(Today's Reader Review comes from Justa, who decided that it was taking far too long for me to get to the Scarface solo discography myself. So he wrote up Face's seventh album (and first for Def Jam South), The Fix, for me. Hey, I just gave you two reviews in one; let me take this quick nap. Leave some notes for him below.)
Once upon a time, the house that Russell and Rubin built, Def Jam Records, started a offshoot labeled they called Def Jam South (how creative!). In order to legitimize this spinoff, one of the most respected rappers alive today, Houston's own Brad Jordan (also known as Scarface from the Geto Boys) was named president of this new venture. In turn, Scarface left his old label home, Rap-A-Lot Records, in favor of going where the money was.
Now I'm not really sure what Face actually did during his tenure, aside from releasing an album from labelmate Ludacris's weed carriers Disturbing Tha Peace (I won't speak much on the rest of them, but the Field Mobb (who wants to see Max actually write a review for them? Anyone?) and Shawna can actually spit). But one of his first moves was to record and release his seventh solo album, The Fix. One major advantage of his label jump from Rap-A-Lot to Def Jam South was a much bigger budget to work with, which meant that Face could finally afford to pay A-list outside producers to work for him.
When The Fix was released, former hip hop bible The Source (before being outright discredited thanks to the Lil Kim and Ray Benzino nonsense) anointed it with their once-widely recognized rating of five mics. The album featured some of the hottest producers of the time, including a pre-The College Dropout/post-The Blueprint Kanye West (on three tracks). Most hip hop fans weren’t used to hearing Uncle Face spittin' on anything that wasn’t Down South-style production, so The Fix was seen as an attempt to attract the attention of both the people who believed that “true” hip hop only came from either New York or California and the people who were watching BET before eleven o'clock (and I think all two of y'all know what I'm talking about).
Would Scarface gain a sales boost as a result of his label switch? Would radio play any of the singles from The Fix? And, most importantly, would Brad Jordan sell out?
1. THE FIX
An introductory skit with some fake Curtis Mayfield-like dude singing about being strung out? Yeah, this won't be getting a replay, that's for sure.
The first actual song that you can hear Brad Jordan rap over is dope. He's in classic Face mode, definitely going in over this Southern-fried China Black beat. I have no complaints.
3. IN COLD BLOOD
The first beat from Kanye West on The Fix, recorded before the producer “wasn’t to cool for the safe belt”, follows up the last track as something Brad sounds right at home on. For those of you afraid of 'Ye's inclusion on The Fix, don't worry: there is no Auto-Tune present anywhere on “In Cold Blood”. Remember, this album was released back when Cher was the only artist using it.
4. GUESS WHO'S BACK (FEAT. BEANIE SIGEL & JAY-Z)
I’m never a fan of the long song intros where Hova just talks for hours on end. But when he finally raps, he at least turns in a solid verse. Scarface fits right into Mr. West's second beat of the day, and Beans is pretty good, too. The production work leans a bit more toward the Roc-A-Fella dynasty of old than it does Mr. Scarface, but this was still a cool track.
5. MY BLOCK
I love this track. I love the fact that it received regular radio airplay. I love the video. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this song. 'Nuff said.
6. KEEP ME DOWN
Some down south production courtesy of Nottz? Winning! (Are people still saying this?) This song is about haters, basically, but Face doesn't just claim that there are folks out there who are hatin': he actually goes into detail about the folks that plot to keep him down. He even manages to not make the word “haters” (one of the most overused pieces of a rapper's vocabulary) sound tired.
7. WHAT CAN I DO? (FEAT. KELLY PRICE)
I always appreciate it when Face takes a somber look at life. The pain in his voice always gets to me: he's just that good at expressing emotion, which is a skill a lot of artists have a problem with. The hook is kind of paint-by-numbers, though.
8. IN BETWEEN US (FEAT. NAS)
Nas gets right into his verse as only he can, and then Scarface finally comes in almost three full minutes into the track. No, the guest doesn't have a second verse: the middle of the song is dominated by a fake T-Boz (of TLC)-sounding performer on the (somewhat preachy) hook. That's what we all look for in a Scarface/Nas collaboration, right? Next!
9. SOMEDAY (FEAT. FAITH EVANS)
The Neptunes handled the production on this track, and the beat isn't bad. Faith Evans is on it as well, and I'll let you in on a little secret: she isn't rapping. Face shares his faith (see what I did there?) with the listener on this song (I wonder if I can now refer to Malice (of the Clipse) as a biter, now that he only spits God-related verses?) Overall, there may be too much Faith for me to truly enjoy this song (and I'm not talking about the subject matter).
This song seems to have been awkwardly shoehorned into the tracklisting. After a light beat from The Neptunes on the previous track, this West Coast-paced instrumental just doesn't sound like a good fit. As you may have guessed from the title, “Sellout” is about those who create “fake-fake-fake records-records” and who are just frontin' in general. It isn't a bad song, but whoever sequenced The Fix didn't do it justice.
11. HEAVEN (FEAT. KELLY PRICE)
Another Kelly Price feature? Was she really that popular ten years ago? She actually gives one of the better R&B features of the entire album, though, on a track where Face gives the listener a peek into what he considers to be “Heaven”. Right when you think there will be a third chorus, the instrumental switches into something much harder-sounding (definitely Kanye West's influence as a co-producer), and Face calls out pretty much the entire United States of America. This might be one of the best songs on The Fix.
12. I AIN'T THE ONE (FEAT. WC)
Remember that song from earlier that I said didn't sound like a good fit? Well, “I Ain't The One” is even more out of place. The production is more West Coast-ish, and WC (of Madd Circle and Westside Connection fame) contributes a verse. The song sounds good for what it was, though.
This was just an outro.
THE LAST WORD: Before people start calling me a hater, let me start off with the positive: the eleven songs featured on Scarface's The Fix still sound fresh even though it's been about ten years since it was first released. Face doesn’t disappoint lyrically, and the production is top-notch. Now the bad: it only lasts for eleven tracks (and two interludes), so while I still feel that the project was fairly solid, it could have used maybe two more songs to tie it together a bit better, especially with those two California-influenced entries that were thrown in at random, probably because there was nowhere else to place them. I still will go on record to say that The Fix is a must-own album. There is plenty on here to enjoy, and if you already like Scarface, the album presents the same goodness he’s been putting out there for years, just with a bigger budget. If you're not a Scarface fan, I think there is enough on The Fix to engage you as well. Definitely go out and cop this: the five-mic rating actually makes sense, and this should really be in your collection already.
(Leave your comments for Justa below.)