Saying Goodbye to Scarface, Again
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Saying Goodbye to Scarface, Again

After years of the Houston icon hinting at retirement, health issues have made the end seem nearer than ever. Here’s what happened at one of Face Mob’s final(?) concerts.

Scarface built his career on resilience—the capacity to recover quickly from life’s difficulties and exude toughness.

This past May, when ’Face announced in the form of a 32-city tour that he’d be leaving rap for good, it was natural to wonder if he was for real. Over the 51-year-old legend’s storied career, he’s tossed out phrases like “last album,” “Scarface is dead,” and “I’m done with rap” time and time again in interviews, yet said retirement didn’t happen in 2006, 2008, nor 2021. But this time feels different. There’s reason to believe Face Mob’s summer 2022 tour, rolled out with Farewell Tour branding, is the Houston rapper’s final hurrah.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, ’Face revealed on Willie D’s Geto Boys Reloaded Podcast that he tested positive for Covid-19 and was battling the illness. “I’ve been shot, homie,” he said, “and that didn’t feel like that. My life been threatened, and I never felt in no way, shape, form, or fashion like I didn’t have control of the situation.”

That same year, Scarface’s health continued to decline when he revealed he was on dialysis due to kidney failure from Covid-19 complications. He posted on Twitter a call for an organ donor, which ultimately led to his son, Christopher Jordan, giving him a kidney transplant.

To see ‘Face bounce back and go on tour in 2022 is a blessing. With the circumstances involved, I couldn’t miss seeing him perform for what would be my first time. I knew he was special ever since I first heard his emotional verse on Jay-Z’s “This Can’t Be Life.” Ray Cash’s “Bumpin’ My Music,” which also features Face Mob, soundtracked my high school years. And he’s never stopped being dope. So of course I had to catch a showcase of his greatness in person. I bought a ticket to the August 18 stop at House of Blues in Dallas, just before the last date in Odessa, Texas on August 27.

"You never know how important time is until you realize that f**king clock is ticking... Don’t waste your time, y’all.”

While at the show, I decided to chop it up with some other attendees to get fans’ perspectives of what could very well be a Southern icon’s swan song. One of the first people I spoke to about seeing their favorite rapper was Atop Rocky, a sizable and reserved man who arrived just before doors opened. Wearing the Icon Tour tee from ’Face’s 2016 tour, the 50-year-old boxing gym owner and trainer tells me he’s been a fan of the Houston rapper since ’89. We talked about his favorite song, “Geto Boys and Girls” from The Resurrection, and how ’Face is one of the kings of the game.

“He set the tone and everybody followed,” Rocky says. “Thanks for the great music that I can listen to ’til the end of time.” As the venue started letting people in, Atop pulled out his phone and showed me a 2010 Facebook photo of ’Face wearing his Atop Watches brand. He also had various concert clips while on stage with Scarface, saying he had known guys like ’Face, Devin the Dude and Bun B for a long time because he used to help them organize shows in Denton, Texas.

Atop suggested I speak with ‘Face’s son, who is running the merch table tonight. One of the rare items for sale there was a limited edition “Face Mob” commemorative baseball jersey, amongst a variety of Rap-a-Lot-era ’Face tees. While standing in line for some gear, I chatted with Anthony W., 41, who says he learned about Scarface through his uncle having his tapes back in ’88 or ’89. “I was too young to be listening to them.” he says, sporting a red Rap-a-Lot tee. “I would sneak and steal their tapes… Same thing with N.W.A. Everybody be gone and I would play them.” For him, Scarface’s appeal is his lyricism. “Very few rappers have that now,” he adds. “J. Cole, Kendrick—I’m sure they were probably influenced by him.”

“You basically brought me into rap,” Anthony continues, citing “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” and The Diary as his favorite offerings from ’Face. “I’m from Louisiana, so Southern rap, what he did and brought to it, you can’t deny it. He’s just a legend. Everybody respects him. East Coast, West Coast, South, Midwest. It don’t matter.”

Today’s performance is a grown-folks show for those who have a deeply rooted appreciation for Scarface. If they weren’t wearing variations of Brad Jordan, Rap-a-Lot, and Face Mob tees, it was Nas, Snoop Dogg, and A Tribe Called Quest adorning their threads. These fans prefer their hip-hop with some meat on the bones. With the line having shrunk, I brought this up to Scarface’s son Christopher, telling him about a recent VIBE interview his father did in which he emphasized that he does not lip-sync or rap over a backing track during his performances.

“It’s very important these days for artists to rap over their instrumentals as opposed to their own tracks because it sounds so much better,” Christopher says, who is in his 30s. “The fans can understand you as opposed to knowing your song and just rapping it. It makes a difference in your performance, for sure.”

I asked if he had any memories while on the road with his father that he liked to share. “My dad is really a real-life chess player,” he says. “Him bringing me on the road wasn’t by mistake. There was a reason for it and I’ve kind of flourished in this field.”

He takes care of some fans and sells some more shirts before speaking to his dad’s impact on music and culture. “I don’t know what Scarface means to the game,” Christopher says. “Scarface—I don’t know who that is. I know Brad Jordan. Brad Jordan is my dad. Scarface didn’t raise me. He raised a lot of people, but not me. I wasn’t around when he was that, so I really don’t know. But being at concerts and seeing how it sells out and stuff like that, it’s important [to people].”

’Face finally hits the stage without his live band, the Formaldehyde Funkmen. It’s just him and a DJ. The fans in attendance are treated to the Geto Boys member; Mr. Scarface; the man who paid homage to Tupac Shakur and embodied him like he was the Southern version; the former president of Def Jam South, who notably signed himself and Ludacris to the label; the formerly aspiring Houston city councilman, who lost a runoff election in 2019 by about 4,600 votes; the rapper behind classics like The Diary and The Untouchable and The Fix, the latter of which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“Notice all this shit is live, right?” ’Face says during his show. “I ain’t playing no record, I’m not rapping to the record. If you hear my voice out here rapping with me, that’s my truth. This here is my real voice y’all.”

‘Face has lived a life, and his set is an open diary of a madman. He continues to display his husky, wearied voice through timeless records like “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” and “My Block.” He performs “Never” and “Big Dogg Status” acapella, only to further prove his vitality. The songs played tonight shows he’s seen some shit. His stories about violence, death, depression, tension, and suicide are personal vignettes from a battle-scarred Houstonian. The way he’s illustrated these themes on records draws you in and has made him an influential hip-hop pioneer. Whatever he was going through, he survived time and time again. Resilience. His perspective of Houston’s Third Ward and the hood politics that came with it was told so the world could understand his pain and how he overcame it.

Scarface would not be gracing this stage if it wasn’t for God letting him live another day. And that was the basis for this tour’s rebranding—Farewell Tour had been renamed Alive and Well Tour. The rapper explained it to his lively audience.

“We first came with the concept of doing a Farewell Tour back in September before I got my transplant,” he says. “It was like, ‘Shit, you might not be well too much longer, my nigga. Yo shit is fucked up.’”

“Can you imagine catching the Covid, bilateral pneumonia, heart filling up with fluid, and kidney failure all at the same fucking time? It killed millions of people or more. All I’m saying is this: You never know how important time is until you realize that fucking clock is ticking. I’ve seen a motherfucker get his woman back, I’ve seen a motherfucker get his money back, his car back, his job back, his dog back, all that shit back. But I never seen a motherfucker get that time back. Don’t waste your time, y’all.”

“By the grace of God, my son, Chris Jordan, I got a brand new motherfuckin' kidney sitting right here,” Scarface continues, lifting his shirt to show the scar from his surgery. “Where he at? Chris? He tryin’ to act like he ain’t here.”

Chris joins his father on stage with a smile, shaking his hand.

“I know that nigga solid, but why?” Scarface asked, looking like he was preparing for a joke.

“Because I’m solid,” Chris replies.

“Nah, nigga, because you come out my nut bag,” he said with a laugh. “I love you, Chris, and I appreciate that gesture. I love you, homeboy.”

Scarface, just doing what he does best: finding ways to uplift your spirits during a dark situation. We don’t know how many more years he has left in him. But for the time being, the last of a dying breed is alive and well and rapping at a high frequency.

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