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

Dottie's Diner 1975 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights 216-932-3663. Hours 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
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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