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Charles L. Hughes

Charles L. Hughes is the Director of the Lynne & Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College. His acclaimed first book, Country Soul: Making Music and Race in the American South, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015. He has published and spoken widely on race, music and U.S. history, and is currently writing about the albums of 1968 at "The '68 Comeback Special" (http://68comebackspecial.wordpress.com). He is also a musician and songwriter.

"'Size Ain’t Shit': Bushwick Bill, Sex and Disability" 
On their breakthrough 1990 album Grip it on the Other Level, Houston rap artists the Geto Boys included a blistering track called “Size Ain’t Shit.” A tribute to the sexual prowess and violent toughness of group member Bushwick Bill, the song doesn’t diverge much from the boastful excess typical of the Geto Boys’s incendiary catalog or gangsta-era hip-hop more generally. It is made exceptional through its celebration of its performer’s short stature. Bushwick Bill – born with dwarfism – unleashes a furious set of rhymes to discuss how, in the bedroom and elsewhere, “large things come in very small packages.” While no other Geto Boys song referenced it as directly, Bushwick Bill’s shortness remained central to his persona as he rapped many of the group’s most infamous verses – some of which crossed the line from sexual appetite to sexual violence. He remains noteworthy not just as one of the only short-statured musicians to achieve significant commercial success and cultural notoriety, but also as one of the few disabled musicians to foreground sexuality in such an explicit (and sometimes problematic) manner.

This paper considers the career of Bushwick Bill at the intersection of black masculinity and disability in popular music. It contextualizes him within 1990s “hip-hop wars” as well as changing disability politics in the era of the Americans With Disabilities Act. And, while not a memoir, the author will include discussion of how Bushwick Bill’s work has informed his experiences as a (white) short-statured person. Throughout, this paper will show how – by negotiating the hypersexuality often attached to black men and the asexualization ascribed to the disabled – Bushwick Bill used hip-hop’s brash explicitness to force listeners to acknowledge both his sexuality and his physical differences as complementary parts of his artistic identity.