Ed Garnes Vents On Scarface, Fake Rappers, Drug Culture
interview by wordsmith Jacinta Howard http://4cryinoutloudentertainment.blogspot.com/
JH: In the movie “paid in full” (based on a true story), it’s suggested that the main character began dealing drugs after being encouraged by the movie, scarface. Do you believe the movie had a similar impact on other young black males? How so?
ED: From running numbers to moonshine runs and after hour juke joints, black folks have often utilized the underground economy. Scarface is a hood hero because it is the ultimate underdog story. Hip hop is about making a way out of no way, and Scarface’s rise to power is linked with the struggle of black males dealing with poverty, despair, and limited life chances.
JH:Tony montana has been glamorized in hip hop culture– from the influx of posters (think of trick daddy’s house on Crib’s), to airbrushed vehicles donning his image, to rappers consistently quoting and even naming themselves after him (scarface)… why do you think this is?
ED:We ( black folks) have always struggled to assert our own identity. We are told we are less than. So much so that many rappers develop alter ego’s like Scarface to live hood fantasies and live that Amercian dream (phat house, car, and fine women on the arm). Somehow being something other than a black male becomes a sexy notion to entertain. These gangsta personas in many ways are defensive mechanisms that allow hip hop heads to cope with racism and the realities of being second class citizens in America. Scarface’s mythology is like cultural armor protecting folks from oppressive systems.
JH: What are the driving elements of the movie that you think have been adopted by hip hop and why have they been influential?
ED: The driving element of Scarface is access to power. Hip Hop has always looked for it’s piece of the pie, so a story of a dishwasher rising to drug lord will always be appealing to folks who relate to being locked out of conventional institutions. As James Baldwin opined…” The only thing that white people have that black people need, or should want, is power-and no one holds power forever.”
ED:I beg to differ. Cash Money Records is a direct allusion to the Cash Money brothers portrayed in New Jack City. Miami based rapper Rick Ross is a direct reference to a drug dealer of the same name. Black folks just wanna see somebody win. Whether Latino or of African decent, sticking to the man and success on your terms is the goal. Hip Hop heads have redefined contemporary notions of success guided by a simple principle; speaking to folks who mainstream culture aint give a damn about.
JH: Do you think Scarface has had a detrimental impact on hip hop culture? How so?
Sadly, most folks fail to understand that Scarface was killed out of greed. There is a difference in dying fighting for freedom and being killed of white powder and B.S.
Award winning writer, educator, counselor, and activist Edward M. Garnes, Jr. is the founder of From Afros to Shelltoes: Art, Action, and Conversation, a nationally acclaimed series of cultural productions confronting the social divide between elders and hip hop heads, and holds a B.A. in English Writing from DePauw University and a M.A. in Counseling from Michigan State University . His seminal essay, ” Sweet Tea Ethics: Black Luv, Healthcare, and Cultural Mistrust,” currently appears in Not In My Family: AIDS in the African American Community, a 2007 NAACP Image Award nominated collection edited by Gil Robertson. (www.afrostoshelltoes.com).