Last Of A Dying Breed: Why Scarface Is The Greatest MC Of All Time (Video)

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Scarface is an MC who is a keystone within a legendary group, the Geto Boys. However, he also maintains a solo catalog that is arguably even more impressive. Brad Jordan’s career expands nearly 30 years, and the Houston, Texas legend has made a powerful impact with the fans, the critics, and the charts in four different decades. Moreover, ‘Face built his career on a historically no-frills indie.

Scarface boasts a #1 album (1997’s Untouchable), and multiple perfect ratings from The Source and XXL magazines at critical times in each publication. ‘Face is beloved by critics and fans, who have carried him to three platinum albums and four gold, as a soloist, and three more golds with Willie D and Bushwick Bill. While his trophy case lacks a Grammy Award (he has not been nominated), Brad boasts the I Am Hip Hop Award from BET, and a 2001 “Best Lyricist” Source Award where he bested JAY-Z, Eminem, Prodigy, and Talib Kweli.

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Jay puts Scarface in his Top 5 dead or alive, and Chris Rock considers him in his Top 3. Killer Mike believes the H-Town MC is the greatest, period. Big K.R.I.T. puts it nicely, “He made it cool to be southern, brother. He made it cool to be southern. All that he put into it. His lyricism—how organic it was, how gritty it was and he rapped about where he’s from, and that inspired me as a southern artist to rap about where I was from with confidence.”

There is a strong case that Scarface is the Greatest Rapper Of All Time. In this week’s TBD, Justin “The Company Man” Hunte takes a closer look as to why. “JAY-Z’s 4:44 has gotten a lot of credit for explaining credit and investing. Scarface did that on ‘Safe’ off The Fix in [2002] and didn’t need a million dollar art collection to explain it,” Justin points out.

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Beyond just blue chip tips, Scarface took his songwriting to places ahead of others, despite not always getting credit for it. 1991’s “I’m Dead” explored a dark concept that Biggie Smalls would dabble with on Ready To Die. Scarface’s most notable verse, from “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me” (that same ’91) delves into depression years before artists like Drake, Kid Cudi, Atmosphere, or Ghostface Killah were praised for crossing boundaries. Perhaps Scarface’s greatest body of work, 1994’s The Diary, is his most personal, and his darkest. He created lanes for a number of other artists too, from Devin The Dude to Ludacris, Ganksta N-I-P to Mike Dean.

Hunte looks at past conversations with Scarface though, perhaps hinting at what holds him back. “Maybe this is it. I’ve had the fortune of speaking with Scarface on multiple occasions on and off the record over the past five years. And there are a few things he’s consistent on when reflecting on his career. One of which is the blueprint to his success. Here’s how he explained it the first time we spoke, ‘The Rap lifespan on the normal occasion is, what, three or four albums—two albums?,” asks the Geto Boy. “[Deeply Rooted] is my 12th solo album in 24 years. I’ve been putting out albums in between that. The question is: why don’t I ever fall off? How do I stay relevant? I’ll give you the answer to that sh*t. You already know what the answer is. I’m cheating. I had the blueprint.”

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Brad learned his secret from watching his favorite groups. “I know what made me start hating Van Halen: when David Lee Roth left. I didn’t f*ck with ‘Van Hagar.’ I know what made me stop f*cking with Maze & Frankie Beverly: when they tried to do the Techno-sounding sh*t.” Later, Facemob brings it home, “Everybody hates to be their own individuals. That’s what I respect most about music. That’s what makes me not want to f*ck with the artist: when they try to be someone else. Don’t crossover to try to be somebody. Just be yourself. That’d be part of that blueprint that I’m going to put together for everybody.'”

Hunte expounds, “Scarface’s blueprint is that he doesn’t switch it up. He stays in his lane and keeps to the same themes. Honesty, vulnerability, pain are timeless themes that resonate throughout the great works in history, not just music. And in this space, this Rap cypher, Facemob is possibly the truest pioneer in terms of storytelling and emotional depth.” However, that’s the challenge too. “Hip-Hop has a tendency to champion evolution and risk taking. It’s one of the reasons Kanye [West] is revered. Or Andre 3000. Or Kendrick Lamar. [They are] artists that switch it up every time out.”

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Perhaps too, Scarface isn’t giving himself enough credit either. The themes, images, and flows have not changed. But The World Is Yours sounds starkly different than The Fix. Facemob and Geto Boys had different aesthetics too. Production and style has evolved. Scarface may be achieving consistency without redundancy—a feat.

Justin poses this question to close this TBD episode: “Is the fact that Scarface sticks intentionally to the model he created 30 years ago, arguably at the cost of his own artistic evolution, a strong enough setback to keep him from being the GOAT?”