Geto Boys rapper Bushwick Bill dead at 52, publicist says

Published: Monday, June 10, 2019 @ 1:16 AM
Updated: Monday, June 10, 2019 @ 1:16 AM

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Editor's note: A previous version of this story was corrected to reflect that Bushwick Bill was alive Sunday afternoon, according to his publicist. That publicist later told news outlets that Bill died Sunday night.

Geto Boys rapper Bushwick Bill has died, his publicist said Sunday night. He was 52.

Here are the latest updates:

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Update 12:56 a.m. EDT June 10: The publicist, Dawn P., told TMZ that Bill, whose real name was Richard Shaw, died at 9:35 p.m. in Houston.

“He was surrounded by his immediate family,” the publicist told Rolling Stone. “There were incorrect previous reports that he had passed away this morning. We are looking into doing a public memorial at a later date. His family appreciates all of the prayers and support and are asking for privacy at this time.”

The rapper had been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Original report: Bushwick Bill, a member of the rap group Geto Boys, is in the hospital fighting after revealing last month that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. 

TMZ reported that a publicist for the 52-year-old rapper says Bill is “still alive and fighting cancer.” She spoke to hospital staff to confirm and said someone got incorrect information which led to death reports and a bandmate posting on Instagram that he died. That post has since been deleted.

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The Associated Press reported that Dawn P., Bill’s publicist, said the rapper is on a ventilator at a hospital in Colorado.

Bill drew attention in 1991 when he was shot in the eye. The incident led him to wear a patch over his right eye, which is seen on the graphic cover of the rap trio’s album, “We Can't Be Stopped.” It was one of the group’s most successful albums, but over the years, band members began expressing regret over the cover.

“It still hurts me to look at that cover because that was a personal thing I went through,” Bill said in the 2007 book “Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies.” “I still feel the pain from the fact that I’ve got a bullet in my brain. To see that picture only brings it back more so. I think it was pretty wrong of them to do it, even though I went along with the program at first. I really didn’t understand why that picture was so important for them, important enough to take the IV out of my arm and endanger my life by taking the patch off my eye. I could have been blinded for life.”

Related: Geto Boys’ rapper Bushwick Bill fighting stage 4 pancreatic cancer, reports say

“If you look at my face on the We Can’t Be Stopped album cover, you can tell I didn’t want to be a part of that photo shoot,” Scarface said in a 2010 Vibe interview. “Bill was still in the hospital. He was highly sedated, man. … I strongly believe that what goes on in this house stays in this house. I didn’t really want to put Bill out there like that. How many people have gotten their eye shot out and captured it on an album cover for everyone to remember? It’s hard to wake up in the morning and deal with that one.”

Although reports at the time said he got into a fight with a girlfriend, Bill later said in a Vice interview that he lost his eye while trying to get insurance money for his mother in a plan gone bad.

"I was trying to find a way to, you know, have something happen to me so my mom could get insurance money,” he said in a 2016 interview. “If you commit suicide, I don't think life insurance honors that. So I was trying to make an accident happen.”

The rapper was set to go on a reunion tour with Geto Boys this year, but he pulled out after revealing his cancer diagnosis. The tour was later canceled.