The early aughts marked a period of transition in the world, with the turn of the century serving as a timestamp for new beginnings and opportunities That era saw rap vet Scarface making moves, forging uncharted ground, and taking leaps of uncertainty that would ultimately pay longterm dividends while simultaneously adding to his legacy. After spending the entirety of his music career in the familiarity of his longtime label home, Rap-A-Lot, the Hip-Hop legend found himself at a career crossroads.
After releasing his first six solo albums and cementing himself as the most esteemed southern rap artist in the game, Scarface looked to embark on a new journey beyond the booth. In September 1999, Russell Simmons offered him the role of President of Def Jam South, an imprint under Def Jam Records. Face—who officially began operating as President in 2000—voiced his excitement in helping build the label into a powerhouse. “I want to take over what’s going on in the South right now and make sure they’re getting their just due,” the Houston native said at the time, likening himself to the head of a professional sports franchise. “I got me my own basketball team now. I just gotta get some good players.”
And that he did. The newfound music executive signed rapper Ludacris—who would release multiple multiplatinum albums during Face’s tenure—and attempting to ink a deal with future stars like T.I. However, once he settled into his role, Scarface chose to serve double-duty and actually become an artist on the Def Jam South roster himself. He released his seventh studio album, The Fix, on the label in 2002. After debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, The Fix became a critical success. It gained rave reviews and was hailed by fans and pundits as one of Scarface’s finest works to date. Featuring guest appearances from Jay-Z, Kanye West, Beanie Sigel, Nas, Kelly Price, Faith Evans, and WC, the album included an all-star lineup of producers like The Neptunes, Nottz, Mike Dean, Nashiem Myrick, and more. The Fix is remembered as a bonafide classic and is credited with bridging the gap between his older audience and a new generation of listeners who were introduced to him while listening to the album.
As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of its release, VIBE spoke with Scarface about the creation of The Fix, his love and respect for the contributors involved, where it ranks in his catalog, how he commands the stage during a performance, and more.
VIBE: Aug. 6 marks the 20th anniversary of your album, The Fix, which is universally regarded as a classic. How does it feel to have that particular record celebrated after all these years?
Scarface: I mean, I guess if you say that it’s a classic, I guess that’s all in one’s opinion. I’m honored that some people feel like that, but I know for a fact that I can do better. There are some people [who] feel like that, but I know better.
Why did you give the album that title?
Because that was about the time when Hip-Hop started making its transition into something else. The other records started coming out, and we were like, “Damn, this ain’t really Hip-Hop. We need some real Hip-Hop to double back.” And [with] everybody, it was like they were jonesing for some good sh*t. I ain’t saying no names, but if you look back at 2001, the sh*t that pop music considered hot, we weren’t in that sh*t. And then, on the same token, people were really geeking for some good Hip-Hop, and that’s what I had to offer with that album. That’s what I was aiming for. That’s what that title came from, The Fix. We needed some good dope.
The Fix was your first album on Def Jam. What was the transition like coming from Rap-A-Lot, which you’d worked with for your entire career, and going to a new label?
I think that Rap-A-Lot will always be my home. That’s where my roots are. We went to Def Jam to try and make a bigger impact than I had made as an independent before, and we were unsuccessful in doing so. So, I reverted back to doing my same sh*t at Rap-A-Lot.
A few years before the release of The Fix, you were appointed President of Def Jam Records. What are your favorite memories from your tenure as an executive?
All of the memories back then were my favorite memory. Every memory that you could imagine was my favorite memory. From hanging out with Jay[-Z] and Kanye. Dame Dash and Irv Gotti and Ja [Rule]. From being in the studio with Kevin Liles and Tina Davis, and Lyor. All of those were my favorite memories. Those all had fun memories, Def Jam South. It was a beautiful thing back then. Fantastic.
The album’s lead single, “My Block,” is one of your more upbeat releases and has become an anthem for various neighborhoods around the world.
I think maybe the vibe on the Def Jam album was maybe more accepted mainstream because of it being on Def Jam. And it having a different vibe of producers on it, but no big deal.
The album’s second single, “Guess Who’s Back,” is one of your biggest songs, too. How did that song come about?
I don’t remember.
What about your collaborative and relationship history with Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, and Roc-A-Fella Records during that period?
Oh, man, I still got a relationship with Hov. I still got a relationship with Beans and all of that. Jay-Z is a keeper of the culture, you know? I got a lot of respect for that, dude. Jay-Z came and did some sh*t for me that only a friend would do, so I have the utmost respect for Jay-Z. Matter of fact, let’s just call him Shawn Carter from here on out because he made a Shawn Carter move, you know what I mean? I was f**king sick as a dog, and Jay-Z made a move for me that saved my life. ‘Cause I couldn’t move. So, shouts out to Shawn Carter, keeper of the culture.
Definitely. “Guess Who’s Back” was produced by Kanye West. It was also one of his first appearances when he was on the hook and was one of his first big looks as an artist. What’s your earliest memories of working with Kanye?
He was always in the studio. Kanye was always doing sh*t. Kanye always had [beats]. I got so many f**king beats from Kanye from way back. I got so many songs of Kanye from way back. It’s like me and Kanye had a chemistry. We had a chemistry, and we did record after record after record after record after record. Kanye would send me beat CDs.
Another legendary emcee that appears on The Fix is Nas, who pops up on the song “In Between Us.” How did that song come about, and what are your memories of working with Nas?
Nas is my friend, bro. Everyone is my friend, man. It’s like classmates, you know what I mean? You know how you go to school, and you got your classmates? That’s what my history is with Nas, and Jay-Z, and Ja Rule, and DMX, and Tupac; we’re classmates. MC Breed, we’re classmates. The D.O.C., [Dr.] Dre, Snoop [Dogg], we’re all classmates, man. We’re all friends in real life, we’re not just in passing.
In addition to rap artists, The Fix includes contributions from R&B stars Kelly Price and Faith Evans. What was it like working with them, and how did the creative process for those songs differ?
I’ma tell you about Faith Evans, she ain’t nothing to f**k with. Faith ain’t nothing to play with. Her vibe is extraordinary. Kelly Price is a beautiful beautiful soul [with a] beautiful spirit and a beautiful voice. And she ain’t to be played with either. We pulled some cannons out on they a** working with them. We tore their a** up, Kelly Price and Faith. But when I tell you Faith is the real deal, like Faith is one of us. Faith will roll up on a motherfucker and squeal. Like, for real.
You previously mentioned releasing a sequel to The Fix titled The Habit. What’s the backstory behind that album, and why was it never released?
Unfortunately, The Habit took a backseat because I was having some good discrepancies on where I wanted to go as far as the label was concerned. I wanted to go to Sony. I was talking to [former President and CEO of Sony Music] Don Ienner, and then I ended up going back to Rap-A-Lot. The Habit just wasn’t in the cards, unfortunately.
Did you ever make any songs for the album? And if so, are they in the vault, or did they come out?
I probably got four or five hundred songs that haven’t come out. Or more.
Four or five hundred?
Yeah, I got a lot of sh*t, man.
Any plans to drop any of it in the future?
Nah, I don’t got no plans for that.
Damn, that’s sad news for a rap fan, man. Hopefully you have a change of heart someday soon or something like that. This Saturday, you’ll be in Queens, N.Y,. and you’ll be performing songs from The Fix at the Rock The Bells Festival. What can fans expect once you take the stage?
I mean, I don’t know what to expect, sh*t. I just go up there and do it, but I will say this: I do not lip-sync, and I do not rap over a record. My sh*t’s live. My sh*t is really live. It’s not just a record spinning or a beat machine spinning. My DJ is actually making the music. We got a drum machine on stage, we got… you just have to see it, man.
It’s different, in my opinion. It’s different because I don’t have a track under me. You can listen to my record if you want to hear me rap over my lyrics, you see what I’m saying? I want you to hear my voice. And I want you to hear my cadences and how I can change my cadences while I’m on stage and how good I am. I’m that f**king good. In fact, I’m f**king great. I’ll just go ahead and say that. Especially live. One microphone, one DJ, I’m a f**king assassin. I’m an assassin with a microphone and a DJ. I don’t even need no hypeman. I’m that f**king good.
What’s a song from The Fix that brings you back to a certain moment in time and your life? Or that just sticks out?
My first song is called “Safe.” That cranks The Fix up for me.
I’m not dying at this point. Now that I’m alive and well, I’ll see you in another five years.
That’s great news. There’s definitely really good news here.
I don’t know if I’ma record again, but I’ll step out every couple of years. I’ll do important dates and that type of sh*t. The ones that are worth it.
Every great figure in any field has a Hall of Fame speech when they retire. What are some of the things you would like to say in yours before walking off into the sunset?
It’s been real. It’s been fun. But it hasn’t been real fun.
Where does The Fix rank among your albums?
Well, I mean, it’s not bad.
It’s not bad? It’s a classic, Face. It’s a classic.
(Thinks for a long second) Oh, sh*t. I don’t know, man.
You’ve got The Diary. Last of a Dying Breed is up there—
I mean, it’s probably No. 2 [or] No. 3.
No. 2 or No. 3? What would be number one?
Probably The Untouchable.