There are few art genres -- music or otherwise -- that praise cockiness quite as much as hip-hop does. So when you're a rap veteran with a proven track record of quality music, sitting amid a criminally small crowd of longtime, adoring fans who likely grew up in the heyday of your career, you could pretty much clip your toenails onstage and still kinda kick ass. While Scarface thankfully spared us any nail-clipping action, his performance at 4th & B on Saturday required only slightly more effort and still remained satisfying.
The show started about two and a half hours late, in disgustingly typical fashion, likely due to some cynical promoter wanting to milk us at the bar until it was legally forced to stop sucking money out of our pockets. Jewelz P and the Big City Monsters provided support with a pretty good set, supported by soulful production. Unfortunately, they were sandwiched by two acts, the first of which was completely forgettable, the second of which was so bad you wished you could forget it.
Scarface appeared o-stage about half past midnight in the plainest of plain clothes, quickly downing what looked like orange juice and Grey Goose in a plastic cup (keeping it classy in San Diego!). He proceeded to perform a string of hits, and it's amazing how many hits he has that you never realized were hits until the crowd goes a little nuts with each song. Everything from the perennial Geto Boys' classic "My Mind Is Playing Tricks on Me" to the nihilistic "Money and the Power" to the ghetto tribute "On My Block" elicited cheers from the audience.
Midway through his set though, Scarface paused and let his DJ merely play the instrumentals to some of his hits, instead of actually performing them himself. At that point, he took a seat in front of the DJ, poured another drink, and nodded his head. What's funny is that he wasn't really vibing out to the beats so much as he was reminiscing on his music career and soaking up the fact of his awesomeness. He told us about alternate lyrics to the verse he wrote for Bushwick Bill on the aforementioned Geto Boys song, explaining how well-crafted the verse was. He showcased his production skills by bragging about a beat he did for a Chrysler commercial. He sat there with a huge grin, knowing how dope he was, knowing also how much of an a--hole he was being by basically patting himself on the back during a show, and laughing at all of us, who were in the palm of his hand. Even when he did do wrong, Scarface could not do wrong. While I would have liked to have heard him actually perform "I Seen a Man Die" instead of just hearing the instrumental, the sheer balls of this dude is really what we all love about Scarface anyway.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog SD Raps.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.