Houston rap collective The Geto Boys were the original pioneers of Southern rap music. Comprised of Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill, The Geto Boys’ origins are rooted firmly in the late-1980s and are known, to this day, as one of the first mainstream hip-hop groups from the South.
With the trio’s emergence, hip-hop finally gained a new respect for the South after its long struggle. Now more than ever, rappers from what are colloquially known as ‘The Dixies’ are being uplifted and empowered.
The group’s frontman, Scarface (Brad Jordan), went on to become one of the most prominent Southern hip-hop artists in the US and achieved a great deal of commercial success along the way. His 2002 album, The Fix, debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and was met with critical acclaim. The project’s lead single ‘Guess Who’s Back?’ featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel, was the album’s most successful track peaking at number 79 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Produced by the renowned Chicago entrepreneur, rapper and beatmaker Kanye West, ‘Guess Who’s Back’ contains a number of samples. Recorded in New York at the Baseline Studios of Roc-A-Fella Records, West utilised the drums of ‘Xxplosive’ by Dr Dre and a melody from the 1977 Motown song ‘Sunrise’ by The Originals.
The Originals were a collective that rose to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s. Formed in Detroit, the group comprised of Freddie Gorman, C. P. Spencer and Hank Dixon. Before the ensemble’s formation, every member of the originals had been active and successful in the Motown scene for a number of years. Spencer had briefly been a part of The Spinners, and Gorman had helped write the number one hit, ‘Please Mr Postman’ by the Marvelettes.
The Originals initially operated as a backing vocal group for larger artists, including the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Jimmy Ruffin. However, in the ’70s decided to pursue a career as a solo group. ‘Sunrise’ was released as the lead single for their 1977 album, Down To Love Town. Produced by Michael B. Sutton, the song was recorded at Hitsville Studios in California and was released by Soul Records, a subsidiary of Motown Records, formed in early 1964 by Berry Gordy Jr. The label was also home to Gladys Knight & The Pips, the Funk Brothers and Shorty Long.
Concerning ‘Sunrise,’ Kanye West sped up the track, added a new bass riff and inserted some of the heavy and punchy drums of ‘Xxplosive.’ You can hear the original tracks and see how the Chicago icon made the track in the videos below.