There are a lot arguments that could be made for crowning Scarface the best rapper ever to do it.
He's consistent, he has undeniable musicality, he's one the best storytellers around, his discography is one the most solid in rap history, and he helped set the blueprint for a hoard rappers who've come after him.
No matter what track he's on, or who he's rapping with, he always holds his own, without ever forcing it. When Face raps, you know what he's bringing to the table — bars, introspection, and vivid storytelling.
He also arguably has the most discography in the rap history. Think about it. He's never released a bad album. Mediocre, maybe. But never an album that just wasn't good. What other rapper who's been in the game for nearly 30 years can you say that about? Scarface's style and scope haven't really changed much, though it's been perfected, and yet, his music still sounds timely and resonates.
To that end, his lengthy discography features three certifiable classics — Mr. Scarface Is Back, The Diary, and The Fix and at least two that are strong contenders —The Untouchable and Emeritus. Not to mention his foundation-building work with one the best rap groups ever, The Geto Boys.
Scarface's lyrical talent is the cornerstone for street rap laced with perspective and deep self-awareness and introspection. Nas says he directly owes Face for inspiration, and pretty much every emo rapper whose battled with internal demons, grappled with life and death, and pontificated on their place in a corrupt, racist world owes something to Scarface, who's been doing that since before it was a thing, starting back in the late '80s.
Not to mention the musicality he brings to hip-hop. He was raised among blues and soul musicians and it shows. He played the guitar on a lot his records (sometimes backwards because he's a lefty) and had always produced or co-produced much his own music.
Basically, you can't dismiss Scarface as a legend or overstate his subtle or overt influence on virtually every style that hip-hop's produced.
We've taken a look at Facemob's massive discography and pulled 20 songs that readily illustrate why Scarface is indeed the GOAT. By no means is this list conclusive — there are hoards songs to choose from that represent the depth and complexity his music. Still, this list showcases the scope and depth Face's deeply proundly rooted legacy.
Ask casual fans to quote Scarface, and his opening verse from this song is likely going to be their go-to. It’s come to embody what Face most represents, clear-eyed, dark storytelling and a look at the results produced from the complicated relationship between human nature and man-created difficult environments. The song not only propelled The Geto Boys to rap stardom but pinpointed Face (who wrote the entire song, except Willie D's verse) as the standout lyricist in the group.
“I had no idea back in 1990 that it was gonna be a big record," Face told Complex in 2013. "That record was written when I was 19-years-old, I was a kid then. Those Geto Boys records were recorded when I was a teenager."
"At night I can't sleep, I toss and turn/Candlesticks in the dark, visions bodies being burned/Four walls just staring at a nigga/I'm paranoid, sleeping with my finger on the trigger/My mother's always stressin' I ain't living right/But I ain't goin' out without a fight"
Coming f his acclaimed work (which a lot folks deem to be his best album), 1995’s The Diary, anticipation was high for Facemob’s 1997 follow-up, The Untouchable. He didn’t at all disappoint. The production was a bit sleeker and darker and produced several hits, including “Smile” which featured 2Pac. The track came out several months after Pac's untimely death in September 1996, and the pairing was a particularly anticipated one, especially since both rappers were known to frequently grapple with their inner-demons on wax, thoughts about their impoverished communities, all with relatable storytelling. It peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is the only single released by Scarface to go Gold.
“Now, as I open up my story, with the blaze your blunts/And you can picture thoughts slowly, up on phrases I wrote/And I can walk you through the days that I done/I ten wish that I could save everyone, but I'm a dreamer”
Scarface is one the best storytellers rap has ever seen, as witnessed on his 1991 solo debut, Mr. Scarface, particularly on the track, “I’m Dead,” where he weaves an eerie tale about his death.
“At the end one Ganksta N-I-P’s albums one his songs, he went f talking crazy like, ‘Oh shit, I’m dead, I’m dead.’ That was one my favorite Ganksta N-I-P records and that’s where the title came from,” he told Complex.
“My mom and girl talkin, holdin on to Brad's kids/I look into the box G/Son a bitch! I don't believe it, that's me!/Momma kissed me on my head/Aww shit.. I'm dead (I'm dead)”
“Look Me In My Eyes” is the lead track from Face’s more underrated albums, 2000’s The Last A Dying Breed. But man, does he go f on the song. He spends the first long verse talking the Feds harassing him and his loyalty to J. Prince, while the second verse is dedicated his battle with himself and his spirituality. It’s easily one Facemob’s hardest tracks, as he spits nonstop over booming bass drums and storytelling strings.
“You just wanna destroy me, just like you did my God/But now I must expose you, and tell my boys the truth/Listen up my niggas: "The F.B.I. been watchin' you"/Especially if you black, and tryin to leave the streets/And get f in this music, you see the way they doin me/Runnin in my crib, makin niggas lie/Nigga get a scapegoat and take this 25/You know I ain't no dopeboy, ain't never been a mule/I admit I use to sell rocks, but that was back in school/Now I just do music, and smoke a little weed/But not enough to run a dope house, so why you fuck with me?”
Scarface was already considered one the best lyricists in hip-hop, but The Fix is probably the album that propelled him to GOAT status in the mind those who’d previously overlooked his skill and consistency. The Fix is always in the conversation as being Face’s best album, and this track, where he teams up with Nas (who’d long considered Face one his favorite rappers), and Tanya Herron doing a T-Boz impression, is a standout.
“But I'mma tell a motherfucker like this/You only good as what you come up against/Nigga you get what you get/Sure the grass is greener on the other side the fence/But any attempts and you gonna need the guy in the trench/I'ma starter while you riding the bench/You saying you a player, well I'm the one designing your prints"
A dark track from Face’s solo debut, this is a fan and Face favorite. Again, it’s Face relaying eerie introspection, and battle with his mental health, which ten leads to violence.
“Dear Diary, I’m having a little problem / I can’t make it by myself maybe you can help me solve em / I’m confused and I don’t know what to do / I’m hoping you can help me cause there’s no one else to talk to / I want to die, but it ain’t for me / I try to talk to my dad, but my old man ignores me / He says I’m delirious / And I drink too much, so he doesn’t take me serious / But little does he know I’m really losing it / I got a head, but ain’t no screws in it…”
“Heaven,” produced by T-Mix and Kanye West, touches on three basic ideas — finding “heaven in the form a girl,” finding literal “heaven” through spirituality and trying to find heaven in the midst hellish oppression courtesy America’s systemic oppression. It’s one the most vivid tracks on The Fix.
“America the Beautiful, don't be so cold/How do you expectin' our seeds gonna grow?/When you trap us in the ghetto/And show love, to the other muthafuckers/While we right here starvin' at home”
Face and Cube teamed up to deliver one Face’s best collabs ever, from The Diary. With Devin crooning on the hook, Facemob and Cube provide righteous anger at the state America’s racist systems; the song is an immediate standout in Face’s long catalog.
“We got this whole motherfucker on a mission / Now the whole entire world’s gotta try to come up with a quick decision / They claim we threats to society / And now they calling on the government to try and make somebody quiet / For the bullshit they done to me / Gangsta Nip, Spice-1 or 2Pac never gave a gun to me…”
The lead single from his 2002 album The Fix, this could’ve veered into trite territory, but Face’s reminiscing on what it was like growing up in “south side Houston Texas, making your mark” over a Donny Hathaway/Roberta Flack sample, is so honest and real, it ended up being a memorable ditty on an album laced with bangers.
“That's me, dogg, on my block, I ain't have to play the big shot/Niggas knew me back when I was stealing beers from Shamrock/And my nickname was Creepy, if Black June could see me/He'd be tripping – and I'd bet he still try to tease me”
Soul-searching Scarface is always Face at his best — and this is one his signature tracks where he’s doing exactly that, from his sophomore solo album, The World Is Yours.
“A new day, brings a new problem to a brother / And all I gots ta say is thank god for my mother / Cause without my mommy dear my life would’ve been joke / Either locked up playin’ dead and still slangin’ dope but nope / The lord he had a plan for me / And with his help, my mother made a man me…”
One Face’s most well-known tracks, “I Seen a Man Die” (which hit the Top 40 on the Billboard 100) is spooky, intellectual, and thought-provoking— all adjectives that have come to define Face.
"I hear you breathin' but your heart no longer sounds strong/But you kinda scared dying so you hold on/And you keep on blacking out and your pulse is low/Stop trying to fight the reaper, just relax and let it go"
A classic track from Face, which finds him leaning into his soul/blues upbringing by interpolating Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” this is vintage Face. It’s tracks like these that helped set the blueprint for other world-weary, soul-searching rappers to follow — JAY-Z and Nas to T.I. to Kendrick Lamar.
“Life goes on in the streets my hood when you die / But some cry, and gets by, while others choose to wonder why…”
Emeritus, The tenth solo album from Scarface, is among his best. It debuted at No. 24 on the Billboard 200 and was praised by critics and fans alike, providing yet another compelling argument for why Scarface is one the best — if not the best — to ever do it. “Just Can’t Get Right” is an aching, melancholy track about trying to make it out the environment that was designed to denigrate black folks, stamped by a hook from incredibly agile vocalist, Bilal.
“I lay in bed lookin up at the ceiling/As the fan turns in a circle, thinkin 'bout my evil/CNN on my TV, bombs in the skies/Over Baghdad they fight but they don't know why/What they said about Hussein, was a God damn lie/Raised a war against a religion for oil, don't lie/I seen, kids from the hood livin like they gon' die/With the mindset be broke or let's go get high/With the people livin so crazy how we gon' get by?/Gasoline five dollars, how the fuck we gon' drive?/Can't afford to fill our prescriptions so we all gon' die/CVS is slangin dope on every block worldwide”
A classic track from The Geto Boys, "The World Is Ghetto" is Facemob fering his life perspective from what’s probably the Houston group’s best album, 1996’s The Resurrection.
“Lets take a journey to the other side/Where many people learn to live with their handicaps/While others die/Where muthafuckas had no money spots/And if they did then they ass went insane/When all the money stops”
In 2006, Face teamed up with a couple youngins Wilie Hen The Bay and Young Malice to create the group, despite hitting No. 14 on Billboard’s Rap/Hip-Hop Albums chart, their fering, One Hunid was a slept on project that nevertheless showcased the Houston vets ability to mold and lead young rappers to fer a solid album. "Not A Word" produced Scarface is incredible storytelling from the game’s best.
"$45,000 in the duffle bag loungin'/ that's enough enough to put us back on our feet, to stop scroungin'…"
Don’t sleep on the latter half Scarface’s massive catalog. He’s one the most consistent artists in music for a reason, as was showcased on 2015’s Deeply Rooted. “Hot Seat” produced by longtime Face collaborator, N.O. Joe, is Face doing what he does best, shooting down the shady tactics America’s racist criminal justice system with a vivid, first-person story about a dude going to county jail for smoking weed.
“I ain't got a lawyer, I don't need one/Give me thirty days, you get three one/I ain't tryna piss in a jug, bitch/Just because I'm black, I get fucked with/Bet, if I had been a white dude/I'd have never been arrested, look at Michael/And even if I swam like a fish, though/They still would've threw me in the Crisco/And fried a nigga's ass in some hot grease/I'm just tryna get my ass out the hot seat”
One Face’s signature songs from 1997’s The Untouchable, “Mary Jane” also has to be one the best odes to weed any genre, ever.
“If it's taxable it's cool to smoke–kill or not/And the alcohol is killin' folks- true or not/Other people try to make you bad–but I know you not/When my situation's lookin' sad I know I got/A true friend in my time need-all I need/You’re natural you come from seeds”
Short and to the point, this is Face at his best, getting in quick and simple about what it was like growing up in South Acres, Houston.
“Hit the school yard no report card cuz I’m larger than life/Little smokey eyes shinin’ cuz I’ high as a kite”
Face collaborated with JAY-Z, who obviously took direction from the Houston legend, delivering one the most notable tracks from his discography. Over Kanye West production, Face, Jay and Beanie Sigel all sound they were having fun on the street track, efficiently delivering memorable bars.
“From the womb to the tomb, a hot pot a jar and a spoon/Trying to make me forty thousand and move/Motels, star-studded, rock stars and goons/Plain clothes wanna run in my room (woooo)”
Another collab with Devin the Dude, "Smartz" was Face rapping about sociopolitical issues, warning people to stay aware about the ills dirty politics — something he continues to do regularly.
"I figure niggas wanna see/The side society they don't see on TV/So when I bring the shit, I bring the shit like I seen it/And when I scream the shit, I sing the shit like I mean it…"