It was October 1994 and I had just come home from a heavy night out. I crashed on to the sofa and switched on the box. MTV Raps was on…cool. I quickly threw in a VHS tape and hit the record button. (I hated missing an episode). Then it dropped… Scarface’s new joint “I Seen A Man Die”.
Looking back now, the alcohol must have been messing with my head, because I initially had mixed feelings. “Till Death Do Us Part” was still fresh in my tape deck and his previous 2 solo’s were also getting regular rotation. But this was a different Face to what I had become accustomed to. His flow was different and I was still deciding if I liked it or not. I was wondering if this new style was just a one off or would it become his new default style of rhyming. But non of that would matter because after a second listen I was totally hooked and the only thing on my mind was getting down to HMV to pick up the album and see what other goodies where contained on it.
About a week later I had left the store with the tape (yup, cassettes were the format of choice for me back then as I moved around a lot) the clear wrapper was off in seconds and the tape was swiftly in the Sony WM-DX100…..
“Rat tat tat tat till your ass hit the motherfuckin floor / here comes the white sheet”….. BooOOM!!!
It was official. Face was still going hard as ever and showing no signs of letting up. This album contains some of the coldest (hard mother fucker) lyrics ever put down. Rappers can chat all kinds of hard shit on a track but few can deliver lyrics in such a way that your totally convinced they mean every word of what they say. Well in my opinion Scarface is one such rapper who has that 2Pac like authenticity when it comes to delivering high drama lyrics.
Tracks 3 and 4 “No Tears” and “Jesse James” also play out like a symphony of violence in true Brad Jordan fashion, taking shots at studio gangster types playing the big shot only to be given a very vivid lyrical reality check by the Bradster.
At this point on Brad goes a bit deeper, even taking on the persona of death himself as portrayed in the video “I Seen A Man Die“.
“You start your journey into outer space / You see yourself in the light, but you’re still feeling outta place / So you standing in the tunnel of eternal life, and you see the ones you never learn to love in life / Make the choice, let it go but you can back it up / If you ain’t at peace with God, you need to patch it up.”
The first time I really caught that verse, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Scarface is a truly special artist when it comes to the words that penetrate your soul, and a prime example of “your favorite rappers, rapper”. I have touched on this subject before, of how some of the golden era rappers had the ability to really put their all in to a song and literally bleed emotion on to the track. If there was a benchmark for measuring that kind of thing then “I Seen A Man Die” would be it.
The next truly stand out track brings you back down to earth with a reality check as Scarface brings in Ice Cube (quite a rarity in those days) for an explosive and defiant collab aimed at the racist establishment trying to kill off gangster rap. Face drops the first bomb shell’s, getting the listener to think and consider things from a different perspective….
“So why you trying kick some dust up / America’s been always known for blaming us n****s for they fuck-ups / And we were always considered evil / Now they trying to bust our only code of communicating with our people”
Then goes on to say….
“Lets peep the game from a different angle / Matt Dillon pulled his pistol every time him and someone tangled / So why you criticize me / For the shit that you see on your tv, that rates worse than PG / Just bring your ass to where they got me / So you can feel the hand of the dead body “
Devin The Dude provides the hook before Cube, who at that time was at the peak of his career and still politically charged and motivated, enters in for verse 3…..
“You best to free your mind / Before I free my nine / And stop fucking with Devoid of Pop Or feel my hot rocks / Bang,bang, boom boom, ping ping / I’m the black / White boys got a magazine and don’t kow how to act / I’ll attack and make you vomit / Down with Khalid Abdul Muhammad / Do he got a brother, I’m it now / I’m the illest / Wanna kill this house nigga Don Cornelius / Can you feel this?”
Then goes on to say….
“But I bust two times to the guts / Do the Reverend Calvin Butts / Got a pair of nuts? / I started this gangsta shit in ’86 / Now you dissing me / For publicity / Isn’t he a ho to the third degree / Who me, I’m a g who like to scrap-a-lot / Down with Rap-A-Lot / And I can’t stop, won’t stop / So fuck Bill and Hillary / Ice Cube their ain’t no killing me”
Truly one of the most memorable collaborations of all time and both artists delivered blazing verses that didn’t just sound dope, they were actually saying something to the listener.
20 years on and this album still comes out from time to time. It still sounds as dramatic as it did back then. Face’s usual production staff NO Joe and Mike Dean always bring the goods with heavy bass and eerie sounding strings that compliment Brads southern drool perfectly.
And on that note I will leave you with another line off the album
“And I can say this once again / you can cry but you’ll still die / there’ll be no tears in the end”