By Orion Donovan-Smith, The Washington Post
“Scarface is dead,” said Brad Jordan.
He may be better known by the alias he used in his hip-hop career as a member of the Geto Boys, the provocative trio that helped put Southern rap on the map in the late 1980s, but after announcing a run for Houston City Council, Jordan said in an interview Tuesday he wants to be remembered for a life in public service.
“I’m not going to be a 75-year-old rapper,” he said with a laugh. “I’m going to be finishing my last term in office as president when I’m 75.”
The Houston native, 48, announced his candidacy to represent District D, which covers much of the southern part of the city where he grew up, in an Instagram post Sunday. Four days earlier, current District D council member Dwight Boykins, whom Jordan calls a good friend, announced plans to vacate the seat to run for mayor.
City officials confirmed that Jordan had filed his appointment of a campaign treasurer, although he has until Aug. 19 to file as a candidate on the Nov. 5 ballot, when all 16 council seats will be contested.
Jordan said he had already set his sights on the council seat, which he sees as an opportunity to address the issues affecting the community where he lives, but didn’t expect Boykins to leave the seat for another four years.
“But four years came in a matter of 24 hours,” he said. “When he vacated that seat, it was my time to go ahead and move toward that seat, because I grew up there, I know a lot of people there, I know what the issues are.”
Jordan’s announcement came just hours before a fellow Geto Boy, Bushwick Bill, died Sunday at age 52, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. In his first Instagram post after announcing his run for office, the man formerly known as Scarface posted a photo of a smiling Bill.
The Geto Boys rose to prominence amid controversy around the violent and sexually explicit lyrics they said reflected the reality they saw in their Houston neighborhood. In 1991, Jordan told The Washington Post that “Scarface is just a character.”
But it was 1991′s “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” a more vulnerable song exploring the psychic impact of that hard reality, that was their biggest hit. Jordan also released several solo albums as Scarface on the way to earning a reputation as an elder statesman of hip-hop.
After the height of the Geto Boys’ fame, Jordan helped launch the careers of rappers such as Ludacris as head of Def Jam South in the early 2000s. His campaign announcement was met with expressions of support on Instagram from hip-hop artists including MC Lyte, 2 Chainz, Bun B and Slim Thug.
But in recent years, Jordan has sought to move beyond his identity as an MC.
“I don’t even want to be that guy no more,” he told Fox 26′s Isiah Carey in 2017.
Jordan would be the most prominent rapper to win elected office, but he isn’t the first to try. The Fugees’ Wyclef Jean was disqualified when he sought the presidency of his native Haiti in 2010, and last year Dupré “DoItAll” Kelly, of the Lords of the Underground, got fewer than 5 percent of the votes when ran for an at-large city council seat in Newark.
Jordan said his priorities include education and job training, reentry programs for formerly incarcerated people, and addressing the city’s infrastructure and vulnerability to flooding. He has already focused on those issues through his nonprofit group, the Positive Purpose Movement, organizing backpack drives for schools and employing locals as debris monitors when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017.
“I’m super-passionate when it comes to the people,” he said. “This is the district that I’m from, and I recognize the problems. But I don’t want to point the finger at the problems. I just want to be responsible for the solutions.”
A year ago, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared June 26 “Scarface Day.” After thanking the mayor — and his mother — Jordan seemed to use the occasion to mark a transition.