Brian De Palma’s remake of Howard Hawks classic gangster film Scarface was released on December 9th, 1983 to middling box office and mediocre reviews. The critical establishment saw it as a vulgar, exploitive cartoon. It found new life on the then burgeoning home video market, where it has since amassed a sizable cult following. That second life was spurred on largely by a generation whose perceptions of criminality had been largely shaped by the prosperity enjoyed by the more prosperous crack dealers of the time. With figures like “Freeway” Ricky Ross and Alberto “Alpo” Martinez becoming ghetto celebrities in the wake of the films release, Scarface played for many as a timely and relevant parable. Unfortunately, some even saw it as an inspiration on how to live the American dream.
Among those impacted by Scarface fever are rappers themselves, many of whom came from the same hoods that were ravaged by the crack epidemic during the 1980’s. Throughout the 1990’s, rap artists such as Scarface, Nas, 2Pac, and most recently Rick Ross have all paid homage to the film in one form or another. For a time, it was de rigueur for gangsta, Mafioso, and “cocaine” rappers to include at least one reference per album (and in some cases per song). At a party held this past Tuesday to celebrate the film’s release on Blu-ray, master thespian Al Pacino finally acknowledged the undying love that rappers and rap fans alike have for Scarface. While this might seem long over do, it’s nice to see someone of note openly acknowledging the vital role that Hip-Hop plays in the grand scheme of American popular culture. A very special thanks to Shadow and Act for breaking this story.