Scarface Explains Why Def Jam Rejected T.I., Receiving His Own Trading Card
Exclusive: Scarface looks back at "The Fix" 10 years later, as he discusses Platinum League trading cards and what Ying Yang Twins' "Whisper Song" taught him about the state of Hip Hop.
William Green thinks Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, and Scarface - as a team - would trounce any other four rapper squad in Hip Hop history. He more than thinks it; he believes it - 100%. Unequivocally. Even if the opposition includes Jay-Z, Nas, Andre 3000, and Big Pun.
Green has spent the bulk of the early afternoon running through revolving interviews. His company, Platinum League, just launched Hip Hop’s first line of interactive trading cards, and gathered a press junket in Manhattan’s London Hotel to spread word. Every card comes with a QDL code linking to exclusive content provided by each artist. And most impressively - unlike previous companies to venture into the arena - PL’s collection has landed licensing agreements with the heavy hitters. Legends Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and Scarface are a part of the flagship “Self-Made” series, and the CEO -- black suited and booted -- is riding for his squad.
“What four can you line up that can beat that,” Green challenges, before opening rap’s ultimate no-answer question to the rest of the room. “We’ve got some people in here that are Hip Hop heads. We can lay this bet out right here.”
Seven and a half minutes before this interview with Scarface, and suite 501 is toiling over who wins: Biggie, 'Pac, Snoop, and 'Face or Jay, Nas, 3 Stacks, and Pun. “Can’t nobody touch Biggie,” cosigns a fellow Platinum Leaguer. “Jay wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for Biggie.”
“That’s a big “if,” says one media member. “Jay-Z’s in a much bigger [position].”
“What about Eminem,” chimes another.
The debate flows around the spread of picked-over “grapes and cheese and shit” (to quote Mr. Jordan) like a cypher. Points are dropped like punchlines. In the end, there’s no winner. In the end, a sparring session with fellow aficionados reveling in Hip Hop’s competitive spirit is the real victory. The ultimate value in trading cards of any kind lives in the conversation; the camaraderie. In that regard, Platinum League’s interactive collection is one hundred percent effective.
Seven and a half-minutes later, Mr. Scarface himself explains to HipHopDX how he became a featured artist in Platinum League’s “Self-Made” series. He also reminisces on The Fix 10 years since it’s release, and explains why Def Jam passed on signing T.I.
HipHopDX: How were you first introduced to Platinum League interactive Hip Hop trading cards?
Scarface: Through [publicist Kisha Madrid]. Kish called Rico and Rico told me that somebody wants to do a card with me. I said, “Really? Me? Why?” I didn’t believe that shit. Then I ended up on a card, which is kind of cool. I like that it’s a part of history. It’s going to be a collector’s item, especially when I’m fucking dead. It’ll be worth a lot of money 50 years from now. My kids will be like 70 years old and shit.
DX: I think it’s kind of interesting that you’re one of Platinum League’s flagship artists for this set [as part of the “Self-Made” series] and you grew up really playing football. This is like the NFL card you never got.
Scarface: I know! I was a helluva ball player. You know I coach middle school now.
Scarface: You knew that?
DX: Yeah. You rap about it on “Git Out My Face.”
Scarface: That’s right. “...Go and coach a team.” I’m an offensive coordinator at the same school I played for. I’m thinking about going back to the little league again. I had a great-ass time doing it. I collected a lot of baseball cards and I plastered them all over the wall. I collected a lot of comic books and I don’t know where none of them is. I don’t know where they at. I have no idea where they are. For me, to see me on a card, that’s a dream. You know what I’m talking about, man. That’s me on a trading card. Do you remember the Topps cards that had the bubble gum with the baseball cards? Well, I’m on one of these trading cards. The information on the back is wrong. I’m madder than a muthafucka about that, but, you know, it’s still a dope ass concept.
DX: The Fix is ten years old now.
Scarface: It’s crazy to me. Like, it’s been 10 years on The Fix.
DX: That album to me is not only a linchpin in your catalog, but also one of the ones that I think captures this past decade of music. In 2002, the artists you’re working with on that project, that’s around the time when they really cemented themselves. Jay-Z’s coming off The Blueprint. You have Kanye West on there [producing “Guess Who’s Back”] and that’s one of the first times we hear Kanye’s voice on a major feature. He’s on that hook. You’ve got Mike Dean on there. The Neptunes were on an unbelievable run. You’ve got “I Ain’t The One” which pays homage and samples N.W.A.’s [“I Ain’t The One.”]
Scarface: [Dr. Dre] is the shit! Period. Man, I’m gonna tell you something, man. So we can be real clear. A lot of artists don’t admit their influences. Ice Cube and Chuck D and [Big Daddy Kane] and [KRS-One] and Rakim and all them mutherfuckers, they influenced me. Marley Marl and Dre, they influenced my production. I always make music with the shit that they did in mind. I have a blueprint to go off of. That’s my blueprint. The shit those guys are doing. The shit that those guys did. Those guys birthed me. From Marley and Dre came me. From Kane and Chuck D and Ice Cube came me. Now who came from behind me, I don’t know. But I love [Big K.R.I.T.]. I can hear a lot of me in K.R.I.T. and K.R.I.T. got the fucking blueprint. He got it. The work that I did didn’t go in vein. A lot of people don’t have the blueprint to go by so they don’t know how to make a record. They don’t know how to make songs and I give all of that to the people that I grew up listening to. I can’t ever see myself falling off because I know what it took to make people like me. I know what makes me fall out of like with people.
DX: That’s interesting because sometimes it seems like you’re the only legendary artist to somehow avoid that pressure from fans [to evolve]. You once said, “I bring the same fucking shit over and over and over. You know what makes you stop liking a mothafucker? When they change they’re shit up. When they switch the format.”
Scarface: That’s the truth! I’ll go to the grave with that. Fuck that. I’m gonna always be me. Man, what the fuck would I look like coming out here rapping about how big my mutherfucking diamond was and how big my bank account is? You would kill me. You would be pissed off. I can’t do it, man. My grandmother would kill me. My mama would be like, “I don’t know what you was thinking about on that record, Junior. But that ain’t what’s happening.” I’m in my community all the time. If I did some crazy shit, I would have to answer to them. I don’t give a fuck what ya’ll say. I have to go home. At the end of the day, when all this bullshit’s said and done, I can go home. I can go to my neighborhood right now. Me and you can board a flight and catch a cab to the hood and get out where the bus let you off and you can walk down that mutherfucking street with me and the people would be like, “Aight, Brad. Aight, homeboy.” They not gonna fuck with us. A lot of people can’t go back to their neighborhood. I can go to my neighborhood in a [Rolls Royce Ghost convertible] and ain’t nobody gonna fuck with me because of the nigga I was in the beginning. I’m the same cat. Poor, filthy, or rich.
DX: On “Keep Me Down” off The Fix. That last verse starts off with “Money never changed me. Money changed the people around...”
Scarface: “...The way they plot and try to keep me down / But still I rise like yeast...”
DX: Then over the next few years, you seemed to adopt a more critical stance on the industry. You start speaking out against 360 deals. You start speaking out against the Internet. At that point you’re running Def Jam South. You pitched a lot of artists to them early. You brought them Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Tephlon Da Don who later became Rick Ross. You brought them a lot of cats early [and they declined all of them]. What effect did your experience leading Def Jam South play in your vocal opinion against the industry in the last few years?
Scarface: In all honesty I just believe that we could’ve made the impact back then. We could’ve made the impact back then. Def Jam [Records] wouldn’t fuck with T.I. no more because Polygram had him first. I tried my fucking damndest to get him at Def Jam. They wouldn’t fuck with him because he was signed to Polygram before. All the shit that’s poppin‘ now could’ve been poppin‘ back then. We could’ve been moved on to something different. They could’ve been established and big. They’re established and big now, but that could’ve happened 10 years ago. They didn’t have to fucking wait ten years. They could’ve had it back then. I know what it’s supposed to sound like.
I’ll go back to that blueprint that I have. I have the blueprint so I’m kind of cheating. I got the blueprint. I was brought up under the blueprint of what dope was. I grew up in an era when that shit was fucking dope. If you seen a B-Boy Records logo, you bought the shit because you knew it was dope. If you seen the Cold Chillin’ [Records] logo, you knew that shit was dope. If you seen a Def Jam logo, you knew that shit was dope. The Warlock [Records logo], you knew that shit was dope. The 4th & [Broadway Records] logo, you knew that shit was dope. You bought that shit. Now you get to peep the shit out online first and download 60 songs for free before you go out and buy an album. I know times change and they’re supposed to change, but they ain’t supposed to change to the point where the only person that’s getting money off of your talents is the label. I’m opposed to that shit. I wrote that shit. I did that beat. I’m paying for this shit. You’re just fronting me the fucking money to do it. Like, fuck you, dude.
That’s why I’m so adamant about being independent, man. I want these kids to get their indie money. It’s more money in independent. You can look like a big-ass star. I know some big ass stars can’t pour piss out of a boot. I’d rather just be a plain old dude right here. I don’t want for nothing. I’m not fucking filthy rich and I’m not poor. I own. I’m good. Albums that I release, I own their copyrights. I own my publishing. I own my writers. That’s important. I’m not sharing. I’m not gonna share because I wrote that shit. I’m not sharing because I produced that shit. So fuck that. I’m not compromising because without me it ain’t no them. You can find you another rapper. But you can’t find you another me. The rap lifespan on the normal occasion is, what, three or four albums. Two albums? Three albums and then you’ve got to find them? This 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 shit. You already know what the answer is. I’m cheating. I had the blueprint.
I know what made me start hating Van Halen - when David Lee Roth left. I didn’t fuck with "Van Hagar." I know what made me stop fucking with Maze & Frankie Beverly: when they tried to do the Techno sounding shit. Their shit just went down. The Commodores ain’t around no more. Nobody got no band no more. What happened to the bands? Who stole the soul is what I always ask people. The way that you come in is the way that you gotta go out. I can’t bare the thought of hearing Prince trying to be Ne-Yo! I love Ne-Yo. But when I want to listen to Ne-Yo, I want to listen to Ne-Yo. When I want to listen to Prince, I don’t want to listen to Ne-Yo. Everybody hates to be their own individuals. That’s what I respect most about music. That’s what makes me not want to fuck 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.
DX: You’ve seen every era first hand. With everything you’ve experienced, what still surprises you about Hip Hop?
Scarface: That some of this shit is seeping through the cracks. [Laughs] In Hip Hop back then, there was a such thing as a bad record in Hip Hop. Right now, there are no bad records in Hip Hop. Anything goes in this shit. When I heard...and it’s a brilliant fucking record. But when I heard [“The Whisper Song”]; when I heard Ying Yang [Twins] whispering all over it, I knew it was over. It’s brilliant. But I knew that anything goes now. Whispering the whole song.
You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna go in the bathroom and take a microphone and fart in it as loud as I can and press it up. Because anything goes in Hip Hop. I think that anything goes in Hip Hop these days. I blame everybody who came before right now, including myself, for the conditions of what it is. I think the people that came before me taught me and if I couldn’t reach nobody else, then I didn’t do my job. I should’ve been a little better about the way that I laid my blueprint down. So I have nobody to blame but myself for the conditions of Hip Hop today. They have nothing to go by. They’re just out there winging it. They’re just winging it, kid.