 2012, the Geto Boys will release a song with the Insane Clown Posse on The Mighty Death Pop!'s "White Pop" bonus album "Mike E. Clark's Extra Pop Emporium". The song would actually be an extended Geto Boys remix on the song "Forever". They will also make a live performance together in the 13th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos.