“I really think the most important part of the song is the first four or five lines that you hear,” Scarface wrote in his memoir, Diary of a Madman. “Those are the come lines-the bars that are going to draw you in, set the mood, and let you know what the song is about and whether or not you should be f***king with it or not . . . I pride myself on my come lines and I always put the most time into those.”
So while the independently released Deeply Rooted begins and ends with an eerie instrumental courtesy of Mike Dean, the opening lines to the album are, “You win some, you lose some / Life in a nutshell.” And the weight of those words are powerful enough to not only pull in listeners for the song, but, as it turns out, work beautifully as a set-up for the entire project too. However, that should come as no surprise. Scarface has always been one of Hip-Hop’s best songwriters and most thought-provoking rappers and this collection of music continues that tradition.
Two Deeply Rooted standout tracks are “God” and “Steer.” On the former, with an outstanding assist from John Legend on its chorus, Face says what he would do if he were God ("Let the world see my face," "answer every prayer one at a time") and ponders what life would be like if God went away - adolescent suicide, killers walking the streets, adults harming children, etc. The irony, of course, is that these tragedies do still happen. But then on “Steer” with Rush Davis, he puts his faith in a higher power to save him from himself. It all manifests itself in the humbling realization that even in one’s own world, he or she is not the center of it and that there are often many forces in motion at any given time. And it’s Scarface’s willingness to accept it that has allowed his music to have so much depth over the years. While his contemporaries revel in shallow material excess to appear larger than life, Brad Jordan addresses complicated aspects of daily life with laser-like precision.
Elsewhere on Deeply Rooted, “Do What I Do” is a stellar collaboration with Nas, Rick Ross, and Z-Ro. They all make great contributions, but it’s Nas that steals the show with a verse that touches on issues ranging from police brutality to the prison system and the recent economic collapse. “All Bad” is an optimistic record with an organ infused instrumental (props to N.O. Joe and Ervin Pope for that) and hymn-style hook which does provide light on an otherwise very dark album. A few of the best examples of this are in “F**k You Too” where Face’s baritone delivery presents a kill or be killed worldview that shape so many in ghettos around the globe and “The Hot Seat” which plays like Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” if it were a bad one.
The thumping keys of “You” create a solid nostalgic track and Cee-Lo works well on the hook. Then “Voices” is a sweeter sounding song and Scarface’s compassionate delivery is worth noting, but the idea of voices in one’s own head is a bit cliche. Fortunately, the album’s closing rap number, “No Problem,” makes up for it and brings everything full circle in a really powerful way. “Rhyming at its finest, unlike those vaginas / They claim that they the real deal, knowing I’m the highest / Time for the command chain, I am what the streets made / I am what the hood built, you are just a weak lame.”
Scarface realizes his enormous influence and it is undeniable that he has created a complete uncompromising body of work with Deeply Rooted. Lyrically, the album is on point and, as far as the beats, N.O. Joe (who handles the bulk of the production) knows how to compliment Face's delivery better than anyone. Other than being a bit too feature heavy and the aforementioned "Voices," both of which are just minor missteps, Deeply Rooted delivers. In a recent interview, Scarface was asked to rank his albums, but didn't include any Geto Boys material or one legitimate solo release (2000's The Last of a Dying Breed). If asked to do it again in the future, I would hope he'd include this release near the top his list. Is it better than The Fix or The Diary? No. But it is one of the better albums by one of the game's best emcees, and so that still makes for one of dopest Hip-Hop albums in recent years.
Overall Rating: 9/10
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