It’s hard to think about gangsta rap without thinking of Scarface. He was a founding member of the beyond-seminal Geto Boys, and in his tenure as a solo artist made—as Chris Rock once pointed out—Mr. Scarface is Back, the album that predicated all the shit that Tupac and Biggie ever did. I spoke with Scarface on the phone as he was preparing for what was supposed to be his first ever New York solo show, which has since been postponed. Read on to see how it might have been my fault!
VICE: Where are you right now?
Scarface: I’m at the music store. I’m looking at guitars.
How long have you played?
Ever since I can remember. I’ve been playing for a long time, man. I play on a lot of my songs. I can play everything that can make a sound.
What drew you to rapping when you were younger?
It was an outlet, I guess. I wanted a way to express myself. My first love was rock and funk. Rap was an accident. I grew up in a band, dude. Everybody played something, and then rap came along, and I was probably twelve or thirteen before I realized how good I was. I was breaking into houses, robbing banks. What’d you say, buddy?
Rap was an outlet for me to express myself. Nobody was trying to hear no R&B/Funk band from East Houston, so I guess I would rap. I saw what was happening on the East Coast. I can’t wait to get out there and do my set at SOB’s. It’s gonna be pretty amazing.
What does it mean to you to be making your New York debut?
It’s gonna be my first show promoted out there. I’m sure a lot of artists are doin’ shows in New York, at least once or twice a year. I’ve never been to New York to do a show as a solo artist. Ever. It’s pretty much a milestone in my opinion, to be able to get out and go there. First time I was out there and did a show with the Geto Boys we got booed. We were talkin’ about that street shit, and New York was still on backpack.
Now that backpack’s gone, it’s all street shit now.
It definitely feels like everything has gotten so much harder in the past few years.
I don’t know how much harder it got, but whenever it took place, when we first came out there talkin’ about dope and gettin’ money, they were kinda mad at us.
I feel like Geto Boys were the first were to talk about street shit on a national level. Why do you think you broke out?
I think the reality of it all helped.
How did the Geto Boys get started?
That was twenty-five years ago, I don’t really remember much about that.
That’s fine. You live in Houston now, right?
Yeah. I still live here.
How involved are you in the hip-hop scene there?
As far as what? Am I doing…what?
I see you as this elder statesman, somebody who started it.
(Uncomfortable silence for a minute or so)
I pay serious attention to new artists. I pay attention to dope artists. Everything run of the mill, basic sounding artists, they’re like recycled fucking newspapers. They come every second. So when you hear something really special, then you gotta pay attention. My definition of “really special” is somebody who don’t sound like nobody else, or rap about the same shit that this guy is rapping about, and as far as my hip-hop community in Houston is concerned, that’s really looking at it in tunnel vision. As far as hip-hop is concerned, it’s broad. Way bigger than Houston. I don’t even think Houston even has a hip-hop scene. I’m looking at it from all aspects, on all levels.
Who are some of the new artists you think are really special?
I like K.R.I.T. I like Meek Mill. I think that Drake is original, but I think people is really trying to sound like him. I don’t like that. I don’t like his soundalikes. I like the original Drake. I want that to be printed correct. I like Drake, and not the sloppy carbon-copies. I like Marcus Manchild—I think he’s really dope. I like A$AP Rocky, because I think he’s really brilliant.
Tell me about your new album. What’s it going to be like?
I don’t want to talk about that today. I don’t want to talk about my album at all, but anything else, I’m cool with that. The album is called Rooted, and that’s about as far as I can go into that. Do me a favor, man, don’t do like these other guys and blow one word out of proportion. That shit ain’t cool.
I think that’s pretty bullshit when writers try to invent a story like that.
Let’s keep it all authentic and one thousand. I appreciate it, dude. Have a good one.
So, about an hour after this interview concluded I received an email announcing that Scarface had postponed his first solo New York show in order to tie it closer to his album. This saddened me, and I assumed that it was my fault. I called Kozza Babumba, the publicist for SOB’s and general rap-dude-about-town, to get the skinny. He told me the following:
“It got postponed, I think the way it works is that it was so close to the album release that they’re tying it to that. Wait. It probably was you. It was you man, you did it. It was definitely you. That’s crazy how you have the ability to do something like that. Nah, I’m joking.”
In conclusion, keep it one thousand, and Scarface, I am sorry if I inadvertently made you postpone your show.
Love the Geto Boys? Check out Gangster of Love, Willie D's political column.