I spend a lot of time on the internet. It's ridiculously my job. Along with DJBooth, ESPN and PornhubCNN, WhoSampled is an old favorite. For someone who loves sampling more than food, WhoSampled is a godsend. That feeling when you hear a sample but can't place it has been known to drive men crazy and without WhoSampled, I would have lost my mind years ago. And just when I thought that the site couldn't get any better, they just expanded their database to include TV and movie samples. It's like if you got a new puppy, and it turned out the puppy only pooped gold. I don’t know why he keeps blessin’ me.
To celebrate this monumental occasion in rap/internet history I thought it’d be best to take a look at hip-hop's favorite movie; Scarface. Have you ever seen an episode of MTV Cribs? Ever heard a rap song? Then you know how much rappers LOVE Scarface. Maybe it's the lavish, live-fast-die-young tale, maybe it helps them connect with their inner mobster, but for some reason, rappers seem to gravitate towards Tony Montana.
As you can imagine, Scarface attracts a certain breed of rappers. Big Sean, Kid Cudi, and Drake are more Scar than Scarface, but guys like, say, Scarface are in fact very Scarface-y. In fact, when I thought about Scarface samples, Biggie was the first to come to mind; "Ten Crack Commandments" anyone? Biggie says it was lesson four, but Elvira says otherwise.
Fun fact, this one was also sampled by N.W.A in the aptly titled tune "Dopeman" and kind of sampled by Eminem, who quoted Biggie quoting Scarface. Levels.
Now, while you might think Biggie's lyrics are littered with Tony Montana’s infinite wisdom, “Ten Crack Commandments” is actually the only one listed by WhoSampled. But Christopher Wallace isn't the only Big to have quoted the nefarious Cuban immigrant. Big Pun did it, did it better and did it twice. First, he quoted "the eyes chico" on "You Ain't A Killer" but that doesn't have the same magic as Pun's flip of that delightful chainsaw bathroom scene. Listen to "Leatherface."
The thing I enjoyed the most about this particular example is that they actually used the direct audio. I'm not opposed to rappers simply quoting his lines, but I always feel like it has more power when it’s straight from the horse’s mouth—or in this case, the gangster's chainsaw. Kind of like Fat Joe. He may not be a "big," but he's definitely a large man and definitely flipped Scarface saying "big" on "Living Fat" so I will count it.
Big Pun? Biggie? Fat Joe? New York rappers definitely have a thing for Scarface. Legendary Queens emcee Kool G Rap? He has two Scarface homages. He quoted "A Pig That Don't Fly Straight" on “Ill Street Blues” and even brought another New Yorker into the fold when he quoted the aforementioned "think big" scene on the Nas-assisted "Fast Life." Bad acting in the beginning of the video aside I have to say that it's my favorite so far. Also, Kool G gets points for being the first New Yorker to sample Scarface.
Though Kool G was the first to add that extra layer of the New York/Scarface connection with his Nas collab, he wasn't the last. Thee years later, in 1998, The Lox teamed up with DMX and Lil Kim to bring us "Money, Power & Respect," which as you can imagine features a play on the "Money, Power, Women" scene.
Seriously, I can't stress enough how New Yorkers have dominated these Scarface flips. Remember Raekwon and Ghostface Killah (because Raekwon and Ghostface) killin' it with the inclusion of "I told you not to fuck with me!" on "Criminology"? The sample fits the vibe perfectly.
We've also got Cam'ron flipping the same scene on "Told You Wrong" because once you wear a pink fuzzy coat, you have to do something to keep your cred. Don't forget EPMD flipping the same scene on "Business Is Business" or Immortal Technique's "Peruvian Cocaine." No list would be complete without mentioning Juelz Santana's "Bad Guy," which features a flip of the same scene as Fabolous' "Bad Guy."
Have you ever thought about Flava Flav quoting Scarface?
Or how about G-Unit? Believe it or not, but "My Buddy" is the only notable song that features that line. You know the one.
There is one New Yorker, though, who has them all beat; it just might not be who you expect. He may not be the hardest, most ruthless rapper, but JAY Z has never shied away from breaking out his inner Tony Montana. Of course, in true Jigga fashion, he doesn't merely quote the film in passing, he doesn't merely flip a quote as window dressing, no, HOV takes it to another level. He turns the dishwashing scene speech into the introduction on "Can't Knock The Hustle."
Love it. Most rappers have thrown quotes into their work because it sounds cool or helps their image, but Jay makes a goddamn spectacle out of it. He turned it into its own thing. Of course, I'm biased because that's one of my favorite JAY Z songs, but when you look at his other Scarface flips, they just don't match up. Both "Coming Of Age" off of Reasonable Doubt and "Moment Of Clarity" feature a less-excitingly structured sample of "My Word & My Balls." Kind of disappointing after the "Can't Knock The Hustle" tribute, right?
The Big Apple might be the capital of Scarface flips, but Houston is home to the group that has flipped Scarface the most. The Geto Boys have used Scarface flips five times. FIVE! Fuck it. I'll list em.
- The Bathtub Scene and the "Fuck Gaspar Gomez" scene on "Fuck Em."
- The "no wife no kids" scene on "Trigga Happy N*gga."
- "Pig that don't fly straight" on "City Under Siege."
- "My balls and my word" on the shockingly titled cut "Scarface."
- "What do to with the cash" on "The Problem."
Shit, even Scarface of Geto Boys has a few on his own. I guess when you are named Scarface it has to be your thing, right? He uses "my balls and my word" as the basis for this beat and, shit, Scarface even has a song called "Mr. Scarface" that samples Scarface. Scarface inception.
Most of these feel like cheap attempts by rappers to gain street credit via a fictional character, a gangster by association thing. If a rapper mentions Scarface enough, somehow we think they are just as tough as the fictional character even though they aren't really doing anything but quoting a dope movie.
With the Geto Boys, it's different. Not only did they do it the most, they also did it the best. They didn't just quote the movie or the man lazily, they took the time to craft beats around the Scarface clips and the result is a much more authentic, gritty listen. I love sampling, but there are definitely right and wrong ways to do it. Anyone can yell "say hello to my little friend"—as a kid, I said the line one million times before I saw the movie—but it takes a true dedication to the craft and a true appreciation of Tony Montana to make it the basis for a beat like the Geto Boys did time and time again. The Geto Boys win Scarface.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go look up more movies. Friday anyone? This new WhoSampled is more addictive than cocaine.
Just don't tell Tony...