From crack dealer to gangsta rapper to councilman? Houston's 'Scarface'

From crack dealer to gangsta rapper to councilman? Houston's 'Scarface'
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Over the past 35 years, Brad “Scarface” Jordan has gone from being a street-level crack dealer to a nationally known recording artist to a city council candidate in America’s fourth largest city. On December 14, we will learn if voters in Houston's District D (population 210,000) prefer the risky and potentially transformational choice offered by Jordan to the safe and status quo choice offered by his rival. 

In the mid-1980s Jordan was selling crack cocaine on the streets of Houston. Over the next 20 years, first as a member of gangsta rap pioneers the Geto Boys, and as a solo artist collaborating with hip hop icons such as Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J and Jay-Z, Scarface became a leading force in the Southern hip hop movement, which emerged as a distinct alternative to the more established East Coast hip hop and West Coast hip hop genres. 

Scarface’s artistic work has always drawn heavily on his own personal experience living in inner-city Houston. Themes include police brutality, mental illness, racism, the violent death of young African Americans and rampant inequality. The lyrics of many songs were controversial, especially in the 1990s, with considerable profanity, and the discussion of edgy topics ranging from mental illness and gangsta life to rape, murder and necrophilia.

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Fast forward to 2019, and Brad “Scarface” Jordan (as he is listed on the ballot) is in a runoff to represent District D on the Houston City Council from 2020 to 2024. On November 5, Jordan placed second in a 16-candidate field, just behind the first place candidate, Carolyn Evans-Shabazz. Since no candidate won a majority, the top two finishers moved on to a runoff election.

District D is on Houston’s south side, and includes many locations featured in Scarface’s songs. The district contains the renowned Texas Medical Center as well as multiple food deserts and some of Houston’s most impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Jordan’s rival, Evans-Shabazz, is a mainstream candidate with an impressive political resume as a long-time educator and current Houston Community College trustee. She also is a member of the largest voting demographic in District D, African American women 50 years old and older. She represents the safe bet for District D voters and would virtually guarantee they are adequately represented at City Hall for the next four years.

Jordan represents a riskier bet for voters, since his lack of political and administrative experience could undermine his ability to serve as an effective advocate for his constituents. At the same time, Jordan’s national star power, unique life experience and ability to think outside the box could allow him to serve as a transformational leader in District D, utilizing his star power, marketing skills and national connections to obtain a flow of investment and aid into District D that could significantly improve the quality of life of its residents. 

If Jordan is victorious, we should expect him to have an outsized impact on the 16-member Houston City Council. And, if that impact is positive, Brad “Scarface” Jordan could quite possibly emerge as an early front-runner to succeed term-limited Mayor Sylvester TurnerSylvester TurnerAstroworld death toll rises to 10 after 9-year-old dies from injuries Criminal investigation launched into deaths at Houston festival Over two dozen arrested following Houston music festival MORE in 2024.

Mark P. Jones is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s fellow in political science and the Joseph D. Jamail chair in Latin American Studies at Rice University as well as a co-author of “Texas Politics Today: 2017-2018 Edition.” Follow him @MarkPJonesTX.