Scarface, ‘Deeply Rooted’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
Scarface has one of the most storied careers in hip-hop history -- he's rarely, if ever, missed.
The Geto Boys were struggling both commercially and critically in their early days, but the addition of Face and Willie D helped turn them into one of the most influential southern rap groups of all time. During his time with the Geto Boys, Scarface also became a highly respected solo artist, releasing classics like Mr. Scarface Is Back and The Diary. He secured his status as one of the greatest to ever do it over a decade after he joined the Geto Boys when he dropped his classic The Fix in 2002.
Since then, he's become an elder statesman of sorts in the hip-hop community. He's constructed one of rap's most consistent catalogs, with only his two My Homies albums (which feels more like a compilation than a full album) as letdowns. The boom of Houston rap in the mid-2000s defined by Chamillionaire, Paul Wall and Mike Jones owe much to Scarface's success.
It's almost hard to believe that his latest album, Deeply Rooted, is his first record in seven years -- Emeritus dropped in 2008. Face is one of those rappers that stays relevant no matter how much music he releases. All he needs to do is drop a guest verse every now and then to show us that he's still one of the greatest lyricists in history. There aren't hashtag campaigns running on social media begging for a new Scarface project but not because we don't want it; we know he'll release an album when he has something to say. That time is now.
He's already a legend and your favorite rapper's favorite rapper; he doesn't need to prove anything at this point. He's like the Nas of the South: a veteran lyricist who's given his all over 20-plus years and may disappear for large periods of time but pops up occasionally to show why he's a rap idol. It's no surprise that Nas is one of the few featured rappers on this album.
Watch Scarface's "Steer" Video Feat. Rush Davis
Deeply Rooted is about what one would expect from a late-era Scarface album. The LP probably won't rank in the upper echelon of his projects with The Fix and The Diary. His best works are most likely far behind him at this point in his career. What we do get with this album is a solid work filled with consistent bars. Few of the tracks may hold up to "I Seen a Man Die" and "Guess Who's Back," but that doesn't mean he still can't spit. This is elder statesman rap, a good-to-great, front-to-back listen made for hip-hop heads and Scarface completionists.
"Steer" is a classic Scarface track reminiscent of the paranoia-laced raps from Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me." On the first verse, it seems that Face is at peace with his life, but he still gets flashbacks of all the violence he's witness. On the next verse, it's revealed that he blacked out and has awoken to the sound of sirens and blood on his shirt. It might be well-worn territory for the rapper, but he's still an expert at creating pictures in the listeners' ears.
"God" is a particularly introspective track for Scarface, where he talks about what he'd do if he were almighty. "If I'm God / All the stabbings, all the war would come to cease / My whole entire hood would be at peace / No more beef / And you could sleep without the fears of being woke / By the sounds of sirens, screams of people being smoked," he rhymes. These are the most resonant lyrics on the project and further proof that his power as a wordsmith is still strong.
"Do What I Do" is the biggest highlight of the project, a collection of straight bars from Scarface, Nas and Rick Ross. Nas and Face are solid as ever, and Ross holds his own. Z-Ro on the hook might be the big draw and the only gripe with the track is that he doesn't get his own verse. Z-Ro is a welcome addition on "F--- You Too" as well.
Unfortunately, Z-Ro is the only high point when it comes to the hooks. With a rapper as lyrically focused as Face, there isn't a real need for R&B hooks to back him up. Not even heavy-hitters like John Legend and CeeLo can muster up memorable guest turns. The time spent on guest hooks feels like it could've been put to much better use if it was spent on more Scarface bars or guest rappers.
The beats are also one of the more inconsistent parts of Deeply Rooted. N.O. Joe has been reliable as Scarface's production backbone for decades, and most of the work he does here is fine, if not forgettable. Unfortunately, "Dope Man Pushin'" and "No Problem" have the ability to take you out of the project just in the beats.
Scarface isn't going to turn heads with Deeply Rooted like he did in the prime days of the Geto Boys and his first solo projects, but he doesn't have to. The project is a victory lap, the icing on the cake after a long career of success. Sometimes his flow might get a little monotonous and sound weaker than his heyday, but even a stale Scarface is more dominant than a lesser rapper.
Listen to Scarface's "God" Feat. John Legend
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