Sometimes we are just going to write about something about Hip Hop that we are passionate about. Usually this is because it’s been a slow time for mixtapes for one of us and we still feel the need to update the site. With that in mind, Dan-O comes to the rescue of filling up space with a track review of Scarface’s “Smile” Featuring 2pac off of the underrated album The Untouchable.
Track Breakdown: Time Machine Edition Scarface “Smile” Feat. 2Pac
When you hear the high piano plink and Johnny P comes in to sing you might get the impression that Tupac and Scarface teamed up to make a song “for the ladies”; something to improve their reputation for tenderness amidst the harder music they were known for.It’s called “Smile” from the Scarface album The Untouchable. The production credits Scarface specifically with the album’s horrorcore, G-funk Houston bounce, assisted by Roger Troutman’s synthetic glory laid on top of that slow southern rattle that Rap-A-Lot created. Tupac begins the song stating before his verse “Through all the rain and pain you got to be able to keep your sense of humor.” If you put Big Daddy Kane on a song with Rakim they would be trying to one up each other with clever imagery and metaphor. Tupac and Scarface; however, do a different dance. Comfortable sharing the spotlight with each other, Scarface’s influence on Tupac is apparent. They both burn the last word of each line so hard you think it’s the end of the verse but it’s not, and they both are within the Gangsta Rap realm of a different school than most. Confounded by death, never painting a picture with stable or fearless main characters, Fear, paranoia, and failure are always so very close to them in a way that makes you sympathetic to them.
So Smile is a different kind of collaboration where two storytellers that major in paranoia and strife try and push one another until the song reaches its full emotional potential. Scarface belts out “I often wish I could save everyone…but I’m a dreamer,” for once letting that dark crypt keeper of Hip Hop persona go and giving us a glimpse of joyful optimism. Later in the song he adds to the image “Stuck inside a ghetto fantasy hoping it will change.” Tupac, too, is trying to find this optimism but, he instead finds himself sorting through the negatives to get there “Unanswered questions keep us all stressing”, and “Cowards conversate so quick to diss us/ taking pictures/for the feds hoping to get us.” Still, he arrives at his point “born with less but you still precious…”
At the end of the song Scarface acknowledges that Tupac has passed, and half sings half speaks to him about angels carrying him home. When you think about this song, put it next to other hip hop duets. When Ice Cube and Chuck D finally did a song together, it was a politically charged anti-media blast called “Burn Hollywood Burn”. When Cube did a song with Too $hort on Short Dogs in the House guess what it was about? The song title is “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Word to Me.” Most of them end up like that, really. Fans have expectations, and rappers have reputations they need to maintain. But let it be known that when Scarface and Tupac did a song, it was a slow bubbling rap ballad about making you smile. Not making the ladies smile so they can have their pick of the best, but making you smile- the importance of smiling. If you listen to it and get a screwface because it’s too cheesy, then let it live in that place. Know that when ‘Face and Pac got together, the song they produced just had too much heart for you.
Top 5 misimpressions about Tupac
- Thinking about death too much catches up with you– for some reason we all give lip service to this. I’m not sure if it’s because we think his life was really Shakespearian, and it’s easy foreshadowing; or we just have a need to oversimplify. My response question to this? Why didn’t talking about death too much kill all the miserably depressing poets who did NOTHING but talk about death constantly? Baudelaire lived almost twice as long as Pac and, he was forty times as depressing. Flowers of Evil people.
- Pac’s best stuff is when he was political– Pac was never political, he occasionally dropped back into Black Panther philosophy, but his body of work is filled with songs like “Can I Get Away” or “No More Pain” that are personal stories which are what made him special. He’s famous for “Dear Mama” not his stance against Delores Tucker.
- Biggie was way better– Pac has a better discography, Pac has more diverse subject matter, Biggie has a better flow, Biggie is funnier, more hardcore. It really depends on what you’re looking for but to be clear neither one is WAY better than the other.
- Pac wasn’t a technically great MC – commentators say this sometimes and they never explain it. I take it to mean that they compare his flow to Biggie and downgrade him. Biggie’s flow is not the standard: it’s beyond the standard and that’s not fair. Pac could spit and with deep subject matter, he stayed in the pocket of any song he was on. What is technically wrong with that? By the way are technicalities what we look for in hip hop? If so tell Gucci and Jeezy.
- Pac was more emotional than anyone which is why people connect to him-Tupac was bright and had a gift for empathy, but it’s odd to conclude that he had more emotions then the norm or even a better grip on emotions. You don’t think Styles P has the same emotions as Tupac? Trust me that Styles P loves his mother as well. Pac just had the reckless honesty that most don’t have. He was a great artist with the need to project himself out as clearly as he could. He was better at his craft then most and more honest not more emotional.