July 12, 2008

Shyne - Shyne (September 26, 2000)


One of the many things that upset me regarding our chosen genre is its insistence on repeating history instead of actively aiming for something new. Hollywood does this often as well, and as a filmmaker and film goer, my intelligence isn't insulted any less. But when it comes to hip hop, it's especially puzzling, since the acts almost always sound more like a label creation and less like an actual artist trying to work.

After the untimely deaths of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, hip hop mourned its loss by elevating the status of these two decent rappers to that of fucking gods among mortal men. It's no wonder that record label executives tried to pimp these deceased artists for as long as possible. Not only was it bad enough that 2Pac's unreleased tracks from the vaults (most of which feature him seemingly repeating the same sentiments in different combinations) were being pimped out by his own mother (I hope all that money is funding fucking college scholarships or something), Suge Knight, the then-head of Death Row Records, tried to capitalize on the loss of its most controversial artist by signing some guy named The Realest, a straight-up Pac clone that makes a living playing his hero at bat mitzfahs. This comes off as straight overkill, considering that 2Pac releases a new album every six months, but that's the rap business, kids!

On the other end of the spectrum, the loss of The Notorious B.I.G. left Bad Boy CEO Puff Daddy without his biggest selling artist (and his closest tie to the streets), and while he tried to fill the gap by releasing albums by the likes of Black Rob, Ma$e, and himself, he ultimately caved and signed Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, a young rapper from Brooklyn by way of Belize. Much was made of the fact that Shyne sounded exactly like Biggie Smalls, and Sean Combs, to my knowledge, never really disputed the fact: he opted to let the music speak for itself. After a few cameos on some R&B tracks (and a feature on Puff Daddy's "Reverse", a bizarre collaborative effort that also featured contributions from the likes of Redman, Cee-Lo of Goodie Mob (and Gnarls Barkley), Busta Rhymes, and Sauce Money, of all people), he recorded his debut album, the simply stated Shyne, for release in 2000.

Unfortunately, Shyne soon found himself in the middle of a media circus, trying to protect his boss and mentor (and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez) in a nightclub shooting that he alleges was in self-defense. Released on bail, he attempted to turn the focus away from his court date by promoting Shyne, but this effort ultimately fell on deaf ears, not because folks weren't curious about the album, but because everyone wanted to know more about the case, since two of entertainment's biggest stars (relatively speaking) were involved. Ultimately, in 2001 Puffy's legal team helped him get off the hook, and Puff (allegedly) (yeah, right) left Shyne Po to rot in prison, a sentence which he is still serving as of this writing (although I understand he's getting out soon). Shyne was released to the public in late 2000 and ultimately sold more than five hundred thousand copies, but he has yet to reap the rewards of any of his royalties, thanks to that Son of Sam law that prevents him from profiting from his crimes while incarcerated. (Apparently the judge that ruled on that action had his own opinions about Shyne.)

That isn't the best ending for the story of a budding rapper, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The bizarre thing about this tale is that, had Biggie survived his shooting (or never got caught in that fracas to begin with), Shyne would never have been signed to Bad Boy, which means that he never would have gotten involved in fighting Puffy's battles. Hell, none of us would have even heard of Shyne until he decided to post videos of himself rapping on Youtube, and even then, all of the hip hop bloggers in the world would have probably derided his rhyme style as derivative of Biggie (or, worse, Guerilla Black, another artist that piggybacked off of the flow).

1. DEAR AMERICA (INTRO)
As Shyne performs a half spoken word/half shit-talking rap album intro, Max rolls his eyes and hits the skip button.

2. WHATCHA GONNA DO
You can't tell me that Puffy signed this guy based on any tangible talent. As Guru would say, it's mostly the voice. And regardless of what Shyne Po thinks, he fucking sounds like Biggie. Now that we have that comparison out of the way, it's important for me to mention that I don't think Shyne is purposefully aping the Notorious one: it's just comes off as such. The beat on here is pretty damn ominous, so much so that I'm not sure if Biggie would ever have picked this track to spit to. Shyne also manages to sound alright, but the similarities make it hard to not hold any bias, although I'm doing my best here, my two readers.

3. BANG
I'm pretty sure Busta Rhymes performed essentially the same hook on Ma$e's "N----z Wanna Act", which was also a Bad Boy release. Coincidence? Or was Puffy going back to the well?

4. BAD BOYZ (FEAT BARRINGTON LEVY)
I remember not giving a fuck about this song, Shyne's first single, upon its initial release, but it isn't that bad today. The beat creeps up on you like a shifty process server, and Barrington Levy's timely drops punctuate the rhymes perfectly. Not bad.

5. LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS
Meh.

6. GANGSTA PRAYER (INTERLUDE)
...

7. THE LIFE
The obligatory "I was a drug dealer and now I'm a rapper, but don't get it twisted, I'm still a drug dealer, and somehow I juggle both of these full time jobs while your girl juggles these balls in her mouth" song. (Did that visual go too far?) The beat isn't that bad (although I expected better from Nashiem Myrick, of Biggie's "Who Shot Ya?" and Capone-N-Noreaga's "T.O.N.Y. (Top Of New York)" fame), but Shyne's story gets old very quickly, since it comes off as completely implausible (not unlike every other rapper ever). Logistically, this tale doesn't hold up: it's almost like James Frey rocking the mic on the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

8. IT'S OK
Seriously? Who the fuck let Shyne in the club? (That was actually not a joke at the expense of the reason Shyne is in the clink, by the way, although it can certainly be construed as one. Max may be an asshole, but even I have limits, although I'm not even sure what those limits are anymore.)

9. N----S GONNA DIE
An early, wildly unimaginative Neptunes beat envelops some generically violent piffle, which you probably assumed the song was about anyway, given it's five-star-rated title.

10. EVERYDAY (INTERLUDE)
...

11. BONNIE & SHYNE (FEAT BARRINGTON LEVY)
I kind of like this track, but it's more for the beat than anything else. It's obvious that even Shyne wasn't sure why he needed to make a song for the ladies (because so many chicks listen to Shyne, you know), so kudos to him for making the mandatory radio-friendly track as convoluted and fucked-up as possible. Misogyny takes a front seat when Shyne says that "Bonnie" (not her real name) is so fine, he's "gonna wait till the second night to fuck (her)". Get ready to swoon, ladies!

12. THE HIT
At this point, it's obvious that Puffy was structuring Shyne to sound like the follow-up to Life After Death that never happened. "The Hit" sounds like a "N----s Bleed" retread, except not nearly as entertaining, since Shyne seems to have no sense of humor.

13. THAT'S GANGSTA
Puff Daddy "produces" a song that is comprised primarily of Shyne Po rapping over the beat to The D.O.C.'s "It's Funky Enough". I can't help but hope that Dr. Dre got paid a boatload of money in royalties for this fucker.

14. SPEND SOME CHEESE
Shyne does at least try to keep up with the unorthodox beat, but ultimately fails (he even seems to admit defeat, as evidenced by his unnecessary cribbing of Sisqo lyrics toward the end). That's a damn shame, because the beat is interesting enough, and I'm sure that there are tons of other rappers that would sound just fine over it.

15. GET OUT (FEAT SLIM FROM 112)
Remember Yogi from CRU? Yeah, I don't either, but he produced this song, which can only be described as akin to one of the shittier songs from Life After Death. Shyne sounds like he's reading from one of Biggie's lost notebooks (and yes, I realize that Biggie never wrote a single rhyme down: I just liked the visual).

16. COMMISSION
It's almost as if Shyne wanted to piss off Biggie's fans by titling this track after that fabled supergroup that never materialized. It's a smack in the face, so kudos for Shyne for going balls-out. Too bad this shit doesn't sound better.

FINAL THOUGHTS: As I mentioned above, it's very difficult to review Shyne without the inevitable Biggie comparison, but it is possible. Taken on his own merits, Shyne is an emcee that isn't saying anything new, nor is he bringing a new point of view to the table: his tales of street life and such are tired and lack any sense of morality or remorse. Shyne sounds like an album chock-full of reference tracks that a ghostwriter came up with for Biggie's never-recorded third album, and just like Life After Death, Puffy goes out of his way to place his artist within other genres that Shyne himself has no business being a part of. Ultimately, this album doesn't click.

BUY OR BURN? There are a handful of decent songs on here, so burn those and move it along. There are literally tons (I've measured) of other rap albums out there that are more deserving of your hard-earned (or stolen) dollars.

BEST TRACKS: "Bonnie & Shyne"; "Bad Boyz"; "That's Gangsta"

-Max

13 comments:

  1. So Sean Combs, still devastated by his best friend’s death, decided to purchase a stand-in to replace the best friend. This person would be everything to Sean that his former best friend was and would be well compensated to perform said services. Except that the new best friend actually was not afraid to shoot a gun and took the “ryde or die” portion of the contract too far and became the fall guy for nothing short of stupidity. Diddy hasn’t lived up to many of the labels that he’s placed on himself but this particular endeavor earned him pimp status. I feel for Shyne and I hope his life gets a little better.

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  2. AnonymousJuly 13, 2008

    Max, One word would sum up dis album: "drinkcoaster"....

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  3. Who is this guy Max? Does his mother know about him? Where did you dig him out from?

    Damn it!!! Come up with some real artists...

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  4. i think "max" is an idiot and just already had his mind made up before writing all this shit down. gave shyne barely any credit. This cd is fire and fuck what max thinks. shyne is the realest rapper there is

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  5. Rick RudeMay 08, 2009

    this reveiw is shit, Shyne was not a proper bangin album, but it still had fire especially The Hit, Commission, Bad Boys and 2 2 others, so max can eat on a DICK!!!

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  6. Tile GroutApril 07, 2010

    "Get ready to swoon, ladies!" Max, thanks for helping me spit out my breakfast on the keyboard while I choked from the effort to swallow while laughing quietly enough to not wake the family.

    As for Shyne I think you said it right. He reports on his life with no perspective. Does he "keep it real"? I guess. Does that make it interesting or relevant? Not always. There are a million guys able to write lyrics like Shyne and about 950,000 of them are likely to add humor, a sense of regret and/or remorse, or at least another point of view or an otherwise imaginative touch.

    There's an episode of "Family Guy" where Peter is listening to a police scanner. Brian walks in as the scanner transmits descriptions of crimes in progress; he makes a comment like, "It sounds like rap music is getting lazy".

    Artists like Shyne can take pride in "keeping it real" while turning rap into a real-life version of Peter's police scanner. Chump.

    On an unrelated note, why does Shyne's second album cover make him look as if he's on his way to stand as best man at his brother's wedding? Straight gangsta, yo!

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    1. Nope..A million dudes cant flow or write like dude! If a million dudes could do that they would be posting there stuff online and people would recognize this.. Dude is special. His voice ,lyrics , flow , body language and swag was one of a kind in his prime. There is only one Shyne.. But thats how people are.. They see something they cant be or do ,envy then lie to themselves oh i can do that and when they prove that they cant they be like, Oh who cares about rap anyway rap sucks! lol

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  7. 'On an unrelated note, why does Shyne's second album cover make him look as if he's on his way to stand as best man at his brother's wedding? Straight gangsta, yo!'

    Word!

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  8. AnonymousJuly 28, 2012

    on his second album he was in jail so no press/ cover photos could be taken, the photo on the album is him in court the only new photo anyone could get of him. as for the album its not fire but its got some classic songs, shyne is easy to hate a first but the more you listen the more he grows on you, he come from the end of the 90's the last of the real MC's give a second listen if you wasnt feelin it you might just grow to love it

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  9. To me shyne never sounded like biggie at all.. Since people started saying he does sound like biggie is when i knew about this.. Shyne has a raspy voice for a slim dude, yes he sounds like a guy with weight. THE REAL DUDE THAT SOUNDS LIKE BIGGIE! is guerilla black!! Dont believe check out his single guerilla black feat beenie man - compton.. I think people jus say that about him to find a fault on him. The dude is handsome talented and very intelligent for someone that comes from the gutter with all that ruff living. I've learned alot from him and my vocabulary grewww massively. Only mostly professionals see this thats why all these artistes and producers get at him.

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    1. AnonymousJune 17, 2014

      Yep Yep, I remember Guerilla Black being extrememly talented but if anyone knows who's that guy who sounds like Jay-Z, please reply to this post that is over 2 years old!

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    2. Are you talking about that Noe guy who works with Dame Dash?

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