Why the hip-hop community still worships 'Scarface'

When the cult film Scarface comes out on blu-ray DVD on September 6th, I’d like to imagine that Jay-Z will be the first person in line to buy. That somewhere right now, Jay is marking down the days until he can watch his favorite movie in all of its HD glory. Ok, let’s be real, he probably already got his complimentary copy and watched it a couple times with Beyoncé, but we can’t be mad at Jay-Z for getting the exclusive before the rest of us lay-people. Few rappers love the movie Scarface more than Jay-Z.

Jay-Z has dedicated countless rap lyrics and interludes to the film, from the intro to his debut album all the way up to the lyric Scarface the movie did more than Scarface the rapper for me.” Just a rough estimate, but Jay-Z’s probably rapped about Scarface on every album he’s released. And he’s not alone. The hip-hop community has single-handedly made the movie a cult classic. Now Scarface is being re-released on blu-ray, plus a one-night showing in theaters on August 31. Naturally, rappers are giddy with excitement. What is it about that movie?

When Scarface came out in 1983, critics weren’t feeling it. Even though the story of Tony Montana, a poor Cuban immigrant who quickly ascends through the ranks to become a drug kingpin, is actually a remake of a 1932 film of the same name. However director Brian De Palma’s version had an unprecedented amount of violence, and dodged an X-rating after three edits (even though the director’s original cut is what got aired in theaters). It definitely wasn’t for the masses. But the film found an unlikely home in the black community, slowly becoming a requirement in hip-hop references 101.

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Scarface is loved by rappers with an unwavering devotion that can safely be called obsession. It’s so beloved that there is even a documentary about its impact on hip hop. In “Scarface: Origins of a Hip-Hop Classic,” several rappers like Diddy, Snoop Dogg, and Method Man talk about the great influence the movie had on their life.

Even Al Pacino himself has attributed Scarface’s continued success to the hip hop community. ”[Rappers] really get it and they understand it, and that’s a great thing,” Pacino told MTV News. “They’ve been very supportive all these years. I think they’ve helped us tremendously.”

To the people who don’t understand it, Scarface is a movie about a guy with some guns who kills a lot of people and does a lot of drugs. Critics say the movie glorifies violence, but to say that is to get distracted by AK-47s and bowls of cocaine.

What every rapper loves about Scarface is this — it’s the prototypical ghetto American dream. Tony Montana was a guy who went from nothing and turned it into something. He had a strong work ethic, he was determined to live a better life. A dishwasher who overcame obstacles to “live the dream,” even if it was rife with blood and illegality. He was a ghetto superhero, turbo charged with testosterone, cocaine, and unlimited rounds of bullets in his gun.

And even though he was a crazy character, Tony Montana dropped a lot of gems along the way. Of some of his most profound ideology (which most rappers can recite like bible verses): “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women”; “All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one.”; “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”

For all his bad behavior, Tony had a sense of morality, he had a belief system, and he was loyal. And those are things that people tap into, timeless lessons that has helped Scarface endure nearly 30 years later. And the movie still abided by the number one rule of the drug game: sooner or later you’ll either get caught or die.

Everyone realizes that Tony Montana was a bad guy, no doubt. But the movie sculpted him into a perfect anti-hero, and you can’t help but root for him to get everything he wants (and it doesn’t really bother you when he’s riddled with bullets by the end, cause hell, he went out with a bang). In the end he succumbs to greed, but for a moment the world was his, and that’s an accomplishment everyone, especially rappers, can admire.