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“Rappers don’t retire, they make comebacks.”

That’s from HipHopSite.Com’s review of Scarface’s supposed farewell album, Emeritus, which came out at the end of 2008. Obviously, he’s back, and the retirement talk was never really believable. And really, why should he call it quits when he can still play the game?

Like a great athlete, Scarface needs a pre-season and Dopeman Music, a brief, 37-minute mixtape seems to fulfill that role. It’s nice to see him back on the field, but you know he’s not going to play the whole game. Still, it’s somewhat disappointing to have half of those 37 minutes given up to sidekicks. Rappers James B. and Monk Kaza are featured on six of 12 tracks (excluding two skits). They’re okay, but with a short mixtape like this, you just want to hear Face let loose.

When he does, he reminds us of why he’s captured our attention for so long. On “N Word,” Face lets off a barrage of racially charged lyrics over a hard-driving piano-based beat: “You gets no respect in the courts if you black/If you a Mexican, they wanna try to send you back/To the border/White judge, black court reporter.”

“Hustle Game” is one extended verse with Face in rare form, taking on the persona of a hustler trying to survive and thrive (“being poor is not an option, I dun been it before”) and learn from his mistakes despite all the pressures around him (“I got children that I don’t even know”). He takes it all the way to his deathbed: “My momma praying as I’m laying here, I close my eyes/fading in and outta consciousness/I’m cold and tired/I can hear my time clock ticking/Close to dying/I was shot, trying to take what I thought was mine.”

Moments of mastery like that just come and go too quickly on Dopeman Music. Although the beats are steady, they need more than one Scarface verse per track to really shine.

One thing is for sure, Face hasn’t mellowed much in his post-retirement phase. On “Lyrical Assault,” he’s not above going hard in the street game: “Yeah I made a little money, it’s gone now/It’s me against the world so I don’t even make songs now/I’m in my 30s, so you thinking I slowed down/But fuck that, I cover neighborhoods with my coke now.”

If you’re looking for a quick hit of hard beats and rhymes, Dopeman Music will do, but for Scarface, who is working on a full-length release, The Habit, this is just a warm-up.

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