Scarface Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

The rap legend shares the stories behind classics like "Never Seen A Man Die" and "Mind Playing Tricks On Me."

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Scarface is the definition of an O.G. The Houston rapper put his city on the map in the late '80s and early '90s with the Geto Boys and went on to become an acclaimed solo act, too. Today, he isn't as active as he once was, but last year he teamed up with Nas and DJ Khaled for excellent Kiss The Ring cut, "Hip Hop"—proving he's still one of the most powerful voices in rap.

We got on the horn with Brother Mob himself to talk about his massive catalog and got a lot of incredible stories from one of the genre's most respected lyricists. Face didn't always explain his writing process but he had plenty of oblique observations. He ranted about everything from the importance of "come lines" to how Jay Prince is the realest gangster to how he never made real money from rap until he became the President of Def Jam South.

He also spoke about the darkness that haunted him, the heavy drug use that fueled his songs, and a childhood of manic depression and multiple suicide attempts. Continue reading to see what happens when Scarface Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs.

As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)

Geto Boys "Mind of a Lunatic" (1989)

Producer: Doug King
Album: Grip It! On That Other Level
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “We recorded that record at Jay Prince’s ranch. Jay has a ranch where there’s nothing except a house and a studio. And it was in the middle of no-fucking-where. So that record right there just came about of off some sick psychotic ass shit. We were just in the woods recording an album in the house and ‘Mind of a Lunatic’ just came about.

“Ready Red was doing the beat and it sampled the Spiderman cartoon, ‘He’s a paranoiac who’s a menace to our society.’ Ready Red was the shit. He would find dope samples. He did a lot of movie watching and he was really dedicated to his craft. I really hated to lose him. He molded that Rap-a-Lot sound for sure along with me, N.O. Joe, and John Bido.

“Jukebox—one of the original members of the Geto Boys wrote that verse—wrote BIll’s verse. Bill ended up using that verse because ‘Box had got locked up. If you listened to it, it says, ‘Pussy plays superman your ass will get boxed up.’ Box wrote a lot of that shit.

“Let’s be very clear: Bill didn’t write anything. Either Will wrote that shit, Big Mike wrote that shit, Gangsta NIP wrote that shit, or I wrote that shit. Bill didn’t write. We all wrote for him. We would lay the verse down and he would rap it. Willie D wrote a lot on the first Geto Boys album, like ‘Do it Like a G.O’ and ‘No Sellout.’

“I went to Rap-a-lot in 1987, I was playing some songs and they were like, ‘This is not what we’re looking for.’ A few months later, Steve Fournier—thank god for Steve Fournier—he had the record and he played it for Jay Prince. Jay liked what he heard because Jay was on that gangster shit. Jay was looking for me from that day on. When he found me, he had me rap against his brother. I rapped against his brother and beat him out to get into Geto Boys. From that day on, it was history. That’s how shit came about.

“Jay never turned away from us. We was in the ghetto, on the corner selling rocks and trying to get tennis shoe money. Jay came and got us off the streets. He told us, ‘If your gonna do [rap], you can’t do that.’ When we let it go back in ’87, we were doing pretty damn good but he wanted me to be a rapper because I was more skilled than anybody he ever ran across.

“Matter fact, I was more skilled than the motherfuckers in New York and Los Angeles where the music was coming from. I easily could have been out there doing that shit with them. I was that skilled at that age. You can look at it yourself. The shit I was doing back then when I was a kid, think of how skilled I was. You think I could have done a song with N.W.A.? For sure! You think I could have done a song with Public Enemy? Hell yeah! Now, Rakim might have been a little out of my league [Laughs.], but everyone else I could have been on a track with and done well.”

Geto Boys "Do It Like a G.O." (1989)

Producer: DJ Ready Red
AlbumGrip It! On That Other Level
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “I didn’t make that record originally. Willie D made that record with the original Geto Boy’s. If you listen to Willie D’s first album Controversy, that song is on Controversy with different rappers on it. The first Geto Boy’s record I wasn’t a part of. I wasn’t on Makin' Trouble at all. Now, when I got into the crew I came in on On That Other Level.

“After that album was successful, Rick Rubin came in to give us the deal. The big guy comes in to give us small indies the deal, and he put our album out through Def American which was the reprint of that album. Unfortunately, the deal with Rick Rubin didn’t work out like it was supposed to work out.

“I didn’t know the business side of it, they kept us in the dark about all of the business with all the different distributors. We knew nothing about that. All we knew was that we were doing shows and that was that. We didn’t give a fuck or know shit about the business part of it. Did we miss a lot of motherfucking money? Yeah, sure. But it ain’t Jay’s fault. Jay did what a businessman is supposed to do. It’s business.

“J Prince had a lot of input on shit. As far as him actually getting down and busting a rhyme, no, but he was very instrumental in the writing. He wrote his part on ‘Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster’ and he wrote Bushwhick’s part too.

“Jay Prince was instrumental in everything that came out of Rap-a-Lot, especially anything that had to do with the Geto Boys or Scarface. We were Jay Prince’s babies. There’s a lot of people that signed to Rap-a-Lot and Jay put it out or whatever, but when it came to me going into the studio or the Geto Boys, Jay would be there every day. He was the brain behind all that. A lot of that controversial shit that we talked about, Jay inspired that.

“Don’t for one second get it fucked up, Jay Prince is a real gangster. He ain’t no TV motherfucker or a motherfucker that’s hiding behind a desk talking that shit. He is the true living definition of what a gangster is. If you’re looking at the shit you see on fucking TV, nah, that motherfucker is a real true gangster. If you wanna see the truth and what gangster really is, that’s what my nigga is.

“That's why the feds was watching us all. Back in 1999 or maybe 2000, the feds came to see me. One of my really close friends sold dope to a confidential informant. So they were trying to get him to roll over on me to try to get me to roll over on Jay. But that plot failed. They always had a hard-on for [Jay Prince] because he did his shit legitimately. In the United States, it's against the law for a young black man to be doing anything constructive to uplift his community, even today."

Geto Boys "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me" (1991)

Producer: John Okuribido
AlbumWe Can't Be Stopped
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “I had no idea back in 1990 that it was gonna be a big record. That record was written when I was 19-years-old, I was a kid then. Those Geto Boys records were recorded when I was a teenager.

“Long story short, I was doing a solo album. I had originally done the it as a solo song but then the owner of Rap-a-Lot heard it. They sent the song out to Priority and the people at Priority were doing fucking flips over the record.

“After everybody fell in love with the record, Willie D wrote a verse to it and put his verse on it and Bill took the last verse that I did. That’s why it’s four verses. The three verses was really me by myself, the verse that you heard Bill on was my original verse. I originally wrote and rapped Bill’s verse. I wrote every verse except for Will’s verse. And I produced the beat too.

“I was really going through some deep shit when I was a kid. I was going through manic depression. I just wanted to die. I spent a lot of time in hospitals for depression. I was really one of those kids that was fucked up. It had nothing to do with the way I was brought up, but I didn’t value life back then as much as I value it right now. I thought about death, I thought about crazy shit.

“I spent a lot of time in this hospital in the adolescent unit for troubled kids. I was fucking terrible. I beat up teachers, students, mommas, daddys. I was a fighting motherfucker when I was a little kid. The doctors gave me shit like Mellaril and Lithium. They didn’t give me shit like they give these kids now a days. They give them all kinds of dope nowadays.

“Growing up I did all the cool drugs like hallucinogens, I did a lot of rush, and I smoked a lot of weed. Rush a little jar with a red top, you can get it at the head shops, and it says ‘Rush’. It ain’t no popper, it's a puff. We sniffed a lot of paint, sniffed a lot of glue, and did a lot of acid. I didn’t start fucking with acid until I was probably about 17. Oh and mushrooms.

“My uncles were drug heads, so I was getting high when I was 8-years-old—I'm not even exaggerating. My uncles would blow me charges while my other uncle would squeeze my chest, like they put me in a death grip from behind where I couldn’t breathe and you would black out. You would call it an Indian Charge.

“When I wrote ‘Mind Playing Tricks on Me’ I'm pretty sure I was high. I know I was high on alcohol and maybe like a fucking drop of something crazy. I mean I did a lot of fucking dope, man. I mean like, ‘Holy Fuck!’ I got real high and maybe that put a lot of the darkness that came out in my records back then. I'm so blessed to still be in my right state of mind as an adult.”

Scarface "Mr. Scarface" (1991)

Producer: Scarface & Crazy C
AlbumMr. Scarface Is Back
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface:“In the beginning, everybody thought that Ready Red was Scarface. They would be like, ‘Oh whatsup Akshun, where’s Scarface at?’ They thought that me and Scarface were two different people. When that song came out is when the identity changed. Everybody knew who Scarface was and nobody knew who Akshun was. They would still say, ‘Which one of y’all is Scarface?’ and I would have to say, ‘That’s me man.’ So I just followed suit with the public because that’s what the public wanted.

“The shit that we were doing made me write that fucking song. The motherfuckers were calling me Scarface. They started saying, ‘That shit is straight out of the Scarface movie, I can’t believe y’all did that shit.’ But we hadn’t seen Scarface yet. I didn’t see the movie until ’88. five years after it came out.

“‘Nobody knows my name they only know my face.’ That’s the truth. That record right there summed up my whole life. ‘You try to school me you get served with no regard.’ People respect my shit because it's so authentic, it's so Houston. After all these fucking years, I even had a record with Gucci Mane called ‘Scarface.’ People called me Scarface cause I gave them a reason too.

“In the late ‘80s, we was on some real ignorant shit. ’88, it was on. We were doing some crazy ass shit, like some Scarface shit. We were selling rocks man. That’s about as much information as I can give you.”

Scarface "Diary of a Madman" (1991)

Producer: Scarface & Crazy C
Album: Mr. Scarface Is Back
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface:“Now that’s a good record. When I was about 20 years old, I had a fight with my girlfriend and I was really hurt about what had transpired. I did some things that hurt her that I shouldn’t have done and it never happened again in life but I felt so bad about it until I just went off in that fucking shell and hid. And that’s where that song came from. That was one of the deepest songs that I've ever written. It’s a guy that’s caught up with nothing to say to nobody but this book that he is confiding in.

“I tried to kill myself so many times in life that I say it on that record. ‘I want to die but it ain’t for me/I tried to talk to my dad but my old man ignores me/He says I'm delirious/Plus I drink so he won’t take me serious/But little does he know I'm really losing it/I got a head with ain’t no screws in it.’ You know I got some bad motherfuckers man! That’s what I was going through at that time.

“I tried [to commit suicide] at least four times. I got close enough where they wanted to put me in a hospital. The first time I tried I was about 13 or 14. I never understood the beauty of life until now. I never understood the beauty of life until I’d seen life take shape. Life takes shape and it’s mind blowing.”

Scarface "A Minute to Pray and a Second to Die" (1991)

Producer: Scarface & Crazy C
AlbumMr. Scarface Is Back
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: "That title was brought to me by John Bido. The idea of the song was to write a movie, to tell a story. That song gave me my title as one of the greatest storytellers ever because [one of my first story telling songs]. That was one of my best fucking stories.

“I credit all my writing ability to my English teachers. I would say that my fourth grade teacher, a lady named Ms. Smith taught me a lot. And there’s a lady named Ms. Canshaw, a lady named Ms. Rob, and an old mean white lady named Ms. Beach.

“They all gave me a lot of game on how to write lyrics, stories, and journalism type pieces. Every time I approach a song. I always try to write an intro, the body, the climax, and then the ending. That’s the way I was taught to write and that’s the approach I try to take when I write my music.”

Scarface "I'm Dead" (1991)

Producer: Scarface & Crazy C
AlbumMr. Scarface Is Back
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “At the end of one of Ganksta N-I-P’s albums one of his songs, he went off talking crazy like, ‘Oh shit, I'm dead, I'm dead.’ That was one of my favorite Ganksta N-I-P records and that’s where the title came from.“‘I woke up to a tune on the radio, check it/An old church hymn behind a breakbeat record.’ 

I pride myself on my come lines. What I mean by come lines is how you start a record. Like I take my come lines very serious. Listen to every beginning of every song I've ever made and listen to those first words. Those first words set the tone every time.

“Like, ‘Now the funeral is over and all the tears have dried up’ [from ‘No Tears’] That’s a come line for your ass. It sets the tone of those records. You already know what’s about to happen, just by the come line. Like, ‘Oh shit!’ Yeah, come lines, they’re so important.”

Geto Boys "Six Feet Deep" (1993)

Producer: N.O. Joe
AlbumTill Death Do Us Part
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “That record came about because I lost a really good friend of mine on June 28 named Rodney Parker. That was the reason for the record. Rodney had gotten out of the streets and everything, he was just sitting in this club and a motherfucker shot him in the chest by accident. That ‘Six Feet Deep’ was a record that was heartfelt and there was a reason behind that record.“Growing up, I thought about being in darkness. I always imagined waking up alive in a coffin. I'm six feet under the ground so I can’t get out and I just live there forever, until I die again. I would imagine being in darkness and you can’t move, the darkness is stopping and altering all your movements. You can’t touch, you can’t feel, you can’t see, you can’t move, you’re just in darkness. I was thinking about that as a kid.

“My biggest fear is my children growing up and having those thoughts. I try to keep them as busy as I can and make them feel love. [Jokes with his son Brad in the car. You need about five or six hoes. You need to get 12 or 13 bitches. You gonna cut your hair? Come on dude. Alright keep it.] Sorry I’m talking to my son. You could ask my son, ain’t I the coolest dad in the world? Tell him! Talk loud so he can hear you dawg. Am I the coolest dad in the world? [Son in background: Yeah.]

“I really stand up and stand behind my kids man. Whatever we discuss, it’s between us unless he wants me to talk to his mama about it. Other than that, I keep the conversation I have with my children to myself. Ain’t none of them snitching, I'm adamant about that shit. An incident happened with my son and he called me because he knew I wasn’t gonna tell. But he knew I was gonna get on his ass about it, but ain’t no harm done. There ain’t no harm if there ain’t no blood. That’s how I look at it.”

Scarface "Let Me Roll" (1993)

Producer: Scarface
Album: The World Is Yours
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “That was my dope smoking song. That’s when Swisher Sweets started getting popular in the neighborhood. My buddy, his name was Toast, and he died in 1992 but he was the first guy to smoke Swisher Sweets. He was like 17-years-old and he would cut the Swisher Sweets open and put the weed in it. Now everybody was smoking Philly Blunts and White Owls, but Toast was smoking Sweets. So I wrote that song.

“Toast changed the whole generation from smoking White Owls and Phillys to smoking Sweets. Toast was smoking Sweets back in 1990, ’91. When I said, ‘Jammin to a tape my homie had made/’Growin up in the Hood’ being mixed with Face.’ That was DJ Screw back then. I was talking about DJ Screw.”

Scarface "Now I Feel Ya" (1993)

Producer: Scarface & James Smith, John Bido
Album: The World Is Yours
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “That was a true story. It’s a very heartfelt record. That was a very difficult album to make because I was coming off the Geto Boys tour and I had met up with Craig Kellman and Lyor Cohen in Baltimore. I was recording my first album and Lyor was saying I can get some money. Keep in mind this was my first solo album, I’m 20-years-old. Lyor was like, ‘You can get $250-$300,000 dollars to do a solo album.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ I did not go through with that. I should’ve did that instead.

“I recorded my first solo album and had some success with it. After that album, I wanted to get out of my deal. They were like, ‘Give us $2 million’ or some ridiculous shit like that. I was like, ‘Huh?’ If you want all this money, I had no idea I was worth all that. Well then just pay me what I’m worth.’

“But, contractually, what you sign for is what you sign for. I’m sure everybody knows how that story go if you sign a record contract. I don’t remember what the Geto Boys cut was, I think five percent or maybe seven of something. Back then we were glad to just put an album out.”

Scarface "No Tears" (1994)

Producer: Scarface & N.O. Joe
Album: The Diary
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “I recorded that record maybe that August. I take so fucking long to do albums, like that album was recorded in the fall of ’92 and maybe mixed in ’93 and didn’t come out till late ’94. I really take my time when I make a record. The record came about when that kid died and I wrote a record.

“A friend of mine died on July 24, 1992. He was in this house with his girl and there was a guy on the couch asleep. [He left] and when he came back his girl was shot through her hands and her face and she was dead. And my homeboy got shot in his face. We never knew who did it until about a year ago, the murderer confessed to the murders. He was serving time on another case and he just went to the penitentiary and he just confessed to those murders. They were murdered over money.”

Scarface "I Seen A Man Die" (1994)

Producer: Scarface & Mike Dean
Album: The Diary
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “This was my getting high days. I was so high and I made this beat in the studio. I don’t know how the credits read, but I had originally started that song off, Mike Dean added the organs and the worms, and Joe Bido took the drums out and put his drums in. But it was an original for me and Mike Dean.

“I rode around for weeks and weeks listening to that because I couldn’t think of anything to put with the beat. I had some leftover pain pills from when I broke my fist. One night, I took a painkiller, drank a 40 ounce of Miller Light, and I smoked a joint and I started writing. I was so fucking high, I remember saying, ‘Lord if you let me come down off this high I won’t do this shit no more.’ I laid there and wrote that record. I didn’t know what I wrote until the next day when I laid it.

“The next day in the studio, I smoked a joint and cut the lights off. It was cold as fuck in there and it smelt like good ass chronic weed in the vocal booth. It was a big ass vocal booth too and it was dark. I had the light on with the words and I was so fucking high. I rapped the verses. I played it back after I was done. But I was still high so I was like, ‘I don’t know, maybe I must be high, but this is some groundbreaking shit.’

“I listened to it again a couple of days later when I wasn’t so high and it still sounded the same. I knew right then, when these people get a hold of this reality it’s going to be something special. And it was. It changed the face of what people were doing in rap because everyone was talking about how dope of an MC they were, but when reality strikes and changes things over night, and you talk about it. You’re like, ‘Wow I never knew these types of emotions or feelings existed audio wise. I didn’t know that people could take that thought and put that thought into words.’

“It was so special to me and people accepted it like it was their own. ‘My Mind Playing Tricks’ was cool but I think that the ‘I Seen a Man Die’ record broke me in New York. That fucking record touched everything. It wasn’t as big as ‘My Mind Playing Tricks on Me’ and it probably wasn’t as big as the ‘Smile’ but it changed the dynamics of people being able to use their voice as an instrument in rap. Motherfuckers were just monotone. You know what the next song is gonna be cause it isn’t gonna be any different.

“I’ve seen men die. I seen people decapitated from auto accidents. I see fucking cars on the freeway, mashed, with bodies in them, arms hanging out the window. I seen babies in pillow cases, dude sitting in the car on fire, dead. All kind of shit.

“I seen people with their tongues cut out through their throats—Columbian Neckties. Where I grew up, I grew up next to some apartments with a lot of Colombian and Mexican drug dealers. This was back in the late ‘70s early ‘80s and those motherfuckers were out here killing. The Vietnamese people that were just coming over from Vietnam to the United States, them motherfuckers were going to war.

“We were like 7-years-old and we were at this convenience store. This guy walked in and robbed them and he got shot with a fucking shotgun and died while we were in the store. We stayed in the back. We were kids but we knew he was dead. Then, me, my brother, and some friends went to a concert at AstroWorld and we seen some Mexican’s outside. I was like, ‘Man let’s get out of here I see that motherfucker’s gun.’ So we got out of there and the next morning that store clerk was dead.

“You could easily blame [my depression and dark thoughts] on what I saw as a kid but at the end of the day, you see it. If it wasn’t meant for you to see, you wouldn’t see it. Once you’re able to digest death, you can start living your life. I think being intrigued or amused by death, once you taste it and see it and see that it is permanent, you start embracing life and being able to live.”

Scarface f/ Ice Cube & Devin The Dude "Hand of the Dead Body" (1994)

Producer: Scarface & Mike Dean
Album: The Diary
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface:“There was a lot of shit going on with hip-hop and censorship. This guy said that he killed this police officer listening to me. I said that Ganksta N-I-P, 2Pac, and Spice-1 has never given a gun to me. So gangster rap never did shit for that. I've even see white folks from River Oaks go get the gat, like we ain’t the only mother fuckers with guns man. ‘The grand dragon from the Klu Klux Klan, he got a shotgun/So why do you get mad because I got one?’

“You beat the shit out of us and shoot the fuck out of us and it ain’t no big deal, but when we bust you off it’s a problem? I don’t get it. So it’s very one-sided and ‘Hand of the Dead Body’ was like if you don’t believe me, come over to where I'm at so you could feel it for yourself. Just come around the way they got me, so you can understand what I'm talking about. There isn’t a feeling like that.

“‘Gangstas don’t live that long.’ At least that’s the lie they try to tell you. The gangstas live forever because they’ll get old, get wise, and move to Florida. Originally the hook went, ‘Gansta’s don’t live that long/That nigga’s wrong/Gangstas don’t live that long/You slip, and now I feel the hand of your dead body.’ But I don’t think that we could have done it like that because Virgin was tripping.

“People were tripping! You couldn’t even say death. That’s why when I said ‘Never Seen a Man Die’ they changed it to ‘Never Seen a Man Cry.’ They had a problem with the world death, and you couldn’t say die. So the name of the original song was, ‘I Seen a Man Die’ and not ‘Never Seen a Man Cry.’ [Biggie’s album was Ready To Die] but they had a problem with me doing it. My shit came out August ’94 when did Big came a couple months after.

“I don’t know why me and Biggie never did any tours together. New York was so strict on out of town rappers it was unreal. But now when I go to New York and all I hear is 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. I used to go to New York to hear all the records that I had never heard before. Like that’s why I went to New York, so I could hear all the records I had never heard before.”

Geto Boys "The World Is a Ghetto" (1996)

Producer: N.O. Joe
Album: The Resurrection
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “Joe did the record with Mike Dean and I really don’t know how that record came about. I know I always wanted to use that record and that’s how Joe flipped it, and then I wrote a verse to it. The inspiration behind the verse was Nas. I'm a huge Nas fan. I bite Nas any chance I get.

“I bite Nas, I bite Cube, I bite Jay-Z. I'm a fucking biter. I would never use none of their words but I'd be like, ‘Man that shit was dope, I'm gonna bite that shit.’ But I never bite, I just say I do for shits and giggles. The only song that I can say I literally bit was Ice Cube’s ‘Dead Homies.’ But, that was just a tribute to him and when you hear it, it sounds like that. He was one of my biggest influences.

“As far as skill and delivery, I can honestly say that New York rap molded my awareness of what skill meant in hip-hop. I always wanted to be very skillful. I always wanted to approach every record differently, with a different type of rap style or a different type of wordplay delivery. I never wanted to just rap one way. I wanted to do that song this way and that one another way. I just wanted to be fucking great so I focused and practiced very hard on this. I really just wanted to be great; I didn’t want to be anything but great. I couldn’t accept anything other than greatness.”

Scarface f/ Dr. Dre, Ice Cube & Too $hort "Game Over" (1997)

Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: The Untouchable
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “I begged Dr. Dre for the record. I was persistent about getting a record from him. He invited me over to the studio and he did like three or four beats for me. A lot of people say what they want to say about Dre like he don’t do his own shit but that’s a lie, Dre was hands on. We were very adamant about getting that record from Dre.

“When we finally got the record, we had trouble clearing it. Jimmy Iovine would not clear it record for some reason. Somehow, Dre had a conversation with people over at Interscope and I ended up getting that record for free. I don’t know what was said or what was done, all I know is I got to use that record and I never heard anything else about it. At that time a Dre beat was like $75,000 or $100,000.”

Scarface "Mary Jane" (1997)

Producer: Scarface, Mike Dean, N.O. Joe, & Tone Capone
Album: The Untouchable
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “I wrote that record on weed but I recorded it on ecstasy. It was probably why it sounded so fucking great. Me and Mike Dean were doing so much fucking X. Like those were the most highest times of my life.

“Lean was always popping. But you’re talking about getting super duper stoned? Of course [we were doing coke]. We rocked it up, cut the rocks up, and then go. We used to call it a shake pack. We would take the shake pack and put that in the weed. That was called Premo’s or mo’s.

“So as time went on you would be talking to your homeboy and say, ‘Man, let’s go get MO’tivated.’ [Laughs.] So when people always say ‘I need something to motivate me,’ I’m always like, ‘Nigga, you don’t want that.’

“I don’t fuck around anymore but back then we got super high. We never did anything sober. I can’t remember doing anything while sober. We did everything but heroin and methamphetamines.”

Scarface f/ 2Pac & Johnny P "Smile" (1997)

Producer: Scarface, Mike Dean, N.O. Joe, & Tone Capone
Album: The Untouchable
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface:“My manager was on Sunset Blvd. and 2Pac drove by in a Rolls Royce and my manager was like, ‘Whatup Pac?’ Then he saw my manager and fucking busted a U-turn in the middle of Sunset Blvd. I knew Pac, we don’t ride nowhere with 2Pac, we drive. We didn’t ride with him cause we knew he couldn’t drive and we knew he was crazier than a motherfucker.

“Pac was a bad like Flava Flav. Pac didn’t do it, he did it. You know when they say ‘Do it big?’ Shit, Pac did it big. He did not fuck around. I came before [Pac and Biggie] rapping about death. I was rapping about death for a long time. I think Pac didn’t start seeing death around the corner until he was on his second or third album. I was always on some death shit.

“That record wasn’t influenced by [2Pac] getting murdered. I hope not, I hope that people just like what was said on that record. I just hope that people are like, ‘That was a good ass record man.’ I think that ‘Smile’ was originally supposed to be on 2Pac’s album and we got a hold of it and put it out. 2pac was something else man.”

Scarface f/ Too $hort, Tela, & Devin the Dude "Fuck Faces" (1998)

Producer: Scarface & Mike Dean
Album: My Homies
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface:“I did that record originally in the studio by myself and it was called ‘Knocked Hard’ cause everything that came out of the motherfucker knocked hard. I originally did the record solo but then Too $hort was in town and he came in. I made the beat right before I went to a Too $hort show and then I wrote the verse and laid it while Too $hort wrote and laid his verse that same night.

“Me and Raheem—you might remember his album The Vigilante—we wrote the hook to that shit. Raheem used to be on Rap-A-Lot records. Raheem may have been the baddest motherfucker to come out of Houston besides K-Rhino. Raheem was a bad motherfucker, and that shit gets over looked. He was probably the best rapper, but he wasn’t actually from Houston. He was from New Jersey, but if you type in some of Raheem’s shit you will be like, ‘Wow!’ He was the shit, he was the shit! So we wrote the hook to ‘Fuck Faces’ and I started with Devin the Dude.

“It was originally me, Devin, and Too $hort. When I finished the record and turned it in, I heard it again and Tela was on my shit. When Jay had an artist that was just ready to come out that artist was going to be on your album whether you wanted him on there or not. Nothing against Tela, but it was good. I been over it, there wasn’t nothing to get over. You can’t take the motherfucker off it now, it's already in the story. But notice that Devin said ‘Let me holler at you B. Short, check this.’ He didn’t say anything to Tela.”

Gang Starr f/ Scarface "Betrayal" (1998)

Producer: DJ Premier & Guru
Album: Moment of Truth
Label: Noo Trybe/Virgin/EMI Records

Scarface: “They sent me a verse, and a beat for me to write my part on. I did it on strength but by the end of the day, Premier still owed me a beat. He still owes me a beat 20 years later. And every time I talked to him he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I didn’t forget about you.’ Bullshit, you forgot about me. That’s my boy though, that’s my partner. H-Town native.”

Scarface & Beanie Sigel "Mack and Brad" (2000)

Producer: J-5
Album: The Truth
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

Scarface: “Someone from the Roc-A-Fella office called me and they asked me to do that record. It may have been Dame, I can’t remember. But I know I heard it and I said okay, and we just went back and forth. Beanie sent all his parts. I recorded it during the time I was recording Last of a Dying Breed. I laid my part’s where he left blanks. But he had already laid his stuff out and we were on two different coasts at two different times but it just flowed.

“Still to date, Beanie is one of my closest friends. Outside of Too $hort, Q-Tip, or Busta, those are really my friend. They’re my people. I’m really close to those guys. I don’t have to talk to Q-Tip for five years and I don’t have to talk to Jay-Z for 10 years. But our friendship is so solid that when we do talk, we pick up right where we left off. Everybody knows when you have an authentic friendship with somebody. I ain’t got to see Kanye to talk to ‘Ye, but I know that we’re going to pick up right where we left off because we’re friends.”

Jay-Z f/ Beanie Sigel & Scarface "This Can't Be Life" (2000)

Producer: Kanye West
Album: The Dynasty: Roc La Famila
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

Scarface: “I was in New York and I was working at Def Jam. Jigga had called me over to the studio to finish a record with him and Beanie. I was on my way to the studio in the car service and I'm riding as I get the call. It just broke me down. That was the worst news I had ever heard. That’s a real life, a heart beating moment. Spontaneous pen. Writing what you see, writing what you hear, writing what you thought.

“If people tapped into their emotion and their heart when they write and wrote their soul and left it on the page I think that there would be a lot more dope artists. The rap game wouldn’t be in the state that it's in. Like I tell my football players, leave it on the field.”

Scarface "The Last of a Dying Breed" (2000)

Producer: Scarface, N.O. Joe & Mr. Lee
Album: The Last of a Dying Breed
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records

Scarface: “The original version of ‘Last of a Dying Breed was a fucking crusher. That one kinda sucked. The original track was a monster but we couldn’t get it cleared. The sample was so wicked. It was like off a kung fu movie, like something at the end when everybody was dead and the hero was walking off.

“The ‘Last of a Dying Breed’ title track itself was me trying to be creative. Me saying that I remember forming in my mom's stomach, they don’t make them like this no more.

“My contribution will go unnoticed until finally, when I die, people are really gonna take a listen to what was being said instead of looking at what company or what label. I don’t feel like people took the time to break down what’s being said in those records that they hear. If they took the time out to really hear what was being said then they would really look at the artist different. I will probably get the credit when I'm gone.

“Like all of these people that they give the credit too, some rappers are incredible and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when you really break down word for word for word what’s being said, there isn’t going to be anyone that nasty. No one like me. Nas is another guy with a catalogue like me. Cube is another. But if you look at the greats and listen to what they said and the shit that you had to rewind. Like, ‘What did he just say?’ like thought provoking inspiration raps. It will go unappreciated until the day that I check out.

“The day I check out people will make me a hip-hop martyr. Like, ‘Damn, he went out and got boo’d in New York for us in the South. He went to spots all over the country throwing up this Houston flag.’ I did that for this city. I'm the reason why the people across the world know about Houston. I don’t feel like this city appreciates and respects their own people, especially my contribution to the craft.

“If anything happens in New York with one of their artists they are going to be supportive. But if anything happens to an artist out here in Houston, they never knew you. It’s a shame. There’s a lot of great artists who came out of here who will never get the recognition because of where they are. It’s a very difficult place to get money, especially if you’re doing something positive.

“They should call Houston ‘Crab in a Bucket’ cause that’s what it is. It will be respected when the artists are dead. I know my work will be. Look at the Rock The Bells Tour in San Francisco. 14,000 tickets sold out there. Why doesn’t this city get shows like that? How can Ice Cube come to town and wherever he’s performing it ain’t fucking packed? I bet if Ice Cube came to New York that shit would be standing room only.”

Scarface f/ Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel "Guess Who's Back?" (2002)

Producer: Kanye West
Album: The Fix
Label: Def Jam
Scarface: “I spent a lot of time with Kanye when Kanye was doing a lot of beats. Kanye stepped in on that album. It’s funny how that shit works. Me and Jay-Z would talk for hours. That’s my dog. We’re homies. I fuck with ‘em all. Guru, Kanye, Jay-Z, Beanie, everybody over there at Roc-A-Fella was family. The whole New York was like my extended family. I haven’t talked to them in a long time but they’re my people.

“I met Jay-Z in 1998 or 1999. I was recording The Last of a Dying Breed and Jay-Z was out there doing something in L.A. and I met him. Jay-Z came in to lay a couple records down for me. He was so damn fast it was sick the shit that he did.

“For the longest I thought he had pre-written shit and he would drop that down. But as time went on, I realized he was a freak of nature. He can hear a beat three times, listen to the beat ride once all the way through, and then lay his verse. I’ll be at the board writing my verse and he’ll already be gone. He’ll come in there sit, chat, and laugh, and then the beat will come on and he’ll write that shit in the middle of a conversation. The music will be playing and he’ll zero in and be like, ‘Ooh, ooh,’ and then lay that shit.”

Scarface "On My Block" (2002)

Producer: Nashiem Myrick
Album: The Fix
Label: Def Jam South

Scarface: “I remember writing that song on the floor in the studio while Busta Rhymes was next door. I wrote ‘My Block,’ and ‘In Cold Blood’ and a whole bunch of other songs in that little studio right there. Just me and my engineer. I really liked the beat for ‘My Block.’

The Fix was recorded where hip-hop was born. I recorded that last majority of that record where hip-hop was born. Me being a student of the game really made me step my shit up like, ‘I’m not going to make a sucky album.’

“Being in New York, and recording a majority of that album and being in the element can change the outcome of anybody’s records and thought process. You’re in New York. This engineer has recorded Nas before, this engineer recorded Rakim in ’88. Like you would have to step your game up. You ain’t even impress the people sitting in the studio.

“Before I went to Def Jam, the most money I’d ever seen from making records was a loan for $400,000. I was willing to put my life on it that it was the biggest ticket I’d ever seen from those guys, and it was a loan. I ended up paying it back. I didn’t see checks in the millions until I got with Def Jam. I think my first check from Def Jam when I signed was like $2 million for my album.

“I was making $350,000 to $400,000 a year working at Def Jam. Plus I played the A&R role so I cleaned up over there. I had the deal and Lyor Cohen said when he signed me to do my album, he was going to make a deal with me that was going to knock my socks off. He broke bread. Lyor Cohen got my utmost respect because he wrote that check.

“It’s something the youngsters need to learn. My advice to anybody is don’t sign a fucking contract just to get your foot in the door because I would just sign anything to get my foot in the door. It will turn around and bite you in the ass because all of those big records I made and produced, I didn’t get a dime. I’m not really worried about it but I know it has to come back to me because I’m the rightful owner.

“Back in the days, a lot of those records we did, we didn’t even get paid for them. We didn’t get accounted to for them. We just on that fucking record. We weren’t [in charge of that].

“We didn’t have any lawyers, we didn’t have shit. All we did was make records that people would hear. We ain’t know nothing about getting paid until I got to Def Jam. Def Jam were writing me checks that I couldn’t ever imagine getting. My first couple years at Def Jam, I clocked over $2 million a year and I didn’t even have an album out.

“They flew me all over the place in private jets and I had a company card with no limit that I could do whatever I wanted to do with it, as long as it was in regards to business. Trust me, they bear no fucking expense. They made sure I got anything I could ever imagine. That’s when I realized there was a lot of money in music.

“I missed out on a lot of money. My whole old catalogue, I don’t get no money off that, N-The Water Publishing gets all of that. We don’t get none. I don’t think we get accounted for that shit. That ain’t no bullshit. So when I say fuck hip-hop, I mean it. The music ain’t even the music no more. When I say fuck hip-hop, fuck it. The business side fucked up and the music side fucked up. How can you go to the studio and spend that money to put out a fucking mixtape and give it away for free? That makes no fucking sense to me.”

DJ Khaled f/ Nas, Scarface & DJ Premier "Hip-Hop" (2012)

Producer: J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
Album: Kiss The Ring
Label: Universal Republic Records

Scarface: “That come line is second to none. “The come line was so nasty that Nas used it. ‘And if I cried two tears for her.’ That is the come line on that record. Those come lines are so nasty that Nas used it for his come line.

“Khaled called me up. We didn’t know what that song was going to be. Nobody knew what it was. Khaled sent me a beat and no concept. He told me to do with that record what I felt and I sent it back immediately. I said, ‘I didn’t know if you’re going to like this shit but here goes nothing.’ He called me back and was like, ‘Oh my God, Scarface. This is it. This is so big!’ He called me like every 10 or 15 minutes and was like, ‘Oh my God, ‘Face.’

“Then he called me two days later and said Nas is going to be in New York and told me to go talk to him. He called me about 5:30AM that morning and said Nas listened to that record 10,000 times over and over. Then he said, ‘You should’ve seen it. Nas was listening to your part and was playing it over and over.’ I said ‘Wow.’ He said he was going to do the record and we’ll see.

“I got a phone call from one of my good friends, Erick Sermon. He expressed to me how valuable that record was to hip-hop. He told me, ‘This game needs a balance and you are that balance.’ He told me hip-hop needed my raw emotion. Hip-hop needs emotional records to make it even. I was like, ‘Damn.’

“I was like, ‘You’re my partner, but you’re also Erick Sermon. You’re one of the reasons why I started fucking with music. He’s one of the reasons why I started rapping and he’s calling me talking about my record. As an artist, to be a part of something so big for hip-hop, I’m humbled at the same time because I was like, ‘Damn.’

“I missed out on a lot of money throughout my career. My whole old catalogue, I don’t get no money off that, N-The Water Publishing gets all of that. We don’t get none. I don’t think we get accounted for that shit. That ain’t no bullshit. When I say fuck hip-hop, I mean it. The music ain’t even the music no more. The business side fucked up and the music side fucked up. How can you go to the studio and spend that money to put out a fucking mixtape and give it away for free? That makes no fucking sense to me.

“I’m from a very small section of this city, a very small neighborhood. For you to know me now, that’s a great, special feeling. There are people from my neighborhood that know nothing about it. I’ve been making records—relevant records—for the past 24 years. I’m grateful."

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