Hand it to Scarface for being able to make dope music 30 years into the game. His last album, 2015’s Deeply Rooted graced multiple year-end lists and proved Brad Jordan was forever nice with a mic. It makes sense that he’d want to capitalize on that success with outtakes from the album, but Deeply Rooted: The Lost Files pales in comparison to the original and shows not even legends always hit the grand slam.
The album’s primary flaw is its mixing even with possibility ‘Face wanted a raw, unmastered feel for these “lost” releases. Regardless, the final product sounds decidedly unfinished and detracts from even the project’s stronger cuts. “Black Still” should have been a thumping protest anthem that brilliantly borrowed from Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.” However, Scarface’s voice is deafening on the track that somewhat drowns out the steel-toed beat. The sonic mismatch makes it hard to focus on hard-hitting lyrics like “Take an eye for an eye, take a tooth for a tooth/Do unto others as them others would do unto you.” The same issues mar “Live That Life” and “That’s Where I’m At,” leaving room to wonder what could have been had someone made better choices during the album’s mixing stages.
Additional problems don’t lie in questions of what could have been, but in what already was. The Lost Files consists of six previously unreleased tracks and four alternate versions of Deeply Rooted cuts. Scarface was wise to release the bizarro version of “Mental Exorcism,” which sports smooth hook and appropriately melancholy production. However, the other three cuts, while decent on their own, are vastly inferior to their original counterparts. “Concrete Couch,” is not only a poor man’s version of “The Hot Seat,” it sports a sample that rap fans will remember from JAY-Z’s “Blueprint 2” back in 2002, Lupe Fiasco’s “Mural” in 2015 and Jeezy’s “Beautiful” featuring Game and Rick Ross just a year before that. Both Lupe and Jizzle sounded more in-pocket with the sample, and maybe that’s why ‘Face initially left it off Deeply Rooted. Why he felt the need to bring it up now is anyone’s guess, as the song only raises doubts about the need for The Lost Files’ existence.
Scarface’s political conviction and willingness to speak out against injustice is admirable. His lamentations on the Sam Cooke-referencing “One Day Closer” are a reminder of how impactful Scarface can be when he pulls from the page of his diary. However, not much else on this album stands out from the protest tunes that have flowed through Hip Hop since Trump’s election. When Dizzy Wright and KXNG Crooked have released albums stocked with protest anthems in the past month alone, a righteous sentiment is not enough for memorable music.
Such periphery just about sums up Deeply Rooted: The Lost Files as a whole. Scarface’s commendable intent to speak out against societal ills gets lost in substandard mixing and conscious decision not to power through with a new album.