Scarface Remembers ‘The Diary’ 20 Years Later
Scarface needs no introduction among hip-hop heads. The Houston OG has spent the entirety of his career representing some of the realest hip-hop the genre has ever produced, both as a solo artist and with the Geto Boys over the past 25-plus years. Twenty years ago this month, 'Face made his strongest push into the mainstream to that point by releasing his third solo LP, The Diary, to widespread critical and commercial acclaim. The platinum-selling album, which featured hip-hop staples like "I Seen A Man Die," "Hand Of The Dead Body" and "No Tears," debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and received a retroactive XXL rating from this publication.
Ahead of the 20th anniversary of his classic LP, XXL spoke to Scarface about the creative process behind The Diary, what it meant for hip-hop as a whole and how it elevated his career to the level of the legends in the game, influencing the likes of Ice Cube, Killer Mike, Ice-T and plenty more. —Interview by Eric Diep
XXL: You've got an anniversary coming up for The Diary, the 20-year anniversary. Do you remember where you were living at the time?
Scarface: I sure do. That’s where I wrote the majority of the album, The Diary. I moved to the Braeswood Atrium on the 2nd floor.
This is in Houston?
Yeah, this is all in Houston. Second floor of the Braeswood Atrium. And then, toward the ending of the album, I started building the house in the Woodlands.
How old were you?
I think I was 23. I was gonna turn 24 on the 9th of November.
What was going on with you at the time? You were pretty deep in the rap game at that point. Your third album.
I think was deeper and more rooted in my community than I was in the rap game. You know what I mean? I wanted to make music for my people that I grew up with in my neighborhood. That’s kind of the long and the short of that whole Diary album.
You made it for your peers and your community? Moreso than trying to sell records?
I had no idea that I could sell records on a more boss stage. I had no idea that I could sell records everywhere else. Even though I had sold records, I had no idea that I could or I did. I was more focused on what I was doing in my community, with the people that I grew up with. On the flip side of that, James [Prince, head of Rap-A-Lot Records] knew that the world was a ghetto and every ghetto in the world would be able to feel the shit that I was putting out. The shit that I was delivering. He used to always say, “Y’all thinking local. Y’all gotta think national.” That’s what James always said. James Prince. J. Prince.
That helped you in the direction of the album?
No, no, no. That didn’t help me in the direction of it. It let me know that it was more people like me across the country. When he said there’s a ghetto in every city, it meant a lot. He said the world was the ghetto. I had no idea that Chicago was Houston or D.C. was like Houston. Or L.A. I had no idea that it was [the same] as far as across the country. New York was like Houston. They got niggas all over the fuckin' country that go through the same shit we go through right here in Houston. I didn’t know that, but he knew that. So when I say I made the records that I made—now even for The Diary, period—just the records that I made, that shit is for the community that I grew up in. I wanted them muthafuckas. I wanted them to jam, and [if] somebody picked up on it somewhere else, that was fine and dandy. I wanted that neighborhood that I grew up in to be like, “Boy, that muthafucka jammin'."