Four Drake albums and seven years ago Scarface dropped Emeritus, which he said at the time was to be his last album. Well, Mr. Scarface is back with Deeply Rooted. But does the album bear fresh fruit or rotten throwaways?
As the title suggests, Deeply Rooted finds Scarface reconnecting with the Houston hood that raised him. What keeps this retread fresh is that Scarface approaches the content from a more mature perspective this time around. There’s a righteous indignation against racial injustice and a need for self-preservation that Scarface directs toward his circumstance. However, rather than preach from a pulpit, he speaks through stories, from the restless kid in church on “All Bad,” to the hustler on “Do What I Do,” to the victim of a racist system on “The Hot Seat.”He takes his responsibility as an elder statesman of Hip Hop seriously with the experience to back his wisdom. “I been there done that grew from my fuck ups / A hard head make a nigga soft ass tougher,” he raps on “God.”
He makes it clear that those stories represent the Scarface of the past. “You” is part-tribute, part-reflection about his mother and his children that shows Scarface as a father and working man rather than a hustler. “I see where my mom was my mom like my grandma / My kids like I was every day like a standoff,” he rhymes on “You.” That growth is all well and good, but does it translate into good music? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Scarface’s vocal presence is as captivating as ever, especially when the topic is spiritual. He opines on what he would do if given ultimate power on “God,” resulting in the most moving song on the album. Everything from Scarface’s aches for a better world to John Legend’s soulful hook makes “God” the album’s weighty, enlightened centerpiece.
“All Bad” revisits spiritual territory, finding a young Brad Jordan trying to act the part in church while his clandestine street activities wait for him on the outside. The duality is compelling. Even when Scarface isn’t spiritual, he can tug at the heartstrings with two tracks that could have been titled “Mind Playin’ Tricks ’15”: “Voices” and “Steer” showcase a mentally unstable man crying out for help. They’re at once frightening and melancholy, and while they harken back to “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me,” they stand on their own as examinations of how fragile the human psyche can be.
Musically, Deeply Rooted is low-key, superbly playing to Scarface’s strengths. Piano loops and thick drums draw in the listener while allowing Scarface to take center stage on several tracks, providing the album with a cohesive feel without sounding repetitive. Occasionally, as on “God,” there’s a soulful, epic feel, but most tracks have the back-to-basics feel that befits the record. Like the production, the collaborations complement Scarface without upstaging him. Nas and Rick Ross are strong on “Do What I Do,” while Papa Reu, Z-Ro, Rush Davis, CeeLo Green and Avant all provide smooth vocals throughout the album. On each and every track, though, it’s clear this is Scarface’s show.
It’s not all fresh, though. There are a few missteps, namely “Dope Man Pushin’” and “No Problem.” The former finds Scarface revisiting content he’s enlivened many times, but this turn finds him without his usual brevity. Fortunately, “Outro” keeps “No Problem” from being the last impression of the album. That’s a good thing because Scarface’s latest offering is one of the better Hip Hop albums of 2015. Deeply Rooted finds Scarface firmly entrenched in his roots while showing maturation as a man and artist.