It’s refreshing to hear Scarface’s name mentioned in upcoming releases. It’s even more refreshing to hear the legend’s voice over quality, edgy production. An artist whose catalogue would be the envy of any rapper living or dead returns to his beloved culture with Dopeman Music. His post-Emeritus hiatus aside, Scarface shows that he is still hungry, relevant and worthy of the crowns given to him. Although it’s “just a mixtape” in terms of presentation and personnel, Brad Jordan proves that buzz can never duplicate mastery.
Dopeman Music marks one of the few tools Scarface has never used in Hip Hop, which is releasing a mixtape. Conceptually, it follows suit with the title of project. The leader and his latest Facemob spend the album addressing the role of the hood and currency. The ‘Mob emcees that Scarface brings along for the go-’round sound deserving to be alongside the legend. Fans will inevitably question whether these rappers are capable of standing on their own. It’s not that lead assisting rapper B. James is an outstanding lyricist, it’s that he can complement Scarface’s style perfectly. Lyrics like, “The School of hard knocks / All the scholars turn to fiends / No jobs in the city, all we got is triple beams” are solid lyrics but the subtle changes of delivery between artists, and devotion to the material is what makes Dopeman Music a convincing piece of art.
The retail mixtape operates on a respectable level of quality, though not up to par with a proper Scarface album. However, unlike some of past in-between-projects, or unofficial archival releases, Dopeman has some truly breakout moments. “2 the Beat” features a ridiculously addictive hook and dope verses, with an old school approach to Rap songwriting. ‘Face reminds us all why everyone from Tupac Shakur to Jay-Z has sought the legendary Geto Boys front-man out. “Get Lost” shows the man’s continued versatility. He remains one of the few artists who can have an R&B hook on a project without it ever compromising himself as an artist. His verse on “Get Lost ” paints a vivid picture of a woman whose lifestyle and age conflict. Its hook is reminiscent of those heard on 2002’s classic album, The Fix. The song itself is one of the few times on the project where the Facemob’s inclusion can be counterproductive. Fans long for more verses from ‘Face after hearing him open the track with a phenomenal verse, though the rapper teases the listener with a stamp of approval, and “on-the-next” approach.
Lyrically, the highlight of the project is the “The N Word.” Clocking in at a mere 65 seconds in length, ‘Face obliterates the beat. It’s the type of conscious lyricism that has lived in Brad Jordan’s catalog for 24 years, though he’s rarely noted for that thoughtfulness. In just over a minute, the Houston pioneer is able to touch on immigration, the court system, crooked police, and legal hustling. It has immense replay value and 2010 relevance. In light of the Arizona controversy, Scarface spitting, “If you Mexican, they wanna send you back” is a classic example of why the man is so revered. He proves without a shadow of a doubt that he is still able to capture the essence of the common man’s frustration or fear. Whether it’s classics like “I Seen a Man Die” or “In Between Us” , or tracks like “The Ghetto Report” or “Hustle Game” on Dopeman Music, Scarface remains one of the great voices of our generation.
The aforementioned “The Ghetto Report” is another stand-out. From the unbelievable production, solid verses from Monk Kaza and B. James, plus Scarface’s gem, the song may be an update, in terms of concept, to “My Block” , but it’s the point-of-view he knows best. Scarface spits the first verse and with lyrics like, “It’s pitiful how they got me doing time / For a crime I ain’t never committed / The bottom line, is I’m a black man, so my S-K-I-N, is my S-I-N / So unless I win, I’ll be headed to a cell in the pen / And when I come home, I’ll go right back in.” It’s a haunting reality that ‘Face tackles with eloquence and consciousness. From just an independently-released mixtape, Scarface’s mind is at work yet again, like it’s all on the line once more.
Dopeman Music gives Scarface another opportunity to be singular in focus while giving other emcees in his crew shine. The content rarely ventures outside of what the title suggests, but ‘Face and company deliver it with class and flavor. This project being a mixtape gives the veteran the perfect way to reintroduce himself to the world while prepping them for his next project. Sure there are flaws on the project – “Lyrical Assault” being just one example, but flaws on a ‘Face’s flaws have always been forgivable, and typical of many of his works. Like previous Facemob projects or even 2006’s effort with The Product, Scarface once again proves how much better Hip Hop is with him around, and how good he can make his teammates sound.