Scarface’s Emeritus is being billed as his farewell. The last record. There are all kinds of caveats, of course. He might do a group album, maybe some production work, maybe a rock album (please, Face, don’t do it!). But I think any claims of retirement from Brad Jordan are about as believable as Brett Favre.
Rappers don’t retire, they make comebacks.
In any case, we have Emeritus, the ninth solo effort from Houston’s finest and an MC many would say is one of the all time greats, bringing a healthy catalog of classics to the table both on his own and with The Geto Boys. His latest, though, is no classic. It’s also not an embarrassment. It’s a merely decent album with Face staying true to his core principals of hardcore gangster rap.
On “It’s Not a Game,” the hall of famer shows he can still get it done: “Now analyzin all the wrong I’ve done/I’m surprised I ain’t dead I guess the good die young/I put a hole in a ni**a head, fuck why run/from a lazy motherfucker cause he flashed his gun.” That’s just Face letting you know he ain’t the one to be…with. His flow is still there and he’s still a convincing, even scary gangster.
Face’s early albums let us in on a genuine paranoia of death, the police and the many dangers and pitfalls for a young black man living on the streets of the south side of Houston, and 2002′s The Fix gave us the perspective of a wise OG who’d somehow managed to outsmart the game. Emeritus has flashes of those elements, but it gives up a little too much space to standard posturing and tiring misogyny (“Who Are They” and “High Note”) that seem almost beneath someone of Face’s stature. There’s also a stale quality to some of the beats, too many crooners singing hooks and a variety of forgettable guest spots.
It’s when Face gets reflective that he has his best moments. Check out how uncomfortably well he can spin a tale of unspeakable tragedy on “Still Here”:
“Up early in the morning wakened by the sound of my cell phone/Donny Hathaway singing on the ring tone/It was a homey that I went to school with/telling me life wasn’t shit to fool with/these young ni**ers steady dying over dumb shit/fast money for your soul now you done with/you hear the gun click/blood stains on the walls and carpet/the pain and the hardship/of a father identifying his child/from a photo of him lying with his brains blown out/let’s rewind to where it all took place/up in his math class earlier that day/hey, it’s high school and everybody’s trying to earn a rep/brought a handgun and shot the little homey to death.”
It’s verses like this that make you appreciate why Scarface has been so good for so long. He has the clarity of vision and storytelling ability of a great writer. It’s just that with flashes of brilliance like that, the weaker tracks sound that much more pedestrian. - Stefan Schumacher
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