The H-Town legend tells DX why "Scarface as he was is dead," and why he won't let Eminem rhyme on the Em-crafted beats that might surface on The Habit.
The Godfather of southern Hip Hop may be one of the easiest interviews for any Hip Hop scribe to conduct – that is, if you know your shit. Personable, funny and laid-back aren’t adjectives most fans of Scarface would think to use to describe the stoic narrator heard on ‘Face’s classic tales from the darkside “A Minute To Pray And A Second To Die” or “I Seen A Man Die.” But ‘Face is surprisingly (to some) a nice guy who is without question an official Hip Hop head who loves to casually chop it up with anyone who is as well-versed in the culture he loves as he clearly is, especially when talk turns to the humble appreciation he feels for one of his own microphone heroes, KRS-One, and ‘Face’s decision to display that admiration to the world by remaking selections from Boogie Down Productions classic debut album.
Candid is another adjective befitting Brad Jordan, a description he lived up to fully in his extremely revealing discussion with HipHopDX April 20th. An artist reborn, “Scarface” explained to DX how he’s returning to the game in 2010 as Scarface in name only. And after 20 years of rolling with Rap-A-Lot, ‘Face also frankly discussed what appears to be his breaking of business ties with mentor J. Prince, as the former Def Jam South president prepares to finally branch out and become the executive of his own label.
The most active retiree in Hip Hop history also discussed his busy dub-dime plans which include the release of his first ever mixtape, Dopeman Music (due May 4th), to be followed this fall by Mr. Jordan’s debut in his post-Scarface career, The Habit (which may include some Eminem-produced tracks that ‘Face is refusing to let Slim Shady spit on).
One of the most open and brutally honest interviews of his career, ‘Face also speaks freely about his fondness for Devin The Dude, Mia X, and a couple other notable names (along with a couple more not so notable). And so while the Q&A below may be a little lengthy, it is a must-read for any sincere supporter of the south’s most enduring voice.
HipHopDX: The first question I have for you is how does it feel to have almost beat Master P’s record for fastest un-retirement? You only missed P’s record by a couple weeks I think it is. [Laughs]
Scarface: Well…Master P had no reason to retire [in 1998 and then resume his solo career 16 months later]. And I didn’t retire, I just left, I just said fuck it… Like I tell everybody, you don’t retire from this shit you just – it’s kinda like the game – you just quit. And any two ways you in a situation where it doesn’t benefit you, then you need to…make it to where you can benefit yourself…because for my entire career I haven’t benefited from it - not financially anyway.
DX: I thought you were done with the Scarface moniker, like period. You told me the last time we spoke for HipHopDX, right before the release of Emeritus, that you were about to become “The Artist Formerly Known As ‘Face,” and that…
Scarface: -- That’s who I am too. I swear that’s who I am.
DX: The Artist Formerly Known As ‘Face?
Scarface: Yeah that’s me, without question. I think that the major distribution company that [I just] signed to [will still] probably try to use [the name] Scarface as a bargaining tool [Laughs] But…from a music standpoint, I’m a totally different person [than Scarface was]. So I feel like it’s gonna be super-important to do these mixtapes [as Scarface], because where I’m getting ready to take my listeners [with my next album is] into the mind of a true fucking artist, of a true fucking master at this craft. Muthafuckas can block my moves, they can block me from doing publishing deals, or block me from recording anywhere else, or block me from doing mixtapes, but they couldn’t block my ability to create.
DX: Now you know I gotta ask, just because [of] a couple comments you’ve made here, are you saying that Rap-A-Lot [Records is] trying to put the kibosh on some shit…?
Scarface: No, Rap-A-Lot…Rap-A-Lot is Rap-A-Lot, now. But, if you look at all of the moves in – I mean, whoever it be [that I’ve recorded for], whether it be Rap-A-Lot, whether it be Def Jam, whether it be Asylum, whether it be anybody that’s stopped me [and] that made it to where I couldn’t go out and be the artist, and the executive, that I am… Now I get a chance to go be me. [See], it’s different when you doing something for somebody else, as opposed to when you do it for yourself. My whole entire career has been dedicated to doing for everyone else. And when I say everyone else, that’s whoever falls under everyone else besides me. Now that I have made a jump into another role as the chief of my own fuckin’ tribe now, I’ll benefit from it…
DX: And you’re saying that you’re still gonna be [professionally] known as Scarface though, you don’t plan on dropping the moniker the way you sounded like you wanted to after Emeritus?
Scarface: You saw the video, right? …The “Can’t Get Right” video. Did you see me die in that video? [Scarface] died in that video. Scarface as he was is dead. Now, what it’s gonna take to reinvent this guy? It’s gonna be an easy battle, for me. Because, the record that I’m producing right now, which is called The Habit – I’m gonna give you the title of that muthafucka, you the first one to print that shit. I struggled and juggled [with] the title Under Oath and the title The Habit, and I chose The Habit. Because I was gonna do an album called Under Oath and tell my life story, but I think that I’ll make my documentary Under Oath – where I’ll be sworn in.
DX: The Habit, that sounds like something there. The Fix was a classic so… Speaking of this transition, you told me last time that you were, “…moving into another direction in making music” and that you were gonna “…do a few Rock albums. I’ma do a few Rock songs…”
Scarface: I’m looking forward to it. As a matter of fact, I’m working with a Rock band now. Now when I say I’ma do a couple of Rock albums, that didn’t necessarily mean that I was gonna be the front-man in a Rock band. I got a band right now [that I’m working with] that’s bad as fuck… It’s an all-Hispanic Rock band and they come from Texas. It’s more or less alternative music, but it’s so fuckin’ dope.
DX: What’s the name of the group?
Scarface: I can’t give that information up right now, because the check ain’t cleared yet [from the major distribution company] so I can’t make that move in signing them to Pioneer – uh, [my] new label, you got [that info] first.
DX: Pioneer Records, Pioneer Entertainment…?
Scarface: Just Pioneer. Whatever you wanna call it, I’ll be pressing records under the Pioneer imprint [distributed by a major label]. [That name’s] fucking brilliant, right?
DX: Yeah, that is actually. [Laughs]
Scarface: And outside of the new artists that I’ma be working with, I’ll also be working with the pioneers. I look forward to working with Grand Daddy I.U. and a few more muthafuckas that still got it.
DX: Wow, Grand Daddy I.U., you just took me back to fuckin’ middle school. [Laughs]
Scarface: Exactly. I look forward to working with this guy. He’s got some great fuckin’ material. I’m not saying that he’s [necessarily] gonna be signed with me, but I look forward to working with him. We talked about some stuff [already]. I think it’s a total slap in the face for any pioneer to not have an outlet to put out his music. [And] I feel like Grand Daddy I.U. was a pioneer… I feel like Big Daddy Kane was a pioneer, I feel like [Kool] G Rap was a fuckin’ pioneer, I feel like Ice Cube was a pioneer… Nas is a fucking pioneer… Marley [Marl] pioneered this. [Dr.] Dre pioneered it. I look forward to working with the pioneers [via my] Pioneer imprint.
DX: I wanna go back to this alternative group. You’re saying you wouldn’t be the front-man but [are you] saying you would play guitar in the group or something like that?
Scarface: I’m saying that…I’ll mix, I’ll master, I’ll write, I’ll do some studio [work] – whatever needs to be done. But yeah, I’ll be producing some Rock shit for sure. And a lot of people [will] say, “‘Face, why you trying to do like [Lil] Wayne?” Nah, ‘Face ain’t trying to do like [Lil] Wayne… I can play that shit for real.
DX: Yeah let’s be straight up, Wayne can’t play like I saw you play those blues guitar riffs during that recent MTV video interview.
Scarface: Oh nah, I’m a muthafucka now. I can play my ass off.
DX: You need to show your playing skills in your next video or something so cats can see you really get down. I don’t think most people even know [you play multiple instruments].
Scarface: I ain’t really trippin’ on that. I played a lot of shit on all the albums y’all heard [over the years]… [Starts strumming a guitar] This is my [Led Zeppelin] “Stairway To Heaven” remake, [starts playing a blues-tinged rendition of “Stairway To Heaven”]. Told you dude. That’s me, man.
DX: How much live guitar did you play on Dopeman Music, any?
Scarface: None. This a mixtape for crying out loud.
DX: [Laughs] I’m just asking, ‘cause last time we spoke you said, “I’m not fucking with the sampling no more… I’m going [for] straight music history. I’m going horns. I’m going string sections. I’m going [live] percussion…”
Scarface: Yeah, but that’s a fuckin’ mixtape!
I didn’t say [that I won’t be playing live] on my albums, right? Man, it feel so good to be able to [still make music] after this amount of time, ‘cause so many people don’t do it anymore. People got so fed up with this shit until they just said fuck it, like, “Fuck this shit. Fuck this game.” With the power of the Web – oh what a tangled web we weave.
DX: It’s too flooded. It’s too much shit coming at everybody at once, and how do you know what the quality shit is.
Scarface: You know what I mean? Well I can assure you this, anything that’s got my name on it, you can count on that [to be quality].
DX: Yeah, “Picking Up The Pieces,” “The Ghetto Report,” I heard some really strong shit on [Dopeman Music].
Scarface: It’s cool. I like it. It’s cool, I like Dopeman Music; I like Dopeman Music a lot.
DX: It’s some pretty thorough sounding shit for just a mixtape.
Scarface: I like it. I like it a lot. Of course it’s not an album, so its not gonna be as sick as The Habit is. But, you know a lot of people brag about how good they shit gon’ be, right? And then it’s a total let down… I got a song with John Legend, man. Oh my God. You talk about dynamic, and explosive. This is the best song I ever did in my whole career… Let me go back to what I was saying earlier…you know how a muthafucka always be saying, “Aww this album right here, man. Aww man, you gotta hear this album right here…”? Have I ever done that?
DX: Um…I don’t think so. I don’t have all your old interviews. [Laughs]
Scarface: You got my last interview, right? Did I say that?
DX: I think you said Emeritus was like almost on the level of The Fix. I think you did say something like that.
Scarface: Okay. I might – You gotta check that again. [Writer’s Note: ‘Face noted during his last interview for DX that, “Emeritus might be right there with The Fix.”]
Ain’t nothin’ on the level of The Fix… And on The Fix, I was in a great fuckin’ place. And that’s why I really took more consideration in naming this record, the new album, The Habit, because I’m in that same situation right now.
DX: So what was different about Made and Emeritus? ‘Cause, they’re not like throwaways or anything, it’s just…
Scarface: You know, my heart was – I mean, deep down in my heart at the end of the day, as good [and] as classic as those records may be to some people, they not classic to me. And as much as I like doing music, to know that it’s a possibility that I may, and may not – it makes for a very difficult vibe on an album. But like, doing this record right here, [The Habit], I’m sure, I’m positive. Never once have I questioned the material that I make, or [have already] made… If I don’t sell a fucking album, or anything that I ever do again in life, I know that I’m responsible for…[trails off]… I would rather make great music and not sell none of it, and be paid off of the ten albums [that ten fans buy], then to make an album [Inaudible] 10 million of them and not get paid off of one album. So it’s always a downside to that, to selling a bunch of records. You can sell seven, 12 million records in your career and only be compensated for 50,000 of ‘em. Or you can sell 500 records and be compensated for all of them. At least I know that the 10 people that heard it got the ride of they life, and I know that the check’s in the mail [for those 10 copies].
DX: Now…wanna ask some more about Dopeman Music, I’ve only heard the snippets but I wanna ask you about a [couple] lines I caught from those snippets. First, what were you speaking on in “Lyrical Assault” when you spit, “Yeah I made a little money, it’s gone now / It’s me against the world so I don’t even make songs now”?
Scarface: Uh huh…what’chu wanna know?
DX: Just clarify that a little bit, it’s a little cryptic to me. I think I know [what you’re talking about], but I don’t know if I [really] know.
Scarface: Uh…I don’t know of no other way to explain that to you… What I felt when I was writing it? Like a muthafucka expect you to be in this financial position to where you won’t down they muthafuckin’ ass. They feel like you got too much shit to lose. So that was my [inspiration] right there, like, “Fuck you. I made a little money, it’s gone now. I don’t give a fuck! What’s happenin’? It’s me against the world, I don’t even make songs now, what’chu gonna do?” I don’t give a fuck, you cross me it goes down… In the end, and underneath it all, people assume since you got a certain amount of money…people feel like you got too much to lose, so you not gonna do it. Don’t fuck with me ‘cause I don’t give a fuck one way or the other. Don’t no muthafuckin’ money in the world make up for being no man. And at the end of the day, when they pour dirt on that box, or they put that fire to this muthafucka and the ashes come out, I went out like a muthafuckin’ man.
DX: One more question about something you spit on “Lyrical Assault”: I caught that you said, “I stand planted, ain’t no movin’ me nigga / Still the coldest muthafucka on this mic since Jigga” [and] I was just curious, how did it feel when Hov included you in his personal top five greatest of all time during an interview he gave to Chicago’s WGCI last summer?
Scarface: [Says surprised] God damn! I’m in his top five?
DX: Yes sir, you, Andre 3000, who else was it…
DX: I wanna say Eminem - I can’t remember the whole five, but yeah you’re in there.
Scarface: God damn! Shit, that muthafucka in my top five too! Muthafucka! Man, I fuckin’ love Jay-Z. See, but you can’t really love Jay-Z unless you witnessed it though…
DX: I think seeing him make “99 Problems” during the Fade To Black [movie], like that was…
Scarface: Nah, did you see him go through his writing process?
DX: Well…yeah that was more the recording…
Scarface: Nah, that’s what I’m saying, man! You gotta see this muthafucka [put a song together]. That’s not a real person. He’s a fucking machine! That dude ain’t human!
DX: And he thinks ‘Face is like number two or three [greatest of all time], that’s saying something.
Scarface: Nah man, he’s fucking number one on his own God damn top five.
DX: [Laughs] Oh he said 2Pac. I think he said ‘Pac too.
Scarface: I mean but he is number one on his top five. He gotta be! Man, bruh, that muthafucka is cheating… Let me tell you something, I go in the studio with Jay – and I hate going in the studio with him because he’s done with his shit before I sit down. Like…people come in the studio, and I be shaking fucking hands, and Jay’ll be back in the zone [and] he’ll be [mumbling to himself], making little noise like he rappin’ to himself and then he’ll go, “Woooo,” [more mumbling], “Woooo,” [more mumbling], and then he’ll go in the booth and lay that shit, in one take. Perfect example of one take, “Turn the headphones up a little bit…distorted…” or some shit, on that “Guess Who’s Back,” that [verse is] one fucking take. Yeah, sick muthafucka, man.
DX: When are we gonna get a “Guess Who’s Back Pt. 2,” when are ‘Face and Jay gonna get it in again you think?
Scarface: I ain’t got no fuckin’ record deal [finalized yet]. So I’m loving that. I’m looking forward to doing this Frankenstein project with Nas and [Ice] Cube.
DX: Wow. That’s really gonna happen, you think?
Scarface: I don't know, I just said that. I’m figuring somebody’ll read it and say, “Man, when y’all gonna do the Frankenstein project?”
DX: [Laughs] You did this to me last time [too], there was supposed to be an album with Bun B…
Scarface: Yeah. Bun B is really doing his thing right now. I don’t wanna get in [his way]. I’m not gonna slow Bun down with my shit… I’m slow, man. I may not drop my fuckin’ album till November. I’m fucking slow. Like all the shit that you hearing from me on Dopeman Music was done [over] a couple months... But, [with] this album right here, [The Habit], I’m fuckin’ taking a very, very, very, very, very, very, very slow approach…
DX: Let me ask you about this, since I mentioned Jay’s top five, when you gave your top five dead or alive list to AllHipHop.com last July you mentioned that, “Eminem sent me a few beats.” Are those beats gonna surface on The Habit?
Scarface: He did! I haven’t talked [in-person] to Eminem since that shit with 50 Cent [in 2003]. There was an album release, [Balls And My Word], that had a song [“Bitch Nigga”] - an album that came out that I was on some kinda way and it had a song that was going after [50 Cent]. Well the song was set up to make it look like I was going after 50. And then it had it set up to where it made it look like Bun was going after 50. When in all honesty I ain’t never met the man, you feel me? I ain’t got no problem with no-muthafuckin’-body.
DX: So did Eminem then just reach out to you, or did you have to like build with him first to squash all that?
Scarface: You know what? I haven’t even reached out to cuzz yet. I need to try to reach out to him. But, I know he going through his own thing.
DX: So he just sent you those beats out the blue, or somebody else sent ‘em to you?
Scarface: Nah, we talked a few times. We talked a few times over the phone. And he sent me some good fuckin’ beats - they somewhere at the house; they somewhere on a hard drive. But I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about it more in-depth.
DX: You gonna have Eminem put some verses to them beats?
Scarface: Hell nah! [Laughs] I’m not fin to go in there fuckin’ with that white boy, man. [Laughs]
DX: You’re not gonna make the “Renegade” mistake.
Scarface: Hell nah! What the fuck you mean, go in there fuckin’ with him, for what? [Laughs] But I guess that’s how I feel about – I guess that’s how a lot of rappers feel about this kid from out here named K-Rino.
DX: I heard you biggin’ him up again on Dopeman Music, on like one of the skits.
Scarface: Yeah like, you just don’t – It’s two people in music that you just don’t fuck with, there are two people in Rap that I just don’t fuck with: I’m not fuckin’ with Eminem, and I’m not fuckin’ with K-Rino. I invited K-Rino to do a verse on my album because a lot of people don’t wanna fuck with him, ‘cause he’s a dangerous muthafucka… I think he really took it light on me too.
DX: That’s saying something, that’s a hell of an endorsement to say that he’s got you when it comes to the H-Town hierarchy.
Scarface: Man, that muthafucka is the truth.
DX: I don’t know why it never happened for him…
Scarface: I think that it had a lot to do with…the way he felt about being affiliated with a major, or an indie-major… I don’t think he wanted to be a part of that fuckin’ machine. He didn’t wanna be…on that ship, that slave ship.
DX: I wanna mention one more track from Dopeman Music, “Get Lost,” on that you note that a female you run into, “Ain’t as sexy as you was way back in the gap / Funny how time flies, you used to have the guys goin’ crazy, now you fat and lazy…” [Laughs]
Scarface: “Fat and lazy,” and then, “She wearing a disguise / Livin’ off the kids she had way back when she was fine, how deceptive / Coulda had your own on the side, but…”
DX: [Laughs] I just wanted to note that track ‘cause I don’t think I’ve heard someone go in on past-their-prime dimes like that since Devin The Dude’s “She Useta Be.” [Laughs]
Scarface: Oh, yeah… Speaking of Devin The Dude, he’s a fuckin’ phenomenal artist.
DX: I wanted to ask, just out of curiosity, being a fan of both of y’all, after [Devin] bounced from Rap-A-Lot, that didn’t cause no kinda friction between y’all or nothing like that?
Scarface: Between me and Devin?
DX: …It’s just that you guys haven’t worked together I think for some time so I figured maybe something wasn’t squared away…
Scarface: Aww man, why would I be fuckin’ mad at Devin?
DX: [He] does seem like the last person anybody’d be mad at. [Laughs]
Scarface: You know what I mean? How I look like being mad at Devin? ‘Cause he left the record company? That’s cool. I think every man deserves to get out and get his feet wet. We know where we came from. We know what we came from… We turn into men, and as men we grow up, and we feel like we need our own situation. So no problem with Rap-A-Lot, but on the flipside I feel like I need to be my own shit now. And Devin probably need to be his own shit now too. I paid my dues. And as far as Devin is concerned, nah, we ain’t got no problems with each other. As a matter of fact, if you listen to the intro on Devin’s [Suite #420] album, I did a lot of those voices. If you listen to ["Cultural Coughee"] that’s probably me [you’re hearing]. I know that’s me playing the guitar on that muthafucka for sure. The country voice and the guitars and shit – “Yeah, ah yeah” – I played that shit.
DX: Let me get [one] last loose question in I have for you real quick: You’re doing a whole album with Mia X?
Scarface: Working on doing some stuff with Mia.
DX: Natural Born Killers?
Scarface: Micky and Malory…yeah we gon’ do it.
DX: How’s that [collaboration] even come about? I know she’s back in the game, but it is just like – Mia X and Scarface, when I heard it I was like, “Okay.” [Laughs.]
Scarface: [Laughs] I love Mia X. I love Mia X for real…
DX: You just want some free food [from her]. [Laughs]
Scarface: Nah [Laughs.] What she contributes to the game, to Hip Hop? She’s a genuinely music savvy person. She know the business. She really know the music business…
DX: …I done kept you way too long, it’s been like damn-near an hour…
Scarface: That’s cool, man. I’m glad that I could help in some way.
DX: You helped a lot, man. Wait till everybody reads this shit.
Scarface: Oh no.
DX: [Laughs] Nah, it’s a good thing. Pioneer…the Eminem stuff, man, they’re gonna go crazy.
Scarface: Eminem, you don’t wanna fuck with him. Okay, why would you put Eminem on one of your songs?
DX: [Laughs] Jay learned [after “Renegade”], and then Nas didn’t [put Eminem on the Em-produced “The Cross”], and everybody since hasn’t. [Laughs]
Scarface: Nas did a song with Eminem too?
DX: Yeah, [for] God’s Son, but just the beat, no rappin’. Em just did the beat.
Scarface: Nah, you don’t fuck with Em for no raps… [When] I called the muthafucka I was like, “Hey man, can I get a beat?” [Laughs] “I seen you doing a lot of production, man, can I get a fuckin’ beat?” “And hell nah, I don’t want you rappin’ on my shit.” I listened to Jay-Z’s ["Renegade"] that he did with Eminem and I thought that Jay did pretty good. I thought he did really well. But, I’m not gonna do that good. Like, I’m telling you right now, if me and Eminem ever had to get into it I’m just gonna go fight the muthafucka, ‘cause I’m not gonna try to rap against him… [But seriously], he’s a very, very lyrical kid, man. And I got a great deal of respect for this guy.