Scarface is a Houston hip-hop legend, and when the man speaks, people listen. The twenty-plus-year rap veteran was a pioneer for Southern artists of the next generation when he started his career with the Geto Boys back in the late 1980s. The Houston rapper/super producer went solo in 1991, and 11 albums later, he’s left a deep imprint in the fabric of hip-hop. So when he asked XXL during a recent phone call who stole the soul in hip-hop today, it was a question rooted in a life-long study of the culture.
“I feel like our music was dumbed down,” Scarface said on the phone on Wednesday (Jan. 15). “I feel like our generation is being dumbed down. And it starts with how we educate ourselves. At first, we knew what was going on in Compton by the music that we heard. We knew what was going on in Chicago by the music that we made. We knew what was going on in Houston by the music that was going on in Houston. Now, nobody don’t give a fuck. Everything sounds alike; they say the same thing.”
When comparing music now to 25 years ago, Scarface points out it just doesn’t match up. “I think that the music that I listened to turned me into the artist that I am,” he says. “I grew up listening to great music that molded my character and my artistry, that helped me. You got to look at it. Look at the music that came out 25 years ago. Now match it up to the music that came out today. There’s no comparison to it. I go back to the same question that I always ask. Who stole the soul?”
The Houston O.G. knows a thing or two about soul, having used a number of classic samples in his own production and rapping work throughout the years. But, he notes, in contrast to other genres, hip-hop is also losing its wit and cleverness, sacrificing lyricism and dumbing down the music.
“The rap shit [is] sounding stupider and stupider, and country music is sounding more brilliant, rock music is sounding more brilliant and alternative music is sounding way more brilliant,” he says. “Shit sound good as fuck. Everybody [in hip-hop] wants to turn up now; even in R&B. Who stole the soul? The soul is gone. Twenty-five years ago it was called soul, 30 years ago it was called soul. Then they turned it into rhythm and blues, R&B. What is it now? Is R&B gone too?” —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)