Teeing off with H-town rap royalty Scarface
By Chris Gray
Remember everyone thought Snoop Dogg wearing golf gear in 2004’s Starsky and Hutch and those Chrysler commercials with Lee Iacocca was so funny? Well, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, on-again, off-again Geto Boy and Houston rap legend Scarface strolls into a local golf course clubhouse clad in a white Wildcat Golf Club polo, navy shorts and his sock feet (no spikes allowed inside), and no one bats an eyelash. He is, after all, here almost every day.
But today, Scarface is here for a press conference to hail the December release of Made, his first proper album since 2002’s The Fix. He’s cordial, but seems distracted, fiddling with his iPhone and flipping through copies of local hip-hop magazines Hard Hitter and What It Dew. Another reporter asks him how it feels to routinely be ranked among the greatest rappers of all time, and his only answer is a soft-spoken, “I like it a lot.”
On the other hand, Face, now 37, says pretty much all he’s been doing since The Fix came out is coaching little league football and playing poker and golf, which he took up last September at his daughter’s urging. Asked if he’ll make another album after Made, he just shrugs. Rapping, it seems, is now something he can take or leave.
“I really don’t want to do this shit anymore,” he says. “It had a lot to do with the unauthorized albums Rap-a-Lot put out [2003’s Balls & My Word and 2006’s My Homies Part 2]. I was kind of mad about that, but I don’t want people that listen to my music to not be able to.”
Nonetheless, Scarface and Rap-a-Lot have mended enough fences for him to return to his longtime label (both with the Geto Boys and solo) after a one-album departure to Def Jam South for The Fix.
“There ain’t no sense in me not putting out an album because of that,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of artists fall out with their labels and be irrelevant when they come back. ”
Scarface, though, will be relevant as long as he cares to be. “I was talking to Busta Rhymes and he said, ‘God damn, are you ever going to fall off? You sound like you’re 16,” he laughs. “I told him, ‘I am 16. I never grew up. I do shit that kids do.’”
After the press conference, Face allows the writer Chris Gray to follow him onto the links for a couple holes. He’s already revealed he was a big KISS fan growing up, enjoys everyone from AC/DC and Led Zeppelin to Steely Dan and the Eagles (“and that’s just my iPhone”) and turns out to be a rockabilly fan as well.
“You ever heard of the [Flaming] Hellcats?” he asks, preparing to tee off. “Jaime [frontman Jaime Hellcat] is a good friend of mine. I talk to Jaime a lot. I want to see them get it.”
What was your favorite music to come out this year?
“I didn’t really have any. What came out this year? Did Coldplay come out this year?”
What have you been listening to?
"Radiohead. Old Radiohead. Not much, though. I’m going to fuck [the ball] up."
Do you have any artists on your label [Runaway Slave]?
"Product. Product is an artist."
What about the 50 and Kanye albums?
"Kanye had a brilliant album this year. [swings] Get down, get down!"
What about the new Jay-Z?
"I haven’t heard it yet. I bet it’s pretty brilliant. I heard some of it, I think it’s brilliant."
What about the 50 album?
"I didn’t listen to it. Did you?"
What was the last record you got really excited about?
"Mine. Or Kanye’s."
What did you like about the Kanye record?
"I liked its originality. That wasn’t a bad drive, was it?"
No. Are there any rock albums that came out this year that you liked?
"No one came out. Who came out?"
Well, Spoon had a pretty big record. Radiohead.
"I didn’t download [the Radiohead]. I want to buy it because I really love that band."
What’s your favorite Radiohead album?
"I really like [starts singing, more or less on key] ‘Don’t leave me hiiiiigh, don’t leave me dryyyyy…’ [“High and Dry,” from 1995’s The Bends] I love that song. I’m going for eagle right here. [Swings] Awww, slow down, ball! Shit. I fucked up my eagle. Fuck!"
[Scarface two-putts for a bogey]
Do you download music? Do you have an iPod?
"I have an iPod."
Do you still buy CDs?
"I buy everything that I like."
Tell me more about Product.
"One guy’s from Mississippi and the other kid’s from San Francisco. I think it’s some of the most brilliant rap put together from different parts of the world."
Have you ever thought about making an album with your band? [Scarface occasionally performs, playing several instruments, with a 14-piece live band]
"I want to. Contractual obligations may not allow it, but that’s a big dream of mine, to be able to make an album with a rock band. I’ve got a rock band, the Sick Man Psycho Bastards. I’m the lead singer."
I know you did A&R for Def Jam [signing Ludacris and T.I., among others]. Are you still doing that for Rap-a-Lot?
"No. I don’t do that no more."
You said earlier you’ve been playing a lot of blues. What kind of blues are you into?
"Old Delta blues. Muddy Waters’ old plantation recordings. Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Son House."
"That was a little later, but yeah, he’s good."
What have you been listening to the most recently?
"Reggae. Peter Tosh, Bob Marley. The old one-drop reggae."
Do you go out and see a lot of music?
"No. I don’t really know what’s going on, man. I’m totally out of sync with what’s happening right now."
Do you think the local rap community is as strong as it was a couple of years ago?
"I hope it’s as strong as it was. [Yawns] Excuse me. I think you have to grow up in anything you do. Not grow up, but you’ve gotta grow with your fanbase. I think that’s the secret of what music is. If your fanbase is 25 and older, it’s going to be hard to sell to kids [who are] 13, 12."
Do you worry about that with your records?
"No, I just make music, man. I know who my fanbase is. See, I’m kind of cheating, man. I grew up with a houseful of musicians. My cousin is Johnny Nash, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone” Johnny Nash. So I know what to do just by watching what he did. He had a brilliant career. He wrote one of the biggest songs in music history."
On your mom’s side or your dad’s?
"Ummm… on my grandfather’s side."
Did you get to hang out with him much?
Did he give you lessons or anything like that?