New Houston Rap

#NewHoustonRap: Scarface's 'Deeply Rooted' Is a Career Triumph

Scarface is a historian of the utmost kind. When asked about whether or not he watched Straight Outta Compton when it was released, he immediately said no. “Because I was there, bro,” he told Charlamagne Tha God of Power 105.1’s syndicated morning show The Breakfast Club. Connecting the dots in rap history, no Southern rapper can admit to being a key figure in three decades other than Brad Jordan. He can tell you about the “Smile” sessions with 2Pac and how he’d want to fight him on tour because he would get too wild onstage and want to fight the entire venue. He can tell you that he’ll rate The Fix, his 2002 album and the lone LP he made with Def Jam Records, as his best, even though his 1994 album The Diary is a lynchpin in regards to solo Southern rap albums. The six degrees of separation he, N.O. Joe and Mike Dean have with the three greatest rap albums ever to come out of Houston or a city adjacent (The Fix, The Diary, Ridin’ Dirty) is scary. Downright uncanny. There’s cold beings trapped with enough paranoia to rival Alfred Hitchcock. Then there’s Scarface.

Today, Scarface releases his latest album, Deeply Rooted, immediately adding even more color to an already colorful and eventful 2015. The tone of its mere existence is different. There’s no J. Prince intro; in fact, it’s an independent album all together without any label influence. The promotion of it not only came with a slew of memorable interviews and glimpses into Face’s humorous and at times erratic personality, it also came with an autobiography, Diary of a Mad Man. There’s no need for Deeply Rooted to make up for seven years of lost time because Scarface’s legacy is secure. But my God, does it feel epic at every turn.

According to N.O. Joe, Deeply Rooted had its original groundwork laid in 2009, a year after Emeritus was released. Once Face went to jail on child-support charges, the process stopped until he was released. “We got back in October of last year and finished everything up,” N.O. Joe said of the creation of the album. “It took him some time listening back and forth to it. He may take two months listening to a record, then he’ll call and say, ‘Hey man, I think we need to go back in.’ but this one, he was happy with it.”

No Scarface album can have any one moment extrapolated and analyzed. You have to sit through it much like you do a movie, and then dissect what you've heard at the end. With Deeply Rooted, all of the major players who have helped create colossal moments with Face are here. There’s N.O. Joe & Mike Dean, the duo responsible for The Diary's production duties; Joe picks up the bulk of the beats. There’s Papa Reu adding an island-gangster flavor to drive the point home on a chorus. Still, the sound of Deeply Rooted — as Southern and hard as can be with tweaked 808 drums and Joe’s trusty organ — is old sounding current and new. Nas reprises the chemistry the two had on “In Between Us” with a wakeup call on “Do What I Do.” Rick Ross joins them both on the track and dances around the piano keys from N.O. Joe & SpufDon while Z-Ro continues to let the world know he may be the most underrated hook man in existence. Cee-Lo Green and Avant offer a little light through the darkness on “You” and “Keep It Movin’,” and Jack Freeman literally taps into that hardscrabble working-man persona his voice always seems to tap into for “The Hot Seat." All of those voices play up to different scenes inside of Brad Jordan’s mind. He recites codes of the dope game and respect behind organ stabs and hymns on “All Bad,” and sneers so hard on “Do What I Do” that he could probably cut every person near him.

Concepts have never been an issue with Scarface, not even if he’s in that fatuous state of thinking bodies are constantly chasing him or a larger power has it out for him. He elevates himself to ask about life as God Almighty on the aptly titled “God,” with John Legend, and succumbs to the belief that nothing will ever go right unless he hands things over to God on “Steer." For someone who has made a career out of questioning his mortality and understanding the consequences of immoral actions, Scarface places those two themes front and center on this album. The juxtaposition between “God” and “Steer” shows that Face, despite having a bit of control and yearning for even more, ultimately cannot grab everything. He’s merely a human being dealing with the day-by-day. He, unlike a solid 99 percent of the human population, can tell you about his fucked-up days so good that you’ll exhale and want to see it for yourself. Combative and freeing, Deeply Rooted is a “complete body of work." That phrase has chased every interview Face and his co-conspirators have laid down ever since it was finished. It should win everything in the world, but given the fickle nature of rap in 2015, I sincerely hope that a gang of fans — young, old and new — realize how special this Scarface album is.

Last month, Noisey asked him to rank his best albums. The Fix was one. The Diary was two. Deeply Rooted was left off to the side, its status unknown until time tells us the answer. He didn’t chart any of the Geto Boys albums or the hodgepodge albums like My Homies Pt. 2 or Balls & My Word. Even the “forced” records that fans enjoy, like the flippant The Last of a Dying Breed, don’t even rank for Face. When he feels a project, you get his best work. He may have pulled all of it in with Deeply Rooted. 
Mixtapes/Songs of the Week

Rizzoo Rizzoo, Itz Hot Sauce
Last year, Rizzoo Rizzoo tied together his duties as merely someone who ties things together for Itz Hot. That tape, a raucous moment in the space-time continuum that yielded a ton of features together eventually set the stage for Itz Hot Sauce, a tape that boasts something no other rap tape this year can – a Danny Brown/Sauce Walka collaboration. Brown, the Detroit madman with a penchant for hijacking tracks and never giving them back, is asked to do battle with the Sauce Factory’s most ambidextrous and understood voice. The result for “Stiff Arm” is exactly what you’d expect: It's calculated and perfectly enunciated. The rest of Itz Hot Sauce piles onto similar-sounding beds of trap drums and kooky synths and asks itself to bend at the will of Rizzoo. He doesn’t offer a full 16-bar verse until track six, “Fuck Up The Party,” with Lil Uzi, but he plays John Stockton infused with a northside Chris Paul for everyone else on the album, passing off to Doughbeezy (“Mona Lisa”), Maxo Kream (“Prey To Me”), Sosamann, Rodji Diego, Cool Amerika (“Dance”) and more. That is what Rizzoo Rizzoo means to The Sauce Factory. They already have a strong outright mascot with the Twinz, so all Rizzoo Rizzoo need do? Show up, drop something in the punch and watch the results play out. Bonus points for crafting Itz Hot Sauce and making certain a ton of Dragon Ball Z references are spread out.

Kirko Bangz, Fallin Up Mix
Whatever free rein 300 gives its artists, it’s a beautiful thing. When they let artists do them, you get results like Fetty Wap’s domination of the Billboard Hot 100 via “Again,” “679,” “My Way” and “Trap Queen." That same property can be transferred to Kirko Bangz, whose singing and charisma have made him a favorable listen for radio lovers and fans who like their music to represent a certain moment. His Fallin Up Mix arrived earlier this week, a six-track quickstrike EP where the features (Fetty Wap, K Camp, Angelo Dorsey, Ken Randle, Rich Andruws) help balance out Kirko’s R&B-loverman vibes. It’s pretty much a group of songs about women, one insular and ego-driven track (“For the Summer”) and five others that deal with matters of sexual promiscuity and preparation for the night. “Songs On Da Radio” may be the strongest song that isn’t the Ginuwine-tinged “Worry Bout It,” as it rides its concept through wavy Autotune and fun distortion. The more aggressive and operative Kirko Bangz moments are usually stored on his Progression mixtapes. Here, he’s single-minded with women and sex on the center of his plate.

Rascal F. Kennedy, “Never”
Every rapper will for a long while rap about his eventual rise. Some do it well and some are rote in it. It turns into becoming the one note said rappers play their entire career. Rascal F. Kennedy is still somewhere in the early stages, mixing the mental exploration comic books allow you to have with coming up on the southeast side of town for “Never." It’s always self, then crew, then everybody else. That’s typically how rap hierarchies work.

WesBeBlanco, “Johnny Cash”
Love sucks in the millennial world; sad but true. WesBeBlanco, an early riser and a definite upstart, uses love as a starting point to spread all over the place. “Johnny Cash” does that wonky Lil B-esque “claim to be an entirely different person on a chorus” thing, but the rest of it (through murky production) discusses being emotionless in regard to exes. There’s even a little Drake/Weeknd-like vibe here in grabbing recorded voice mails to echo these feelings.

Kyle Hubbard feat. Chase Hamblin, “Not Without Scar”
After three long years away, Kyle Hubbard is back home in Houston. He’s already got an album done and ready to go in Majestic Hotel and has released a new single, “Going Back to Houston.” His second release, “Not Without Scar,” is a bluesy glow. He’s been through shit, but he can’t help looking up and being thankful for where it’s gotten him.

Marc Haize, “The Wolf”
Jordan Belfort should have inspired a ton of rap copycats when The Wolf of Wall Street was released a few years back. Marc Haize seems to be one of the few who took his words to heart. Over some airy production from 2Dz, “The Wolf” takes on a minor R&B vibe before Haize yawns and stretches, dropping all confidence and personality while DiCaprio’s Belfort commands the world to “deal with their problems by being a fucking man."

Best Sound Outside The City (That Involves Houston)
Leon Bridges and MICK made a remix album. It’s called Coming Home to Texas, and it takes samples from the Geto Boys, Slim Thug, UGK and others and pairs them with Bridges’s vocals from his Coming Home debut album. It’s pretty fucking stellar. The best part? Houston producers Chris Rockaway, Jett I. Masstyr and Donnie Houston all contributed in some form or fashion.    
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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell