Complex and Intense, a Rap Icon Returns

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Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Girl You Know"
  • Artist: Scarface
  • CD: Made
  • Genre: Hip-Hop
Scarface 300

Scarface ranks atop the shortlist of Southern rap's greatest of all time. Scott Gries/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Gries/Getty Images

The song is called "Girl You Know," and it's the work of a Southern rapper, but this is no mindless club banger. For one thing, Scarface ranks atop the shortlist of Southern rap's greatest of all time, and he didn't get there by making forgettable music. The Houston native dispenses thoughtful, morally complex rhymes with direct, intense simplicity. With "Girl You Know," from his new Made, he adds another unforgettable rumination to his canon.

"Girl You Know" may be a rant against monogamy, but it passes up braggadocio, instead operating in the tradition of break-up songs, where bile and brutal hindsight expose the emotions behind stale relationships. Its strength lies in the way it combines depressing imagery ("With the same face looking at you all the time / realizing now that happiness is hard to find") with bitter pathos: "And if I ever said 'Maybe' and you thought that I might / You consider: Just imagine what my wife was like." He tried, he seems to say, and it can't be done.

Scarface isn't treading any moral high ground here, with regard to fidelity or anything else, but he never claims to. "Girl You Know" is about introspection and self-aware observation. (For further evidence, watch the video: You don't leave someone at the altar like that without some contrition, or at least rationalizing.) Of course, all this would be moot without the authority and deep twang of Scarface's measured, exacting delivery, a point that can't be emphasized enough. Lace it over an appropriately fractured soul sample and an ear-pleasing medium-slow bass throb — easier said than done — and you have to tip your hat. Scarface, the consistent pioneer, has added to his legend.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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