Born Brad Jordan on November 9, 1969, in Houston, TX; married; five children. Addresses: Office--Def Jam South, 1349 West Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30309. Website--Scarface Official Website: http://www.defjam.com/defjamsouth/scarface.
Scarface became the most admired rapper in the southern United States in the 1980s, rising to prominence as a member of the group Geto Boys. He left the group in 1991 to start a solo career he had abandoned before joining the Geto Boys, and he remained popular through the 1990s. According to All Music Guide's Jason Birchmeier, Scarface "defined what it meant to be a Southern thug rapper years before anyone even coined the term Dirty South." Legions of rappers in Houston, New Orleans, and Memphis following Scarface imitated his style, creating a movement. Scarface has also collaborated with numerous other rappers, including Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, 2Pac, and Master P.
As influential as he was among rap circles, Scarface nevertheless failed to achieve widespread recognition in the mainstream until the twenty-first century; the numerous albums he recorded throughout the 1990s, although nationally successful, never made the charts or were promoted among popular music fans. Much of the reason for his lack of mainstream acceptance stemmed from the harsh nature of his lyrics--lyrics that made his raps unsuitable for radio. Some also blamed the producer to whom he remained loyal throughout much of his career, Mike Dean, for holding the rapper back, keeping him to an unadventurous, though easily-identifiable sound.
Born Brad Jordan, the rapper who later became known as Scarface, grew up in Houston, Texas. Performing under the name Akshen, he began a solo career as a rapper around Houston before signing to the Rap-A-Lot label, which was run by producer James Smith. Smith was then recruiting for a rap group called the Geto Boys, and he tapped the future Scarface to join that effort as the 1980s drew to a close. Scarface and the rest of the Geto Boys released their first album, Grip It! On that Other Level, in 1990. The album was later rereleased in 1990 as The Geto Boys. Filled with violent imagery, the album shocked many of its listeners. It also introduced Jordan, alias Akshen, as Scarface, in a song called "Scarface." Jordan liked the name so much he decided to keep it, and from then on the rapper was known as Scarface.
The outcry against The Geto Boys proved to be just the publicity the group needed to reach a wider audience, and they soon developed a loyal following. In 1991, the group released its second album, called, appropriately enough, We Can't Be Stopped. This album went platinum amid further negative publicity. The VH1 music television network assessed the rap group on its website, saying, "Some of the most vile sequences of words ever used in popular music appeared on their albums, glorying in rape, mutilation and violence."
For some of the group's fans, We Can't Be Stopped became the group's definitive recording, never to be topped. The Geto Boys soon had a national following, and this set the stage for Scarface's post-Geto Boys solo career.
The first album Scarface recorded on his own was Mr. Scarface Is Back, released in 1991. For many, this release proved that the rapper was the best of the Geto Boys, and this incited jealousy from his fellow Geto Boys Bushwick Bill and Willie D. Scarface followed Mr. Scarface Is Back with another solo album in 1993, The Diary. By this time, his fame had eclipsed that of the Geto Boys and he had left the group to go fully on his own. Scarface followed The Diary with more solo albums throughout the 1990s, including The World Is Yours in 1995, Untouchable in 1997, and My Homies in 1998. This last album was a two-disc set that featured Scarface with many other well-known Southern rappers.
Scarface broke through to broader recognition on the national rap scene in 2000 with his album Last of a Dying Breed, considered by some critics to be his most accomplished work to date. The album won for him the Lyricist of the Year award at the Source Awards in 2001. Also in 2000, Scarface became a businessman, going to work as head of the Atlanta office of Def Jam Records South. In this capacity, he signed the label's first recording artist, a former radio deejay calling himself Ludacris. Ludacris proved to be a major success for the new label, achieving platinum status several times over with his debut album Back for the First Time.
Scarface himself continued his career as a recording artist with Def Jam, releasing his first album on the Def Jam label in 2002. "I finally am with a label who knows how to promote rap music," Scarface told the Houston Chronicle's Michael D. Clark. Called The Fix, and distributed by Universal, the album represented a departure for the rapper. Gone were the hair-raising lyrics of Geto Boy cuts like "Born Killer" and "Hand of the Dead Body," replaced by much milder lyrics in titles like "What Can I Do?" and "Guess Who's Back," the latter of which featured guest vocals by rap superstar Jay-Z.
Moving to Def Jam from Rap-A-Lot also removed Scarface from an association that had begun to sour amid charges from the Drug Enforcement Agency that Rap-A-Lot was involved with drug dealing. "I feel like I got unstuck," Scarface told Clark. And, as he said on UniversalUrban.com, now "I make the final decision on my product. I'm not obligated to nothing...."
The less confrontational new sound of Scarface immediately won broader acceptance than any of his previous work, in large part because it could be played on the radio. For the first time, Scarface hit the Billboard charts, climbing to the top of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart, and reaching number four on the Billboard Top 200, which includes all genres. He gained even wider mainstream exposure when he costarred in commercials for Reebok with Houston Rocket player Steve Francis.
From the Geto Boys, to a decade-long solo career, to his latest incarnation, Scarface has reinvented himself yet again to take his career to a new level. "The windows are open," he told Clark, "and the sun is shining in my bedroom. There's something different going on in my life. I feel like I have another 10 years left."
by Michael Belfiore
Began as a solo rapper in Houston, TX, under the name Akshen, 1980s; joined rap group Geto Boys, 1980s; released first album with the Geto Boys, Grip It! On that Other Level, on the Rap-A-Lot label, 1990; rereleased that album as The Geto Boys, also on Rap-A-Lot, changed his performing name to Scarface, 1990; released second Geto Boys album, We Can't Be Stopped, 1991; released first solo album, Mr. Scarface Is Back, 1991; left the Geto Boys, 1991; released second solo album, The Diary, 1993; released solo albums throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, including The World Is Yours, 1995; Untouchable, 1997; My Homies, 1998; and Last of a Dying Breed, 2000; became president of Def Jam Records South, 2000; released The Fix on the Def Jam label, 2002.
Source Awards, Lyricist of the Year, 2001.
- Selected discography
- Mr. Scarface Is Back , Rap-A-Lot, 1991.
- The Diary , Rap-A-Lot/Noo, 1993.
- The World Is Yours , Rap-A-Lot, 1995.
- Untouchable , Virgin, 1997.
- My Homies , Virgin, 1998.
- Last of a Dying Breed , Virgin, 2000.
- The Fix , Universal, 2002.
- Greatest Hits , Virgin, 2002.
June 1, 2004: Scarface's albums, Untouchable and Diary, were released in remixed versions. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, June 3, 2004.
- AdWeek, March 11, 2002, p. 5.
- Houston Chronicle, August 22, 2002, p. 5.
- PR Newswire, September 29, 2000, p. 710.
- "Artists: A-Z: Geto Boys: Biography," VH1.com, http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/geto_boys/bio.jhtml (November 4, 2002).
- "Artists: A-Z: Scarface: Biography," VH1.com, http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/scarface/bio.jhtml (November 4, 2002).
- "Scarface," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (November 4, 2002).
- "Scarface," UniversalUrban.com, http://universalurban.com/scarface/index.php (November 4, 2002).
- "Scarface Is Back," BET.com, http://www.bet.com/articles/1,,c2gb2890-3552-1,00.html (November 4, 2002).