Facemob – The Other Side Of The Law (August 7, 1996)

Facemob was a group put together by Scarface, which consisted of Devin The Dude, 350, DMG (who made his debut on “You Don’t Hear Me Doe” from Scarface’s The World Is Yours album), Sha-Riza, and Smit-D. As a collective they would make their unofficial debut on Scarface’s “Amongst The Walking Dead” from the Walking Dead Soundtrack in 1995, sparking a short soundtrack circuit run with songs featured on the soundtracks for Tales From The Hood, Original Gangstas, and High School High. These songs would make great promotional tools for the group’s debut album, The Other Side Of The Law, released in August of 1996 on Rap-A-Lot Records.

Scarface would not only be responsible for forming the group that he would narcissistically name after himself, but he and longtime Rap-A-Lot affiliate producer, Mike Dean, would handle most of the production on The Other Side, with N.O. Joe and a few others contributing sonically as well. The album would peak at 51 on the Billboard 200 and 6 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Charts.

I didn’t know this album existed until I found it staring at me in the used CD bins at a local record store a couple of months ago. Being the moderate Scarface fan that I am, I figured I’d shell out a few dollars in hopes of discovering some fire music that I missed back then, and hopefully has maintained its flame.

Intro – The album begins with a beautifully somber piano riff, punctuated by a demonically distorted male voice saying “And now…the end begins.” Then a single gunshot is fired to snap you out of the trance the tender piano chords might have lulled you into.

In The Flesh – Face hooks up a stripped-down backdrop with mystically dark undertones, as 350, Smit-D (who made the album cover shoot but subsequently got locked up and couldn’t write his own shoutouts for the liner notes. Dat Nigga Noriega (not to be confused with Nore from Capone-N-Noreaga), is credited with writing them on “behalf of Smit-D”), and DMG each gets off a verse filled with street and gangsta rhetoric. I was hoping to hear a verse from Scarface, but he only assists with the hook, adding a few adlibs. Nevertheless, all three Mob members sound serviceable with DMG sounding the strongest, but I may be a little biased since we were both born and raised in the Twin Cities area.

Bank Robbery – As the title suggests, 350, Sha-Riza, DMG, Devin The Dude, and his Uncle Eddie are out to rob a bank blind after 350 lets Devin know she has an inside connect at the bank. The Mob verbally illustrates the entire scheme and execution in great detail, and it’s all backed by Face and Mike Dean’s slow-rolling cinematic thriller, which works as the perfect accomplice for our hosts’ heist. Well played, Facemob.

Da Coldest – The Scarface/Mike Dean produced backdrop sounds like the energetic twin to the instrumental on the previous track. Smit-D, DMG, and Sha-Riza take turns laying their dicks on the table as they each claim to be the illest on the mic, while Face adds a few adlibs and co-signs for the trio’s cappin’. I did enjoy portions of Sha and DMG’s verses (specifically when they discuss their humble beginnings in the rap game), but neither one is even the coldest in Facemob.

Millions – I hate everything about this song. DMG, Smit-D, and Sha all spit verses that attempt to justify selling death (aka drugs) to their own community, simply because they want to get rich. Then Face and Devin provide a “woe is me” hook that almost feels like an attempt to paint their dope boy friends as the victims and to conjure up sympathy for their selfish acts: “And even though you say I’m killin’ off your children, I’m just a nigga hustlin’, tryna make a million” (to add insult to injury, Devin’s high-pitched squeaky singing is annoying as shit). And all this bullshit is wrapped up in a contrived sappy instrumental that makes me want to puke. 350 was wise to steer completely clear of this mess.

Tales From Tha Hood – N.O. Joe gets his lone production credit of the night with this one (with Mike Dean receiving a co-credit), dropping an epic southern-fried monster on the Mob. Speaking of the Mob, the Face of it (pun intended) starts this killing spree off right, rendering his lone verse of the album, followed by verses from an uncredited special guest (I think his name is Warren Lee) and DMG. The latter two’s murderous rhymes pale in comparison to Face’s vividly violent verse, which left me wishing this was a Scarface solo joint.

Respect Rude – After all the gloom and doom that covered the first half of The Other Side, Face brings some levity to the album with this mid-tempo bop with hop. Smit-D, DMG (who takes the listener on a verbal ride through the Minneapolis and St. Paul hoods…yes, hoods do exist in Minnesota), and 350 share this track with middling results (I realize that I may have only found DMG’s verse interesting because I’m familiar with the areas he described. So, I completely understand if no one else gives a shit about his verse). And I never need to hear Devin attempt to reggae chant again.

Stay True – Devin The Dude and 350 tag team the mic, vowing to stay true to themselves despite their naysayers. Devin shines the brightest as he gets off some slick lines and provides a smooth hook. But it’s the bluesy groove, equipped with sexy wah-wah guitar licks and a persistent bass line, that makes this thang go.

The Other Side – Since I found a video for this song on the internet, I’ll assume this title track was a single released from the album. It starts out sounding like it’s going to be a Smit-D solo joint, as he spews more mediocre criminal vernacular on the song’s first two verses. Then Devin swoops in for the third verse and gets off some introspective bars to bring some balance. I enjoyed the polished instrumental (credited to Michael Poye and Uncle Eddie), and even though I don’t know what Smit-D is saying on the hook, it’s catchy.

Black Woman – The record begins with 350 prefacing that this song is not about Black women but dedicated to “fakes ass hoes,” which naturally left me wondering why you wouldn’t just title the song “Fake Ass Hoes” instead of “Black Woman.” Anyhoo…Smit-D and Devin use this one to vent about a few of the ladies they deal with, calling out some of their toxic traits. Smit-D offers up another subpar performance and I’m not a fan of the drowsy instrumental that sounds like it’s intoxicated on lean. But Devin delivers a hi-larious verse as he re-enacts his perspective of coming home late from the studio and being confronted by his suspicious woman; and his song-closing rant literally makes me lol every time I listen to this song.

Rivals – This song was originally released on the Original Gangstas Soundtrack. Everyone except for Sha-Riza (who oddly went MIA after “Millions”) participates in this ode to their enemies, and everything about this record was forgettable.

Outro – The album comes full circle, ending exactly how it started.

I’ll be honest. After my first few listens to The Other Side Of The Law, I was a little disappointed that Scarface didn’t appear on more of the album’s tracks. Then after a few more listens, I became really disappointed that Scarface didn’t appear on more of the album’s tracks. That’s not to say there aren’t any talented rappers in the Facemob collective. Devin The Dude is a rapper that I’ve casually watched from a distance and enjoyed on the handful of songs I’ve heard from him before listening to The Other Side; enough to make me buy a handful of his solo albums that I still haven’t listened to. Devin delivers on most of his contributions to The Other Side, but after him, the quality of the lyrical output on the album begins to sag heavily. Sha-Riza seems to be a competent emcee, but he’s absent for most of the album, including the album cover; and as much as I appreciate DMG proudly reppin’ for Minnesota, his average abilities aren’t strong enough to consistently entertain on The Other Side. 350 and Smit-D are the obvious weak links, and their mediocre hardcore posturing didn’t move me in the slightest.

While the emceeing on The Other Side is a bit sluggish, Face and Mike Dean put their best foot (or feet) forward, providing a cohesive batch of overall quality instrumentals to support the Mob’s underwhelming underworld content. Devin and the production staff don’t completely cover the blemishes left by the rest of the Mob’s lackluster performance, but they sure make the bitch look presentable.


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