Classic Albums: 'The Untouchable' by Scarface

Classic Albums: 'The Untouchable' by Scarface

Published Fri, March 11, 2022 at 2:00 PM EST

When Scarface dropped his fourth solo album, "The Untouchable" in 1997, he really had nothing to prove.

Already, the Houston native was grasping at legend status, a title he earned with his previous work, both as a solo artist and with the Geto Boys. His solo efforts included two widely considered classics — his 1991 debut, Mr. Scarface Is Back and 1994’s The Diary, and he was just coming off the stellar 1996 album The Resurrection with his legendary group the Geto Boys, arguably their best effort.  

But after he dropped The Untouchable, a nearly perfect album that showcases everything that encompasses what he does best as a lyricist and musician, Scarface’s status as one of the most important figures in Hip Hop history was solidified. 

From the onset, it’s clear that Untouchable was veering in a slightly different direction than his hard-hitting, wearily angry previous solo release, The Diary. On the title track, the bass is barely there, slowly creeping to full sound just as Scarface starts his verse. Immediately, Face’s musicality is on full display. 

The Untouchable, more than any of his others, aside from maybe The Fix, is a clear representation of everything that encompasses Scarface as a standout musician.  His vivid, nostalgic storytelling on the Houston classic, “Southside”; his street wisdom on “Money Makes the World Round”; his critique of racist systems on “Smartz” with his Odd Squad co-star, Devin the Dude; his tug-of-war with his spirituality and how that mingles with his reality on “Ya Money or Ya Life” — it’s all there, concisely laid out over crisp, dark, and bluesy production from Face himself and his regular collaborators, N.O. Joe and Mike Dean. 

“Strong and shy with a fucked mind, let him know what they facing/Got the doctors who done studied this, but niggas with doubt/Probably take a shrink a lifetime to figure him out … So why you figure I've be standing here shaking/Because the devil is close to taking me but I can't face him…”

- Scarface, ("Southside")

Scarface was always confident in his musicality, content to explore his own creativity however he saw fit. But on The Untouchable he sounds more confident than ever, and it translates as one of the top entries in a nearly impeccable discography.

Scarface Legacy

Scarface of The Geto Boys appears in a portrait wearing a New York Yankees Sweatshirt and baseball cap taken on September 10, 1994 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Scarface Has Rap's Best Discography

May 17, 2021

Soundtracking The Scene: Geto Boys In OFFICE SPACE

Soundtracking The Scene: Geto Boys In 'Office Space'

Sep 29, 2021

20 Greatest Rap-A-Lot Songs of The 90s

Dec 27, 2020

So, it’s fitting that The Untouchable was Face’s first album to hit #1 on Billboard. The commercial success was spawned in part because it featured an anticipated guest appearance from 2Pac on the world-weary “Smile,”  just months after his untimely death. The two rappers already regularly explored similar themes in their music —  death, racism, and spirituality — and neither miss on the track, which remains a staple in both of their long catalogs. 

"My manager was on Sunset Blvd. and 2Pac drove by in a Rolls Royce and my manager was like, ‘Whatup Pac?’" Scarface recalled in 2013. "Then he saw my manager and fucking busted a U-turn in the middle of Sunset Blvd. I knew Pac, we don’t ride nowhere with 2Pac, we drive. We didn’t ride with him cause we knew he couldn’t drive and we knew he was crazier than a motherfucker."

“Now, as I open up my story, with the blaze of your blunts/And you can picture thoughts slowly, up on phrases I wrote/And I can walk you through the days that I done/I often wish that I could save everyone, but I'm a dreamer…” 

- Scarface, ("Smile")

While “Smile” is the most popular song on the album, one of the project’s brightest moments comes midway on “Mary Jane,” one of the best songs in Scarface’s dense discography. Production-wise, it’s perfect. Face collaborates with Mike Dean on what has to be one of the latter’s best efforts, and raps dreamy, wavy verses that compliment the otherworldly track. 

“I wrote that record on weed but I recorded it on ecstasy," Face recalled to COMPLEX in 2013. "It was probably why it sounded so fucking great. Me and Mike Dean were doing so much fucking X. Like those were the most highest times of my life.

“Lean was always popping. But you’re talking about getting super duper stoned? Of course [we were doing coke]. We rocked it up, cut the rocks up, and then go. We used to call it a shake pack. We would take the shake pack and put that in the weed. That was called Premo’s or mo’s."

At just 14-tracks, (including the Intro and Outro), The Untouchable was concise and thematic, timely and evergreen. It diligently covered all the aspects of Scarface’s musicianship that make him great, and stands as one of the most significant projects in his catalog and of the time. 

“I don’t give a fuck if my legacy was selling hot water bottles, a motherf**ker is gonna say what he wants to say about it anyway," Face would tell VIBE in 2015. "Either you’re gonna respect it, or you’re not. I’ll leave that up to the person that calls it ‘the legacy,’ what my legacy was. ‘He left a legacy! He left a body of work that was unmatched by no motherf**kin’ body!’ It’s easy to say that, but how many people say that? As much as we feel like people are mentioning ‘Face, it’s like they forget. But every now and then, I’ll refresh their memory.”

What's new