If you haven’t noticed by now, I normally only post on Tuesdays (as a tribute to the good old days when you had to walk, drive or ride the bus to your favorite music store to buy a physical copy of the new releases), but when I finished this post and noticed that The Diary was released 25 years ago to the date, I figured I’d make an exception. I hope you enjoy.
Also, rest in peace to my beloved mama dukes, Barbara Jean Washington. I love and miss you like crazy, girl!
By 1994 Scarface already had two gold selling solo albums and a platinum selling group album with the Geto Boys under his belt. His solo success (and the group’s success) helped to establish J. Prince’s Rap-A-Lot Records as a force to be reckoned with, and made Scarface a viable candidate for King of The South. The Texas born rapper would return at the end of 1994 with his third solo release, The Diary.
Along with Face, N.O. Joe would return to help with The Diary‘s production. Face would enlist Uncle Eddie and a young Mike Dean to sonically help sculpt the album as well. The Diary would be Face’s first solo album to earn him a platinum plaque and many fans and critics called it his best work and a classic. The Source originally gave it a 4 Mic Rating, but later went back and gave it 5 mics.
Is The Diary worthy of such praise? Let’s dig into…
Intro – The Diary opens with a dark symphonic instrumental that sent chills up my spine the first time I heard it. Then after about a minute, the soul stirring music is interrupted by gun shots and the first song begins…
The White Sheet – The first song of the evening finds Scarface in a violent state, as he lets everybody who thinks he’s an easy target know that he stays prepared for the jump off: “I aint your muthafuckin’ homeboy, you out of pocket when you fuckin’ with me so now it’s on boy, I aint runnin’ to get my shit like these other bustas, when you see me round this bitch I got that muthafucka”. Scarface sounds hungry and believable, the hook is catchy, and the cool mid-tempo groove sounds great backing him up.
No Tears – Over some southern fried production, Face is seeking vengeance on the sucka who killed one of his homeboys: “Lookin’ for the nigga who pulled his pistol on my homie, an eye for an eye, so now your life is what you owe me, look deep into the eyes of your muthafuckin killer, I want you to witness your muthafuckin’ murder nigga, and since you wants to kill then yo’ ass has got to fry, but aint no police, therefore yo’ ass has got to die.” Our host effectively drives home his point with one long verse. Well done, Brad.
Jesse James – After a quick piano solo, Face gets right back to The Diary‘s violent tone, as he recycles and dresses up the instrumental first used for “The Wall” on The World Is Yours to back his lyrical murder spree. Face’s angry aggressive flow sounds great, but he loses a few cool points for reusing this instrumental.
G’s – Face and company hook up a decent West Coastish sounding backdrop, as our host asks on the hook and answers on his verses, what do you see while riding through the hood? Face made me let off a guilty chuckle when he says “Cause I done been to more wakes in this past year, then the muthafuckin’ Bengals lost last year” during his second verse. This makes for decent filler material.
I Seen A Man Die – This was the lead single from The Diary. Over an eerie, emotional but dope groove, Face continues to speak on one of his favorite topics: death. Usually when the subject comes up in Brad’s raps, it about him killing somebody. This time he goes in-depth with the details surrounding the last moments of a man’s life and what happens afterwards: “I hear you breathin’ but your heart no longer sounds strong, but you kinda scared of dyin’ so you hold on, and you keep on blackin’ out and your pulse is low, stop tryna fight the reaper just relax and let it go, because there’s no way you can fight it but you’ll still try, and you can try it ’til you fight it but you’ll still die, your spirit leaves your body and your mind clears, the rigor mortis starts to set now you outta here”. When you add Face’s deadpan storytelling cadence to his chilling bars, you get, arguably, the best rhymes in Scarface’s entire catalog. This is an undeniable classic that may be worthy of a spot on the top twenty hip-hop songs of all-time list.
One – Once again Face and company recycle an instrumental from The World Is Yours. This time they reuse and jazz up the backdrop for “Lettin’ Em Know”. I definitely enjoyed the rawness of “Lettin’ Em Know” more than the cheesy feel this version lets off.
Goin’ Down – Face takes a brief break away from the violent themes that have been prevalent throughout the album to this point (and pretty much his whole career), because even cold blooded murdering gangsters need lovin’. The object of Brad’s erection just so happens to be one of his homeboy’s baby’s mama, that he lamely justifies creeping with by saying “My homies women aint no thang to me, cause if they caught one of my hoes they’d do the same to me”. I found Face’s commentary comical, but overall the song was kind of weak.
One Time – Not to be confused with the “One Time” interlude from The World Is Yours, but this is yet another interlude with police chatter playing over an emotional instrumental.
Hand Of The Dead Body – This was the second single from The Diary. Scarface is calling out the government and the media for its contradictions and finger pointing on this one: “They claim we threats to society, and now they calling on the government to try and make somebody quiet, for the bullshit they done to me, Gangsta Nip, Spice 1 or 2pac never gave a gun to me, so gangsta rap aint done shit for that, I’ve seen white folks from River Oaks go get the gat, So why you tryna kick some dust up? America’s been always known for blamin’ us niggas for they fuck ups”. Ice Cube also stops by and adds a solid third verse to match Scarface’s politically charge commentary. Add the catchy, clever and true hook by the uncredited Devin The Dude, along with the dope instrumental, and you got a classic record on your hand (no pun intended).
Mind Playin’ Tricks 94 – Scarface revisits the classic Geto Boys’ joint, using the same instrumental but adding three new verses to it. It’s not bad, but most classics are better left alone. Even if you were the creator of the original.
The Diary – Over a decent up-tempo southern-flavored instrumental, Brad reverts back to the violent rhetoric that dominated the first half of The Diary, as he goes back to blastin’ on anybody who gets in his path (which apparently is sparked by a dude telling Face he can “fade him on some rap shit” at beginning of the song). I don’t see the point of this one and its placement in the album’s sequencing is off. But its short, so whatever.
Outro – Bringing things full circle, The Diary ends with the same instrumental used on the “Intro” (with a slightly different beginning), punctuated by Scarface’s devious signature laugh.
After revisiting The Diary these past few weeks, it actually sounds better than I remembered it. Lyrically, Face sounds hungry, sharp and poised, and he and his production team lace together a pretty solid batch of instrumentals for our host to get busy on. On the flip side, Face’s content tends to get redundant, the recycling of some of The World Is Yours instrumentals (and concepts) is corny, and the second half of The Diary is not nearly as strong as the first half. All in all, The Diary is a decent album, but not nearly worthy of the critical acclaim its received. I wonder how much J. Prince paid The Source to get them to change the rating from 4 to 5 mics.