Fresh from the success of "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," his breakthrough hit with the Geto Boys, Scarface continued his streak of excellence with his exceptionally creative solo debut, Mr. Scarface Is Back. One of the first genuine masterpieces of the gangsta era, the album draws heavily from the densely layered sample-scapes of the Bomb Squad and the provocative ghetto-storytelling of Ice Cube. What sets Scarface apart from his New York and Compton peers, though, is his deep-Texas Houston locale, where coke and crime are daily operations. Scarface exploits this reality shockingly and cinematically throughout Mr. Scarface Is Back, beginning with the album-opening Al Pacino samples ("All I have in this world..."). From there, Scarface makes an explosive entry ("Ahh yeah, hah/Mr. Scarface is back in the motherf*ckin' house once again!") and tremors through one rhyme after another about the ins and outs of the gangsta life in a loose narrative sequence: drug dealing gone well ("Mr. Scarface"), the joy of recreational sex ("The Pimp"), heedless murder ("Born Killer"), mental unsoundness ("Murder by Reason of Insanity"), further mental unsoundness ("Diary of a Madman"), intoxicating heights of street superiority ("Money and the Power"), drug dealing gone awry ("Good Girl Gone Bad"), and the consequential last hurrah ("A Minute to Pray and a Second to Die"). The narrative format of Mr. Scarface Is Back flows from beginning to end with engaging fluidity, though the album is just as enjoyable in bits and pieces, particularly the ferocious "Mr. Scarface," the remorseful "A Minute to Pray and a Second to Die," and the extensive sampling (Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," War's "Four Cornered Room," and more, less-obvious source material). Scarface had always been the standout Geto Boy, and he's finally given ample space for his street narratives on Mr. Scarface Is Back, one of the first gangsta rap albums to offer as much imagination as it does exploitation.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier