Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Revisiting Scarface's "The Last of a Dying Breed"

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in, LOL. I should've known that the recent Das EFX ("Hold It Down") revisit was not going to be the last for 2014. I was talking recently with fellow poster Charles (aka Iron Flag) and the subject of Scarface's discography came up. He brought to my attention some comments I made about a song on the album I'm going to review today (the song in question is "In & Out"). I have often said that had that song not been on this album, I would give it 5 stars. He also brought up the fact that I previously said that if an album has one or two "not so good" songs on it and the rest of the album had strong supporting material, it could still be 5 stars, citing Jay-Z's "In My Lifetime Vol. 1" as an example. Even though that album has "(Always Be My) Sunshine" and "I Know What Girls Like," two obvious weak points and even the latter isn't all that bad, the remainder of it was very strong, warranting my 5 star rating. Some may say that's a little bit biased (I'll even admit it), but it's legit overall. When it comes to rating albums like that, it's all taken on a subjective, "album by album" basis, which is a fair way of putting it in my opinion. All of this immediately got me thinking, "you know what, maybe I should revisit this," and that's how we ended up here; mad props to Iron Flag for this. 

Believe it or not, this will actually be my first time reviewing a Scarface album for the blog. Two months into the blog, I did a post chronicling his discography, which you can check out here ---> At this point in the year 2000, Face was already a legend, and considering the largely excellent body of work as 1/3 of the Geto Boys AND his solo material, even if this album, his 6th, was his last, he certainly would've ended his career on a very high note. And speaking of ending his career, I don't recall him ever saying that this album would be his last, but I'll touch on that more during the course of this revisit. So, will this revisit end up a "rating change" or will it remain the same? We shall see! Back to the year 2000 we go! 

Release date: October 3, 2000

All songs produced by Scarface, N.O. Joe, and Mr. Lee, except where noted.

1. "Intro"
The somewhat obvious "birth" intro leads us right into.....

2. "The Last of a Dying Breed"

"I don't remember much about being born/But I do remember this, I was conceived on February 10th"

  Wow, an excellent, albeit brief, title track here. Not only is Face rapping from the perspective of being inside the womb, he's also coming from the perspective that "there will never be another like him", recognizing this immediately after birth ("was the birth of a dying species, and this I know"). This is a powerful declaration and when you sit down and think about it in hip hop terms, he was right.
 *5 out of 5*

3. "Look Me In My Eyes"

Man, this is classic Scarface right here. Now, we have heard songs before where the artist in question is still haunted by their past, even when it's clear that they have moved on from such activities, however, if the same story is told with such passion to make you FEEL what the artist is saying (like Face does here) and of course done right, it's a winner and that's what "Look Me In My Eyes" is, probably the best song on this album.
*5 out of 5*

4. "It Ain't Part II"
Produced By Erick Sermon

"Still, one of the coldest ever done this shit/And ain't no muthafuckin question on who run this bitch"

To date I have not heard a part one to this and by all means if you run across it, send it to me! This is a banger right here, featuring that signature Erick Sermon sound meshing nicely with the smooth, Southern style of Face. Hey, whatever you got going on with you, especially if it's materialistic things, it means nothing to Face. He tells you too, lol.
*5 out of 5*

"Now the moral of this story here is simple and plain/Next time you mention Southern rap, remember the name"

5. "They Down With Us"
Featuring UGK

Mad props to all involved for the nod to the BDP classic "I'm Still #1". In addition, Bun B managed to do something that not too many MCs have done and that's give Face a run for his money on his own song. That's how dope Bun's verse was and Face held up his own too, of course. Now, Pimp C, God rest his soul, I can't say the same about his verse. It wasn't bad, but he really sounded uninspired considering Face and Bun's verses. Overall, a dope collabo right here
*4 out of 5*

6. "Sorry For What"

This song is full of confessions and regrets, told in such a deep manner that Face commands your attention and you have no choice but to listen to every word. Remarkable. 
*5 out of 5*

7. "O.G. To Me"
Featuring Tha Dogg Pound and Jayo Felony
Produced By Scarface and Mike Dean

"..... You mark ass bitches is low budget/Straight traitors, so fuck you and that glass dick you puff on/Don't smile in my face, when you see me get the fuck on!" -Face  

Iron Flag, if you're reading this, Face's opening verse on this one is one of my favorites, no doubt! Hot damn, Face kills this joint, I mean that opening verse was SO tight that guests Jayo Felony, Daz, and Kurupt literally had no chance of following it up. Speaking of Daz, I feel he had the second best verse, Kurupt really said nothing of note, and while I'm not a big Jayo Felony fan, his verse wasn't too bad. Damn good song overall.
*4 out of 5*

8. "The Gangsta Shit"

"It's war, so I suggest you call on your troops/Army fatigues ain't shit cause y'all don't shoot"

"I'm a Rap-A-Lot mobster, callin all the shots/From a underboss perspective and y'all gon respect it"

"I refuse to be shorted, I refuse to be defeated/Competition depleted cause my rhymes is so heated"

"You think you hardcore then come show me/Just make sure you comin for real when you come for me"

"It's gon take more than just rappin, more than just sparrin/For y'all niggas to just up and fuck wit Brad Jordan"

"The prominent, dominant one, you niggas loco/And the truth is you hoes couldn't see me wit bifocals"

I almost forgot how DOPE this apply titled banger is. Saying that Face is straight gangsta on all three verses here, complete with the above quotes to back it up, is a complete understatement.
*5 out of 5*

9. "Conspiracy Theory"

Aside from the abrupt ending, this was FINE storytelling from Face, with the main storyline, covering the first and second verses, being about a man who was pretending to be a big mob boss but was really with the FBI the entire time (something you would probably see in a movie). More dope stuff here.
*5 out of 5*

".... I'll teach you niggas conspiracy theories/I spit this shit in code, but I pray that you hear me"

10. "Watch Yo Step"
Produced By Scarface, N.O. Joe, and Swift

"I'm a different type of specimen not known to man/I refuse to lose, I was born to win"

Appropriately titled and dope as hell, almost as gangsta as "The Gangsta Shit".
 *5 out of 5*

11. "Get Out"
Featuring Jay-Z

"When the money get low and the hungriness show, niggas betta get the fuck out the house!"

Lol, well that just about sums up this Jay-Z assisted song with a semi-running story to match. I've never had a problem with this song, but I gotta speak on it a little bit. This song is good, but I really feel we never got that awesome Scarface/Jay-Z collabo. Don't get me wrong, "Guess Who's Back" and "This Can't Be Life", both also feature Beanie Sigel, are great songs, but as far as a true Face/Jay collabo, time may be running out as to whether we get something like that at this point.   
*4 out of 5*

12. "In & Out" 
Featuring Too Short and Devin The Dude

Oh God, after such an incredible sequence of songs, we get this. Now, I've NEVER liked this song and listening to it again confirms why I never liked it. I'm not saying that Face doesn't/didn't have his way with the ladies, nor am I saying he wasn't capable of making a song for the ladies, but I've always felt these types of songs were out of place on his albums. The only other thing I have to say about this song is that it's clearly THE low point on this album.
*1 out of 5*

13. "And Yo"
Featuring Redman and Young Noble

 For the first time pairing of Face and Redman, this was good, but I feel it could've been so much better. Part of me wants to say that even those both men were still in their primes at this point, the collabo may have been a few years too late. They would do much better on Redman's "Malpractice" album with the banger "Real Niggaz". (Young Noble's verse wasn't bad, but it really came off as out of place here.)
*3 out of 5*

14. "In My Time" 
Produced By Scarface and Tone Capone

Everything comes full circle with this excellent closer. Although Face had already told us that he's "the last of a dying breed", this song finds him in a "born again" state of mind, confirming that as a man and an artist, there's more to come, essentially saying it's "the start of a new beginning". In a nice touch, he also hints at his son continuing his legacy. NICE closing song.
*5 out of 5*

15. "11-9-2000"
Face thanks everyone who has supported him since day one. Listening to this again, you REALLY get the sense that he was retiring and it felt legit.

Wow, what a revisit this was! This album is in fact a LOT better than I remembered. Face still was on top of his game at this point, delivering one of the best albums of 2000. Furthermore, here's the question. Is this album 5 stars in my book? Well, I want to go the full monty, however, "In & Out" stops that dead in its tracks, plus "And Yo" was good but not great, so here we have a strong, 4.5 star album. Speaking of Face's career, it thankfully continued, as he returned in 2002 with the classic "The Fix," probably my favorite album from him. In the end, an excellent album from the South's greatest MC of all time. If you haven't heard this, it's a strong recommendation to check out and if it's been a while since you bumped it, make this the next album you bump on your list. Scarface, I indeed thank you!

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