Lyricist Lounge Tour 2002, with Scarface, Erick Sermon, Killah Priest, and others. Sunday, December 8, at the Agora Theatre.

To say that Scarface's latest, The Fix, is his most commercial album to date is sacrilegious. It's almost like saying the man has sold out -- and that's the last thing any Scarface fan wants to hear. He's one of the original Geto Boys, for chrissakes. The man has made it a decade in the rap game without compromising his ballsiness, so even the slightest hint that he's sounding mainstream is heartbreaking.

So we won't say it -- quite. It is worth noting, however, that The Fix is Scarface's most polished -- and shortest -- album to date. As the head of Def Jam's down-home division, Def Jam South, Scarface wields his clout to snare beats and a few guest stars that are worth his time. No more played-out synthesizers and derivative drum machines for him. In an H-town/Philly/Big Apple summit, Face travels to NYC and signs up Kanye West to drop beats on "Guess Who's Back?" with Roc-A-Fella family members Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel. Then he zooms down to Atlanta to record the pro-loyalty tune "In Between Us" with Nas. And yes, in case you were wondering, there is a track produced by the everywhere-at-once Neptunes called "Someday," a faith-heavy number featuring hook work from -- you guessed it -- Faith Evans.

But as to whether Scarface is selling out with The Fix -- let's just say he has matured and leave it at that. Like so many MCs before him, Scarface has realized that you can't keep referring to yourself as a crazy-ass, trigger-happy young buck when you're making mortgage payments and dropping the kids off at day care. With The Fix, Scarface displays not only a stronger, defiant sense of responsibility, but a broader vision. He's finally learning what many rap artists would do well to pick up on: If you wanna distinguish yourself from the pack, you're gonna have to think outside your own zip code. So let's welcome the man when he comes into ours.

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