12 O'Clock Track: Scarface's appearance on Gang Starr's somber, massive "Betrayal"

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Gang Starrs Moment of Truth
  • Gang Starr's Moment of Truth
For the past two weeks I've been listening heavily to Houston rapper Scarface, largely due to his 1994 album The Diary, a rugged, faux-operatic gangsta rap album that is at once totally badass and weirdly dated, its gangsta rap cliches sounding cartoonish and overblown nearly 20 years later (you can witness the ridiculousness of some of these songs in Mike Judge's Office Space, which is required viewing). While I've been trying to get my friends into Scarface's music, some of them are having a hard time connecting with it because of how violent, angry, and foul some of the lyrical content is. But part of what I really enjoy about Scarface is how his bullfrog voice conveys a world-weariness that comes from being forced into a life of crime by economic and social circumstances. Nowhere is this better represented than on Gang Starr's "Betrayal," one of the finest songs on the New York duo's 1998 masterpiece Moment of Truth. Sequenced towards the end of the album, Scarface's appearance here is my favorite example of his storytelling skills and heavy-hearted persona. In his verse, he tells the story of a young man trying to become a ballplayer in the NBA, but street violence prevents him from ever getting that far. Also, DJ Premier's beat is insane, stitching together concrete-thick drums, Gotham City horns, and whatever the twinkling percussion is on War's "Deliver the Word," which is sampled. For today's 12 O'Clock Track, check out the gateway Scarface performance for the uninitiated.

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