Scarface's Mental Health Issues Profiled In Excerpt From New Book On Southern Rap

In an excerpt from "Dirty South: OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip Hop," Scarface speaks on issues with mental health and more.

The subject of Southern Hip Hop will be the focal point of Ben Westhoff's new book, Dirty South: OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip Hop. The book takes a close look at the way the culture was changed by the Dirty's emcees, but it also deals with their lives. The book will be available May 1, 2011, through Chicago Review Press

8Ball, of 8Ball & MJG, recently said he loves the book for its depth.

“I love this book. It’s a real in-depth look into southern Hip Hop history, and loaded with facts. Recommended for Hip Hop music lovers,” he noted, in a statement for book. Westhoff has written for a variety of publications including Village Voice, Pitchfork, Oxford American, and web versions of The Wall Street Journal, NPR and Complex

The excerpt below comes from Dirty South and deals mainly with Scarface's life, issues with mental health and ways that he was able to cope with all of this. 

Excerpt from Ben Westhoff's Dirty South: OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip Hop: 

'Face has always seemed older than his years. He's got a wide face, sturdy frame, bad posture, and tends to make jokes about subjects others might not necessarily find funny, like killing himself, as he did in an interview with video blog site VladTV. He came up in Houston's poor South Acres neighborhood, which he describes as close-knit. "Everybody was cool with each other," he says. "We really believed in our neighborhood. It ain't no different than the hood anywhere else."

Music ran in his family. He learned to play bass guitar from his uncle, and nowadays makes occasional surprise appearances at Houston rock shows as a guitar player. But his childhood was traumatic; he attempted suicide by slitting his wrists with a razor blade when he was twelve or thirteen. Before long he was shuttled off to the mental health ward at Houston International Hospital, where he was plied with lithium and antipsychotic drugs. "When you go crazy in the hospital, they get like five or six big ol' men to come in there and hold you down," he remembers. "They pop you with that Thorazine and you go out."

Even worse was when they locked him in a foreboding spot called the "quiet room," which contained little more than a small mattress with no covers. "I spent a lot of time in the quiet room, to the point where if anybody said anything about that quiet room I was like, 'OK! I'll be good! I'm not crazy anymore!'"

'Face says he had a schizophrenic uncle, who was "on drugs heavy, like he got high and never came down." Other than that, however, he can't point to any genetic or experiential reasons that may have sparked his mental health issues.

He remains unsatisfied with his treatment. During our phone conversation, he grows increasingly sarcastic and worked up as we discuss the subject, at one point Googling his doctor, who is now employed by the University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center. Scarface then proceeds to fire off an e-mail to him, which he reads aloud, pausing occasionally to laugh hysterically:

"I don't know if you remember me but my name is Brad Jordan. I was at Houston International Hospital in the early eighties. Thanks for your help in the past. I'm one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. You sucker!"

There's something poetic about this note, with both its slightly vengeful and oddly warm notes. Indeed, Scarface's tribulations have repeatedly worked their way into his music. Unlike other rappers who'd have you think they're psychopaths, his honesty makes his voice resonate. 

Obsessed with the thin line between sanity and craziness, between living and dying, he captures the desperation of men at their wits' end. "Everybody's got a different way of endin' it," he raps on, "I Seen a Man Die," "And when your number comes for souls then they send it in/ Now your time has arrived for your final test/ I see the fear in your eyes and in your final breath."

It wasn't necessarily his depression or treatment that informed his style, he says, but rather his therapy, which forced him to articulate what was going through his head. "We had one-on-one and also group meetings, where you had to talk," he says, adding with a laugh that thirteen-year-olds like himself were permitted to smoke cigarettes if they had their parents' permission. "It helped big time."

Not long after departing the hospital, Scarface left home and stayed with some friends through his middle-teen years. He dropped out of high school and later got his own place with longtime producer John Bido. His career as a rapper was kicking into gear; he'd come onto J. Prince's radar after an acquaintance passed along a tape of his song "Scarface."

37 Comments

  • danedrus

    No really sure why the book has this title and why would scarface be in the book? First off he did not reinvent the dirty south. Actually, since face is in the book is a disrespect to him and UGK. The title should be Geto Boys, Scaface, UGK, OutKast, 8ball/MJG, and the rest of the dirty south. Face is the best rapper I have ever heard and I have listened to just about everything. Face does have some wack songs, but his catelog of dope songs are just too many for even "your favorite rapper". I could go song for song with anyone. Lyrically he can not be touched. Nonetheless; not too sure why Souja Boy is on the title and face is not.

  • Pellz

    This is actually old news. I think Face went into depth about his situation in an article in the Source magazine back in the 90's. If anyone is a real Scarface listener and know how to comprehend articulate lyrics would know he was describing his battle with himself and suicide in a song called The Wall off of the Scarface Vs Mr Scarface: The World is Yours album. I personally think it is a textbook masterpiece and should be studied.....the rage is Shakespearian and depth of duality is intriguing. If we had to study Edger Poe and Mark Twain, I'd say that one song put him on a level as those great writers also.

  • Brizz

    I dont know about what others think but The Fix is one of my personal all time great albums, his other stuff is dope as hell but The Fix was that magnum opus album not all artist can pull of in their career. Mad love for Scarface. pz.

  • Money Emp

    I'm Money Emp," I Ain't afraid,I'm from the Land Of Heartless,the Home of the Paid"...

  • westwest

    dear diary, today i hit a n***a with the torch...

  • Anonymous

    1 of HIP HOPS LEGENDS !!N YOU KNO THIS HANDS DWN...

  • Nico 3

    DMX and Scarface. The real OB's of hip hop (Original Boogeymen).

  • BrownSuga

    I am from DC and people listen to southern music. I can remember everybody being on Ghetto Boys and Scarface hard. He talks about real life and isnt afraid to show emotion. He's a grown man and never fronts. The beats are always good.

  • horseD

    i really hate about 95% of southern hip hop. i dunno...it just doesnt excite me. But that nigga Scarface??!! One of the best to ever do it. Favor for a Favor w/Nas???Craziness!

  • Anonymous

    don't care, scarface is still my dude

  • Omar Osgood

    soulja boy? really?

  • JOE6PACKNCGBOR336

    down south we do our own thing we dont act like yall fuck what you talkin bout cant nothing fuck with southern livin

  • JOE6PACKNCGBOR336

    im gonna check for this when it drop

  • Anonymous

    these niggas aint MCs though!

  • Wolfman

    "I sit alone in my four-cornered room, starin at candles..."

  • vincent

    yea tuan southern nicfoks cool niggas, raps his game for the living. So you niggas have done great things which no one can defined, but believe in it.

  • vincent

    Things may change one day, but that do not mean you going out of the world so cool yourself and watch your front Chris brown cos one day gonna be a good day.Thanks Luv U

  • P

    Fuck the South... niggas is wack.

    • white milk

      lol.. tell em why you mad.. while the south gets it in and yo fav rapper and his fans whine about it...

  • illState

    Yall Niggas Dont Really Know Southern Hip Hop and iam from chi town and know alot more then yall southern kats do 1. scarface is Dope But K rino from houston is the Greatest Rapper Ever out The South Hands down and easliy top 3 its a shame how overlooked he is hes been out longer than face K-Rino - Duality 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXB8EQpafEo K-rino - Verbal Execution 1994 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkgKa1XXcwA NOT EVEN CLOSE

  • beats rhymez life

    www.beatsrhymezlife.com Constantly Keepin You Updated On All Things Fresh www.beatsrhymezlife.com

  • JunMaf*ckn

    That book is gon sell like a mug... Face we need an autobiography OG Triple OG!

  • Anonymous

    best rapper out of the south ever.

  • Powerphi

    In my opinion, Face is the greatest rapper to come out of the south, and remains the uncontested King.

  • jesterdxxl

    Face has left a pernament Scar on Hip Hop which will never go... He's always been in a league well shit a world of his own that's why I respect him so much he don't follow but bends rules.

  • Anonymous

    listen to mind playin tricks on me. perfect example of paranoid schizophrenia and disassociative personality

  • Doubl Negative

    I was first committed to a psycho ward in '98 and durin' my treatment, I had an MRI scan to look at my brain. Before goin' under, the nurse told me they've prepared some music whilst the procedure takes place. The track I heard while under the MRI was the Luniz' I Got 5 On It, a track that extols the virtue of ganja smokin'. I don't know whether they were bein' considerate or ironic. Hip-hop tracks dealin' with mental illness that I've found pertinent are Brand Nubian's The Godz...and eLZhi's D.E.M.O.N.S.

  • LaDarren Fshosaynomo Smith

    Man Scarface is one of the Greatest & "The Fix" is one of the top 5 hip hop albums of all time in my opinion! reverbnation.com/fshosaynomo reverbnation.com/fshosaynomo reverbnation.com/fshosaynomo

  • dontgiveafuck.

    it's the first time i can say "GOOD ARTICLE DX" seriously, ive always appreciated Face as a rapper, he's among the greatests, and i hope he's dealing more easily with his demons

    • dontgiveafuck.

      stop fuckin around, you know what i meant when i said "good article" usually DX publish some bullshit bout Chris and RiRi, 50 on twitter, Game with his fake tattoos, lil wayne kissing Baby, Bieber and Willow Smith, and the list goes on and on

    • Anonymous

      the majority of this article is an excerpt from a book...

  • S

    hope they mention the real king of the south

  • khordkutta

    Gives a whole new perspective on his rhymes!!!!!!!!

  • freshyboi

    i guess his mind was playing tricks on him

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