In the summer of 1991 The Geto Boys dropped, depending how you look at it, their 2nd, 3rd or 4th album We Can’t Be Stopped (read my review on it for detail explanation to what I mean), which was a commercial and critical success. Brad “Scarface” Jordan was easily the most skilled out of the trio, so it was only right that he would be next up to drop a solo album. Face would release his debut solo project Mr. Scarface Is Back in reference to his record “Scarface” from the Grip It on That Other Level album. Mr. Scarface Is Back would be more of the usual Scarface formula: drugs, murder, women, money, drugs, and more murder. A formula that your favorite rapper more than likely borrowed from.
Mr. Scarface Is Back would go on to earn Scarface a gold plague as well as receive a ton of critical acclaim. In a Rolling Stones article, Chris Rock ranked Mr. Scarface Is Back the 18th greatest hip-hop album of all time, also adding, and I quote “He (Scarface) is the most underrated rapper of all time and absolutely in the top three”. That may be the funniest joke Chris Rock has ever told.
Mr. Scarface – This one opens with Scarface singing his coke remix of the kid song “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, followed by his devious signature laugh. Then the hard funk instrumental drops and Face goes right in with his tales of coke, sex, and bloody murder. Face’s stories are pretty amusing and at times corny (sometimes both at the same time) but always guaranteed to keep your attention. The hook uses a sound bite from the classic movie Face took his moniker from: “All I have in this world…”. When I first heard this song back in the day, before I was familiar with the infamous Tony Montana, I thought the hook was saying “by having visual”, which left me completely confused. Listen to it now and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. We move on.
The Pimp – Crazy C slows things down a bit as Face delves into verbal porn on this smooth laid back instrumental. Face goes into great detail as he describes a couple of sexual encounters, which are guaranteed to make you laugh or want to jack off.
Born Killer – Face sound like he’s starving on this one. He eats the heart out of this instrumental that sounds like a southern war chant with a rolling bass line laid underneath it. The horn loop that comes in during the hook gives the record an epic sound; and the Tony Montana sound bite was a nice added touch. This was fire.
Murder By Reason Of Insanity – This one starts off with the same drums pattern used on the Ultramagnetic MC’s record “Ego Trippin'”. Crazy C hooks up the same funk guitar loop that Dr. Dre used the year prior for the “We’re All In The Same Gang” record and adds a nice trumpet to smooth things out. Face rides the beat beautifully, painting bloody murder throughout his verses. Even through the gore Face will make you chuckle at least once with one of his witty one liners. Nice.
Your Ass Got Took – Meh.
Diary Of A Madman – Face comes off as a psychopath verbalizing his twisted thought process and some dark truths. I wasn’t feeling the instrumental but Face’s rhymes were definitely intriguing.
Body Snatchers – Over a simple drum pattern and a funky guitar sample, Face comes off sounding more nimble than normal behind the mic. The self-proclaimed “homicidal maniac with suicidal tendencies” spazzes out as he collects more bodies on wax.
Money And The Power – I believe this was the third single released from Mr. Scarface Is Back. Face spits from the perspective of a drug dealer and what he’s willing to go through in order to obtain the two attributes mentioned in the song title. As usual he does it in a fashion that’ll keep you interested. I love the instrumental work on this.
P D Roll ‘Em – I’ve heard this bass line used on something else, but I can’t put my finger on what song it was (hit me in the comments if you know). Regardless, I love the bass line and the dark vibe it cast over the entire song. “P D Roll”, which is sling for getting shot, must be a southern thing. I’ve never heard anyone use that phrase here in the Midwest.
Good Girl Gone Bad – With intricate detail, Scarface tells the story of drug deal gone bad, which leads me back to the song title. Is the drug deal itself the “good girl” in the equation? Or is Face calling the shady character selling him the crack a girl? Either way, the title is a bit misleading and doesn’t really tie in well with the song’s content. But I digress. The ending has an interesting twist and without spoiling the song for those who haven’t heard the song (even though it’s nearly 25 years old), its nice to know that cold-blooded murderers have morals too. The instrumental’s pace is way too slow, but on the other hand if it was any more up-tempo I don’t know if Face would have been able to get his story across as effectively. Catch 22.
A Minute To Pray And A Second To Die – This was the second single released from Mr. Scarface Is Back. Scarface and Crazy C hook up a familiar Marvin Gaye sample for the backdrop that Scarface uses to take a more somber look at death. This song exposes Face’s tendency to leave huge gaps of space in between his lines, similar to Lord Finesse, which sounds lazy and sloppy. The instrumental was nice, so overall, the song is cool.
I’m Dead – This may be the template for all of Biggie and Pac’s obsession with death. In one swift verse Face breaks down the clues that lead up to him ultimately realizing that he is dead. Kind of a hip-hop short version of the movie Ghost. The instrumental samples the same loop Pete Rock hooked up for Heavy D’ “Gyrlz, They Love Me”, which sounds a little to up beat, considering the song’s content. Still entertaining, though.
I came in to this review only familiar with the singles from Mr. Scarface Is Back (“Mr. Scarface”, “Money And The Power”, and “A Minute To Pray”). After listening to it from beginning to end three times, there are a few mishaps but overall it’s an enjoyable listen. While many, such as Chris Rock, rank Face in their top tier emcees of all time list (an assessment even Scarface himself recently shot down on Sway In The Morning), I disagree. He’s not the greatest lyricist, doesn’t have the tightest flow, and at times he comes across sloppy. But what Brad lacks in lyricism and flow he makes up for with charisma and wit. Those two components along with Face’s country grammar and his brand of southern hip-hop soundscapes make Mr. Scarface Is Back an entertaining listen. Which is a feat that a lot of emcees who may be more talented than Face have failed to accomplished.