Hip hop is a genre that’s notorious for its larger-than-life personalities and stories, but sometimes a verse comes along that hits so close to home that it’s impossible not to feel it deep in your bones. Scarface’s incredible guest verse on Jay-Z’s “This Can’t Be Life” is one of those verses.
Produced by Kanye West (as he recounted on “Last Call”), and featuring a gorgeous sample of “I Miss You” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the classic track appeared on Jay’s 2000 Roc-A-Fella compilation, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. The album wasn’t exactly a critical darling when it dropped, but Scarface’s verse on “This Can’t Be Life” was one of the shining moments of the project.
According to Hov in his autobiography, Decoded, everything that Scarface rapped in his verse was true. The two rappers were hanging out in the studio together, along with Beanie Sigel and Hov’s engineer Young Guru, when Face got a call from a friend telling him that one of his friend’s sons had passed away in a fire.
Jay-Z: When he got off the phone I told him, “Yo, we’ll get the verse another time.” He shook his head. “Nah, Jig, nah, I’ll do it now.” He went off on his own for a while to compose his verse. When he came into the booth to record, he laid down the verse that’s on the album in one take.”Decoded | Jay-Z
What Scarface ended up reciting was less of a rap verse and more of a letter to his homeboy, telling him “I’m hurting for you dog; but ain’t nobody pain is like yours.” The Southern GOAT rapper also shares how he called his wife immediately after the news to grieve with her. It’s a heart-wrenching moment that’s just another example of why Scarface is one of the greatest MCs at delivering true-to-life, poignant verses.
Life.. yeah.. uhh.. Now as I walk into the studio to do this with Jig' I got a phone call from one of my nigs Said my homeboy Reek, he just lost one of his kids And when I heard that I just broke into tears And see in the second hand; you don't really know how this is But when it hits that close to home you feel the pain at the crib So I called mine, and saddened my wife with the bad news Now we both depressed, counting our blessings 'cause Brad's two Praying for young souls to laugh at life through the stars Loving your kids just like you was ours And I'm hurting for you dog; but ain't nobody pain is like yours I just know that heaven'll open these doors And ain't no bright side to losing life; but you can view it like this God's got open hands homie, he in the midst.. of good company Who loves all and hates not one And one day you gon' be with your son I could've rapped about my hard times on this song But heaven knows I woulda been wrong I wouldn'ta been right, it wouldn'ta been love It wouldn'ta been life, it wouldn'ta been us This can't be life - Scarface on "This Can’t Be Life" // The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)