The Houston Rap legend talks about his career from day one, how much he hates all of the Geto Boys projects and several of his solo LPs, and how he promises to beat 2Pac's ass if he's still alive.
Scarface at Gibson Studios (all photos by the author)
In Rank Your Records, we talk to members of bands who have amassed substantial discographies over the years and ask them to rate their releases in order of personal preference.
When Scarface arrived for his interview with Noisey at Gibson studios in New York, he immediately took a stool and grabbed Paul McCartney’s lefty guitar, ripping out the licks to the Beatles classic “Blackbird.” He followed that up with Kiss’s “Strutter” and Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away.” Clearly the man is a multi-faceted musician.
Scarface was also impeccably dressed, except for a giant red splotch on his left leg.
Out came a Tide pre-wash pen from his pocket to sop up the crimson pool. He’s prepared, but then you'd have to be alert and ready after almost 30 years of writing, recording, performing, and navigating the music industry as a solo artist and a member of one of the most influential rap groups of all time, Geto Boys.
Between 1986 and 2005, the trio of Willie D, Bushwick Bill, and Scarface, as well as combinations therein, released several albums and arguably put Southern hip-hop on the map with tracks like “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta," and others, breaking barriers for a tidal wave of rappers. Scarface’s solo career happened mostly in parallel, working with a young Kanye West on the critically acclaimed LP The Fix, and going bar for bar with names like Jay Z, Ice Cube, Devin the Dude (part of his Facemob clique), Too $hort, Redman, and countless others, including the legendary 2Pac. Scarface is not just a legend of the South but a a rap legend period, and one that "can't be stopped" with the release of his latest LP Deeply Rooted. The album is due on September 4: Look for Face to team with names like Nas, Z-Ro, and Rick Ross, and watch the first video from it here.
The prewash pen during the album ranking
But with such a large discography, it can be hard to get to the center of what Brad Terrence Jordan is all about. So the legend discussed his career, the sheisty game known as the rap industry, and just where each of his records would rank personally. The results were highly unconventional but still very enlightening.
8. All Geto Boys albums, The World is Yours, The Last of a Dying Breed, Balls & My Word, My Homies Part 2
Scarface physically ranking his records
NOISEY: Let’s start with your least favorite album, whether that is with the Geto Boys or during your solo career. What do you think comes last and why?
SCARFACE: I don’t like any of the Geto Boys albums at all. Not one. There isn’t a Geto Boys album that I like. I didn’t learn anything from it, and it was a bad time in life for me too. With the label, with life, whatever… it’s a point in my life where I was the most miserable. Everybody else was happy but I wasn’t. I did all of this shit for everybody else and nothing for me. So I cant even lie, I don’t like none of the Geto Boys albums.
Not even We Can’t Be Stopped?
No, I don’t even like that motherfucker because I feel like I was forced to make that album. There is not one album that I like. Do I like songs by the Geto Boys? Fuck yeah! “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” or “Mind of a Lunatic” were great songs. As far as my favorite Geto Boys album? None of them impress me.
But to be fair, I’d imagine that making those albums were colored by your business experiences around them. You were young and probably very green with respect to the music industry.
I was very fucking green with that shit. Dummy, dummy, dummy.
Do you think that has more to do with it than the content?
I don’t know. I don’t like it. I don’t like the Geto Boys at all. I don’t like none of the albums, I don’t like none of the songs. I'm done with that group, and I’m never going to be a part of it again. It's just a part of my life that I want to forget. The Geto Boys and I can’t get no more money together. None. No more money.
Does any of this have to do with the chemistry between the three of you?
Oh no, we had the best chemistry ever.
It was just everything else surrounding you?
It was just everything else that was around that really fucking just changed the way I felt about shit. Just terrible.
As far as some of the records are concerned, The Foundation is an album that I made regretfully. The Good The Bad The Ugly was a fucking trash album. It didn’t have Bushwick on it. That was a time when Master P was taking over the airways, so J Prince wanted to Master P the game. I was like “wow like we fucked up so bad trying to do Master P when we should’ve just continued to do us.” I feel like that was the fall of Rap-A-Lot Records to me. A lot of people may not see it like that, and some people might have gotten paid but from a creative stand point, trying be like Master P and put out albums every six or seven minutes fucked up our brand. I think greed fucked up the brand. So everybody, stay where you at. Don’t go trying to be like somebody else. Just cause somebody shit on their record, don’t go shit on yours. Don’t do that. And I totally stand by that.
Some solo records I don’t like either. The World is Yours is forced, so that’s no comment. The Last of a Dying Breed was forced. Balls and My Word was cut and paste material that I never used, and so was My Homies Part 2. Like the mass majority of the motherfuckers on the My Homies 2 album… I don’t know who the fuck they were, so they couldn’t have possibly been my homies. They were Rap-A-Lot's homies!
So a lot of the artists on there were forced on to you.
I mean, I didn’t even record that shit. I didn’t even know that shit existed until it came out. That’s how disrespectful this guy was with your material.
He put my name on My Homies 2! If anything, I feel like he was trying to ruin my career with cut-away material that never ever made the album. Just a totally disrespectful dude when it came to your shit. J didn’t give a fuck about you, he gave a fuck about him. He didn’t give a fuck about your family, he gave a fuck about his. He didn’t give a fuck who you fed, he only fed his people. That’s real shit, I'm not making this shit up.
7. Emeritus (2008)
You were free from your contract with Rap-A-Lot following the release of Emeritus. What about the agreement was kind of tough for you?
Emeritus was my last album under my slave agreement. You do this for me and give me all of this, and in return you get nothing. I’ll crank the motherfucking crank, and you’ll be the monkey clapping the cymbals for peanuts. And that’s just how the music business is. And the statues of limitations end up expiring in so many years that you can't go back and get your money. Shit, every time you ask about it: “yeah man we got a new accountant let's see what we can do with this” and then two years pass, and its “well yea man we switched up again we’re trying to get those statements to you.” Two turns to five, five turns to ten, and so on. Then at some point they won’t even answer your phone call. So that’s just a lesson that we all have to learn. Anyway, this album was the day that I got away from those slave agreements. Those “give me all of this for nothing.”
That’s reflected in the title?
Yep. Emeritus, to retire from but still hold a position. Walk away with those honors. I walked away and still hold the position of being one of the best fucking lyricists ever. One of the best producers, one of the greatest musicians of all time. I’ll take that. But I ain’t going to be under these fucking slave agreements no more.
6. My Homies (1998)
My Homies is sort of the album where you stepped out the hardest as a producer. As far as that role is concerned, obviously Ready Red was an influence, but were there other guys that you looked up to? Houston is a small scene.
Houston is gonna always be a small scene. Because the people in Houston won't stick behind the people from Houston. You can get a Drake or a Wayne or a whoever to come into town, and they’ll pack the fucking house. But if you took every fucking artist in Houston and put him or her on the same stage in the biggest platform that you could possibly put them, the entire city won't show up. That’s bullshit to me, especially when Jay Z or Outkast or fucking Snoop and Dre can go to their hometown, and they’ll have a three or four night stand. So from that aspect, Houston is a fucked up town with regards to music because we don’t support our own. That’s not a myth, that’s not something I’m thinking, that’s something I know for a fact.
Do you feel that way about guys like Z-Ro maybe?
So fucking dope. So dope. What a great artist with a wasted ass career 'cause he’s not as big as he should be. I feel like he is one of the best artists that I’ve ever heard. He is a man. He is the epitome of the word pain. And he's not ashamed to talk about it. You know a lot of people are ashamed to talk about shit that goes on and he talks about it and I respect him for it.
5. Mr. Scarface Is Back (1991)
You’ve said that Mr. Scarface is Back is you trying to find yourself. Did you feel like at that time? Not knowing where to take your freedom after working as part of a unit? What was the reason for the solo record?
I didn’t have another choice. Willy left the group, so I had to do a solo album. Willy left when James was putting We Can’t Be Stopped together if I can recall correctly. Ready Red had left the group, but I also know that I didn’t really need Ready Red to do my production because I was a producer myself. I was recording my solo album right around the same time as We Can’t Be Stopped. Now imagine We Can’t Be Stopped without “Mind Playin Tricks on Me.”
I can’t even imagine that.
That was my record. That record was going on my solo album. My two verses and then the verses that Bushwick raps is the song. That was the song. Willy put a verse on it after James came back from Priority, and they said they liked that song. J was playing my record and the Geto Boys record, and they said that they wanted to put that song on the Geto Boys LP. Would that song have been as big if Willy and Bushwick would’ve got on it? That remains to be seen.
On another note, I did the record and I shared it, I’m a team player. I’m a team player, so I did team shit. Fuck it, no big deal.
Do you feel like that record suffered in any way because it lost that song?
My album? Nah.
4. M.A.D.E. (2007)
What are your thoughts on Made?
I think that album was slept on. Lyrically, I was at my best. The production I think that I was at my best. From a getting paid standpoint, from a deal standpoint, I feel like that was the best deal that I could’ve made. It was always something when it came time to get paid, but Made is probably one of my best albums.
3. The Untouchable (1997)
Tell me about where you were when you were making The Untouchable.
Untouchable was the album where I was experimenting with a lot of drugs, so if it’s sounds like that, it’s because that’s what I was doing. Also, I was listening to a lot of that Smashing Pumpkins record Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness while I was recording Untouchable. I don’t know why.
Are there any conscious looks towards what you're listening to at the time within the LP? Like maybe you quietly added a Smashing Pumpkins reference? What do you get out of a record like that and how does it funnel into your music, either consciously or subconsciously?
I think that every genre, song, group, band, whatever that I listen to is an inspiration because I don’t listen to a lot of shit. So when I do listen, I listen to learn—it’s like watching a fighter that can’t fight, you can't learn nothing from this fighter. When I listen to musicians like Hendrix or B.B. King or Stanley Jordan, I am learning. When I listen to Smashing Pumpkins, especially back in those days, it was like I was learning something. When I listened to Pink Floyd it was like I was learning something. Parliament, George Clinton, Bootsy, you learned something about music. Fuck the theory of music, fuck the music education—you can't teach music in my opinion, you gotta feel it. So with that said I hear shit to sharpen what I do, what I feel.
We talked a lot about rock bands and rap. Are there any other bands that you’d love to tell your fans that you like?
I love Stanley Clark. I love George Duke and Stanley Clark. I just grew up enough to understand Marvin Gaye and how far ahead he was. He was way ahead of his time, and we probably need to study Marvin and catch him. Parliament and George Clinton were way ahead of their time. Dr. Dre, he’s ahead of his time, and we’re still trying to catch him.
Any fond memories of recording The Untouchable?
Fucking Tupac coming to the studio with me was the highlight. I mean everybody knows he was a fucking horse. He worked his ass off. He was always in the studio trying to create. He created music like he knew he was gonna be gone.
That why everyone insists that guy must be still alive. Too damn prolific.
If he is alive, I’m gonna beat his ass up. For real. Me and Pac are gonna fight. If he’s alive, everyday I’m gonna fight him. I’m gonna cry so hard then I’m gonna beat him up. He was a very good friend of mine bro.
He was really devoted to the craft. Do you feel like you—what do you feel like you learned from him?
It's not about learning from him, it's like we fed off of each other. We’re peers. I learn a lot from Ice-T or I learned a lot from Ice Cube or Dre or somebody, but me and Pac grew up together so we kind of fed off of each other.
2. The Diary (1994)
Why is The Diary so close to the top, but not all the way?
That’s like my Dark Side of the Moon, when I was feeling the most creative. Those were my weed-smoking days. Mr. Scarface Is Back and The World is Yours, those were me trying to find myself. This is when I came into me, The Diary.
1. The Fix (2002)
And finally, The Fix. Possibly your most successful LP both on a critical and commercial level. What do you think was the magic that made the album so special?
I think that my favorite album has to be The Fix because I was in a very comfortable place. Mentally, financially… I was in a great place. Def Jam really took care of me, Lyor Cohen took care of me and that’s why that great. Kanye West was just starting off and being the great producer that he is— it came out incredible.
The final results of Rank Your Records: Scarface
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