HE CAN’T LEAVE RAP ALONE. AFTER A FIVE-YEAR ABSENCE, SCARFACE RETURNS WITH A NEW ALBUM. RATHER THAN JUST ANOTHER BORING OL’ Q&A, XXL ASKED 20 OF HIS PEERS WHAT THEY WOULD ASK THE REVERED SOUTHERN PIONEER. IT’S OBVIOUS: RAP CAN’T LEAVE HIM ALONE EITHER.
If you analyzed the gene pool of today’s rap game, a heavy percentage of creative DNA could be traced back to one man. That’s right, before Snoop hung platinum plaques on his wall, before Hov held a presidential position, before T.I. set his sights on the Southern crown, there was Scarface. Preaching a deep-voiced gangsta gospel, the Houston MC began paving the way for a new generation in 1989, when he was recruited by Rap-A-Lot Records founder J. Prince to join Willie D and Bushwick Bill in the seminal hardcore group Geto Boys. After crafting classics like “Gangsta of Love,” “Trigga Happy Nigga” and the monumental “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” ’Face started on a storied solo career that would be marked by highpoints like “I Seen a Man Die,” from 1994’s The Diary, “Smile,” with the late Tupac, from 1997’s Untouchable, and “On My Block,” from 2002’s The Fix. He laid a blueprint for business achievement in 1999, when he became president of Def Jam South, signing an as-yet-only-regional Atlanta artist named Ludacris to his first major-label deal. Now, five years after his last official album (he apologizes for 2003’s unauthorized Balls and My Word and 2006’s My Homies Part 2), the 36-year-old rapper extends his influence with his eighth and, in his own description, “most heartfelt” effort, Made. To mark the occasion, XXL gave your favorite rappers a chance to quiz their favorite rapper. Any questions?
FAT JOE: How does it feel to be one of the most respected MCs, especially when you were considered a rap minority, coming from the South?
It’s an honor, and I’m humbled at the same time. I never looked at it like I’m one of the most respected, but I always tried to stay to who I was. The way that I am in my music is the way that I am. I’m just not tryna portray nobody but Brad, period!
PAUL WALL: What was it like being an ambassador from Texas, when the whole world thought we was still ridin’ horses?
It was really, really political. They wasn’t tryna hear nothin’ from down here. If you wasn’t from New York or from California, you were gettin’ no love. At the New Music Seminar on the first Geto Boys album, we were talkin’ about lettin’ a hoe be a hoe, and they was like, “Boooooo.” We [eventually] came back and did Madison Square Garden and the Apollo, and muthafuckas went nuts. We was [finally] accepted by New York. It was pretty cool.
JOELL ORTIZ: I heard that you have a whole album with ’Pac. Is that true?
There is no album with Tupac. I can’t even talk about that, but it’s no album with ’Pac. There’s a lot of shit thrown together that’s never gonna come out. But we did record “Smile” together.
TOO $HORT: What else can you do besides rapping? Do you play any instruments?
[I have a band called] the Sick Ass Psycho Bastards. Right now it’s just for fun. Ain’t nobody really interested in signing a rock band. Not my rock band… I play as many instruments as Prince, and I can write as many songs as him, but he’ll be way better than me forever… [Laughs] It allows me to be a totally different person. When you’re rappin’, you can’t really go into left field. You really can’t go there in rap. It’s a cross between the Smashing Pumpkins and Manowar.
BEANIE SIGEL: When we gonna get on the golf course again?
I love Beans, man. He just too gifted, and he’s so hood. We got a very deep relationship. I brought him out to hit some golf balls with me, and he talkin’ about the funniest shit. I should’ve pitched to him. Next time, instead of him hittin’ the balls off the tee, I’m gonna pitch to him, because he got a baseball swing. As soon as he gets back [to Houston], or I’ll come to Philly and play. He probably on the golf course right now, learning how to play that shit, ’cause of me. Me and Mac finna do an album. Mac and Brad. And we gonna let Kanye produce it.
LLOYD BANKS: What were your earliest musical influences?
I really loved Parliament, and I really loved the Commodores. Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Deep Purple, and shit like that. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush. I dunno, I had a lot of shit. Prince. Stevie Wonder was amazing to me. I really like music, man. My timing came from Funkadelic, definitely. Like, timing with beats and music and just different scales and shit on the guitar, that definitely came from Parliament. I think my deepness came from Pink Floyd. And Jimi Hendrix was my idol. I always wanted to be like him.
PITBULL: Who said, “Fuck it, we don’t need a hook on ‘Mind Playing Tricks on Me’”? That was genius.
[Laughs] There weren’t hooks back then. It was a song. When the music changed, that represented where the hook was. [Hums the melody] That was the hook… It was originally a solo song. It was my two verses and the third verse that I wrote, that Bushwick Bill rapped. That was an old saying my grandmother would say all the time: “My mind’s playing tricks on me.” So I just put it into words. I did the beat too… That was one of the deepest, darkest moments in my life.
SAIGON: You being one of the greatest MCs in history, do you feel that new Southern artists are neglecting lyricism?
Southern artists are doing what they do. I can never knock nobody for what they doin’. New York perfected the craft, and they so fuckin’ serious about it. Coming from New York, I can see them saying people from down South are neglectin’ the art form. Yes, I can see them saying that. But I think there’re decent lyricists down here. Some of it’s bullshit, but I think they’re doing their best. I mean, New York is serious about hip-hop. Down here is oil country. This is gold teeth and rims. Here, it’s business.
SOULJA BOY: How did you feel when you first heard my song “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)”?
[Laughs] I wanted to know what “Superman dat hoe” meant. Soulja Boy got a lot of love with these kids, and that’s where it starts. I can’t say nothin’ bad about his music, ’cause the kids like it. My daughter thinks he’s the best rapper in the world. My kids don’t like my shit, so that tells you something right there. Tell that dude to call me. He could do my MySpace page, ’cause I need one. I want that little dude to blow me up on MySpace like he blew up. I’m being real as fuck. He got that MySpace shit goin’ nuts.
JOE BUDDEN: What’s your take on ringtone music?
Hey, if it’s payin’ the light bill and the phone bill and getting niggas cars and cribs, then so be it… What about Young MC? We had some great ringtone music, but now the shit is classic. Twenty years from now, some of that ringtone music will be classic.
THIS IS ONLY A PREVIEW! READ THE REST OF THE FEATURE IN XXL‘S DECEMBER 2007 ISSUE
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BRIAN MILLER