Sunday, December 14, 2008

Scarface -- MADE

Rating: 3/5 stars

Pros: Wide-ranging and engaging look at the unglamorous life of Houston's greatest rapper.

Cons: An album more at home in 1997 than 2007.

Bottom Line: Scarface eschews modern rap and puts out "oldies" album.

Recommended Tracks:


Who Do You Believe In

Rap has always been a young man’s game. While the Rolling Stones can still make a fortune touring, hip-hop pioneers like Rakim and KRS-One have long since faded into obscurity. But the teenagers who grew up listening to rap in the early 90’s are almost forty years old now – old enough to be Soulja Boy’s parents.

Scarface brought rap to the South with the Geto Boys 1991 album We Can’t Be Stopped. Nearly two decades later, the Houston legend speaks for many of his fans when he talks about the current rap scene: “If I leave, they won’t respect the South, because n***** soft / Talking bout what’s in they mouth; talking about what’s in they cars and house / And that ain’t what we all about.”

Where his 2002 classic The Fix had appearances from Jay-Z and Kanye West, “M.A.D.E.” is stubbornly old-fashioned – an ‘oldies’ rap album. And with only 10 songs and no mainstream collaborations, there aren’t any attempts at radio play.

It sticks faithfully to his trademark style – dark, uncompromising subject matter over simple-soul tinged beats. It’s an album that could have been released a decade ago.

This doesn’t mean he hasn’t changed artistically, if anything, the ensuing years have made him even more jaded and cynical. M.A.D.E. is certainly not an uplifting testament to the human condition.

The best verse of the year may be on Who Do You Believe In when he focuses on the ghetto “that changed for the worse.” Suicide Note tells a haunting story about a friend’s death and Go doubts his ability to stay faithful. His wry, monotone delivery fits well with album’s world-weary tone; you’ve never heard talk of lesbians and threesomes delivered so dispassionately.

Many rappers of Scarface’s generation have become parodies trying to remain relevant (LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg), while others have tried to chase different entertainment careers (Andre 3000, Ice Cube) or become executives (Dr. Dre, Jay-Z). In returning to his past, M.A.D.E. offers a new blueprint for these aging rappers. It’s a formula that will please his fans, and could see Scarface, like the Rolling Stones, sticking around for a long time.

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