How Did Bushwick Bill Die? New Details On The Rapper Who Actually Died For Real This Time

Jamaican-American rapper Richard Stephen Shaw (AKA Bushwick Bill) succumbed to cancer on June 9th.

How Did Bushwick Bill Die? New Details On The Rapper Who Actually Died For Real This Time Getty

He was supposed to appear at a Saturday night gig in Dallas for a special performance, but couldn’t make it because he was hospitalized. His absence sparked the rumor that he’d already passed when he was actually still fighting for his life. His daughter quelled the speculation, saying he needs prayers and support and hinting at some friction between her father and certain unnamed industry people.


She posted on her father’s Instagram that: “Certain people have been so quick to write him off as dead so they can capitalize off it. There is no Geto Boys without Bushwick Bill.” The best way to honor his memory is to learn about who he really was in his lifetime. So, how did Bushwick Bill die?

1. A dancer

Shaw/Bill originally joined the Geto Boys in 1986 at 20-years-old as a warmup dance act, performing as Little Billy (he was born with dwarfism). Two years later, he re-joined a reconstituted lineup of the group as a rapper under the new stage name Bushwick Bill.


A post shared by Bushwick Bill (@therealbushwickbill) on Apr 30, 2019 at 2:04pm PDT

2. He shot himself in the eye

In 1991, he accidentally shot himself during an argument with his girlfriend and lost his right eye in the process, making him the world’s smallest cyclops. The band used a photo of him being wheeled through a hospital hall on a gurney by his bandmates, Willie D and Scarface, as the cover art for their second album, We Can’t Be Stopped, which ultimately went platinum.


He talks about the incident in his 1992 solo single “Ever So Clear:”

I grabbed her hand and placed the gun to my eye muscle

She screamed ‘Stop!’ and then we broke into another tussle

Yo, during the fight the gun went off quick

Damn! Aw shit / I’m hit.

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3. He died once before

What? Yeah. In a 2014 interview withThe Murder Master Music Show (a hip hop podcast), he said that he died on June 19, 1991.


“I was in the morgue for two hours and 45 minutes before I came to. My toe was tagged and they were pushing me in the drawer and I looked both ways and I saw frozen people to the left and frozen people to the right. I thought I was dreaming, then I saw people in front of me pushing the door closed and I was like, ‘Yo!’ And everybody stopped and I said, 'I have to pee' and I jumped up and pulled the catheter out and the security for the morgue stood there and I ended up peeing on his leg and he took off running [and said] ‘He’s alive somebody help!’ They ran back in there and shot me up with a big needle and I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed.”

4. He had pancreatic cancer

Back in February, he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. He started on a rigorous chemotherapy regiment, which gave him pneumonia and a lung infection. He took to Instagram to personally deliver the news from his hospital bed: “For everyone out there who thought I was healthy enough to make a tour, I’ve been in the hospital since May 24th. Interesting. Walking Pneumonia, infection in my lung, and they think I have an infection in my blood. Now, the rumor is I pulled out on the tour, but if my health was a concern, than you would know about my health. This is a health issue.”



A post shared by Bushwick Bill (@therealbushwickbill) on May 25, 2019 at 7:22am PDT

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5. He made a cameo appearance on Dr. Dre’s studio album The Chronic

Although he didn’t believe Geto Boys’ DJ Ready Red when he told Shaw/Bill in ‘86/’87 that he could and should rap (he only started doing it in ’89), he soon gained the tenacity and strong will that would eventually get him on a 1992 Dr. Dre piece. He recalled Warren G and Snoop Dogg inviting him to the studio where Dr. Dre was recording with one of the rappers from a group called Po’ Broke & Lonely:

“I heard the theme to ‘Stranded On Death Row’ which reminded me of Dark Shadows, the old radio TV show, I asked him if I could say something and he said, ‘No, ‘cause I have to finish this album mix.’ And I was like, ‘C’mon, just let me say something and if it doesn’t work, then cool.’ I kept bothering him ‘til he let me say it, then he said, ‘Can you do that again?’ That’s how I got on it.”

In the Rolling Stone video linked below, he says he wasn’t even afraid to die. Damn. What a legend.


Leah Scher is an ENFP finishing her degree at Brandeis University. She's an alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writer's Workshop the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. She's passionate about Judaism, poetry, film, satire, astrology, spirituality, and sexual health. She draws inspiration for her writing from writer/director Wes Anderson, and for her lifestyle from her grandmother. Lastly, she's always actively seeking two things: a job having anything at all to do with publishing, and a chance to meet Jesse Eisenberg.