Few gangsta rappers have stuck around as long as Brad Jordan, aka Scarface. He got his start as the most talented member of the notorious Houston trio the Geto Boys, and 12 years on, he's still rhyming about the hustling life: "I turn a dream into reality / With a fuck-you mentality," as he puts it on "In Cold Blood," one of the standout tracks on The Fix, his seventh and best solo album to date. (It's his first for Def Jam South, of which he was named president two years ago.) The grim, minimalist funk of Scarface's long-term producing partner, Mike Dean, is leavened here by a handful of ringers, most notably the Neptunes, who construct a straightforward soul workout on "Someday," and Kanye West, who flips a bluesy piano on the great single "On My Block." And Scarface is at the top of his game lyrically, emphasizing the search for redemption hinted at as far back as the Geto Boys' 1991 masterpiece "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" and crystallized on 1994's "I Seen a Man Die." While the album is suffused with thug tales like "In Cold Blood" ("I ain't playin no games, I'm on a mission for the change / Motherfuck bein a lame, I'm ten toes in the game / Deep, I can't slip / This whole world want me to sleep") and "Keep Me Down" ("We turned the street hustle into an art"), he tempers his hyperbole in "On My Block," a warm but unflinching tribute to his neighborhood ("On my block, it's like the world don't exist / We stay confined to this small little section with dividends"). And "Someday" and "Heaven" are emotional--when Scarface declares, "I'm serious about religion, just ain't no song," on the latter, it's one of the year's most powerful hip-hop moments. He's performing as part of the Lyricist Lounge Tour, along with Erick Sermon and Wordsworth. Tuesday, December 10, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Vincent Soyez.