The gangster film, a classic American genre, was re-envisioned for the millennium.

[T]here are people who feel Tony’s emotions as if they were their own, feel the words he speaks like they’re coming out of their own mouths.

I’ve always found this a little strange….

The viewer inhabits the character while the movie runs, but when it’s over, the character lives on in the viewer. (Jay Z, Decoded 293)


  • Jay Z, “Our Life” (Decoded 290-97)
  • Jay Z, “The Voice in Your Head is Right” (Decoded 258-71)




Scarface (Brian De Palma 1983) is quite probably hip hop’s single most influential film — for decades, the film has served as a touchstone within the culture. In this discussion, I ask you to think seriously about why this might be so.

There is of course no single answer to this question; like most works of art, Scarface is both complex and contradictory, and it appeals in different ways to different people. For example, Jay Z suggests that “It seems like the movie ends in some people’s memory about two-thirds of the way through, before it all goes to shit for Tony” (293). For Jay Z himself, though, the film seems most important as a story of paranoia, loss, and regret.

In your initial posting, you might

  1. Identify one particular aspect of Scarface (e.g. a character, a plot point, a theme) and discuss the reasons for its appeal to artists and/or audiences within hip-hop culture. As always, concrete examples will help you make your case.
  2. Choose one of the dozens of samples from the film that have appeared in rap songs. Explain what purpose(s) these references to the film serve within the context of the song.
  3. Think about the film using Prof. Jeffry Ogbar’s categorization of hip hop’s various  perspectives on the drug trade. Is Scarface cautionary, romantic, and/or descriptive? As always, concrete examples should support your argument.