What does it say about the hip-hop industry that two of the hottest emcees in the game, one consisting of an emcee (Shyne) currently incarcerated and facing another five-years pending an appeal, and the other a preacher on the comeback trail (Mase)? While Shyne Po/Jamal Barrow was once more famous for having a vocal intonation that eerily resembled Notorious B.I.G., on 12-27-99 he became infamous for squeezing a hammer off numerous times (which Shyne still adamantly classifies as an incident of self-defense) in a crowded NY nightclub he frequented that night as a guest of Sean “Puffy” Combs and his then boriqua J-Lo.
In light of the events that took place during and after his trail with Puffy (where too most observers it seemed that Shyne was hung out to dry) it should come as no real surprise that with numerous labels fervently begging him too put his name between the papers lines, Shyne took his services elsewhere and inked a multimillion dollar deal for his Gangland imprint with Def Jam, with both jointly releasing of his highly anticipated sophomore effort, Godfather Buried Alive.
Similar to Tupac, Shyne hit the studio and recorded at a frenetic pace before his sentence was imposed and Godfather Buried Alive is the first batch of that material. And just as eerily, Shyne comes off just as prophetic as Pac on “The Gang” f/ Foxy Brown (which lifts the same sample Raekwon used to great effect on “Incarcerated Scarface”) boldly asserting “I don’t wanna talk/but I’m the hottest ni**a in NY” and over the fiery violins of “Godfather” he prognosticates what has now virtually come to pass “I could give a fuck if there is a heaven for a G/this is heaven for me/go to trial never plea/do a bullet and come home to the throne.” Seemingly very in-tune with what the outcome of his case would be (guilty verdict) Shyne uses his sophomore album as a platform to also get more political and also show a hint of remorse; as he expresses an already vastly discussed theory “man black people don’t own no ports or boats/how the fuck we getting all this coke” on the breezy Caribbean afrobeat that makes up “Quasi O.G” and laments that “hip-hop ain’t responsible for violence in America/America is responsible for violence in America” and apologizes to his Mother on the extra grimey, Kanye West produced lead-single “More Or Less” which features an especially masculine sounding Foxy Brown on the hook.
And while Shyne does just that over Just Blaze’s triumphant horns on “Diamonds And Mac 10′s,” very much like his very uneven debut, the flashes of brilliance Shyne displays on Godfather Buried Alive are undermined by filler (“Edge” & “Martyr”), lackluster production and commercial reaches. “Behind The Walls” f/Kurupt and Nate Dogg is a forced collaboration that plays into the qanundrum Jadakiss described on “Why”â€”(“why my buzz in L.A. not like it is in New York”) and the misplaced “Jimmy Choo” f/Ashanti which is nothing more then a cookie-cutter attempt at generating a woman friendly club-track. Both of these collaborations are unnecessary, as it takes the focus off of Shyne; after all, isn’t he and his story the real draw here? And while the recent freestyle, “For The Record,” Shyne spit from behind bars, which includes him airing out 50 Cent, has further peaked everyone’s curiosity, it just reiterates the stronghold that 50 and his G-Unit brethren have on the industry right now, as he’s getting dissed by an emcee some feel is a legitimate contender to the throne of NY—-from prison!!
Though Godfather Buried Alive fails to meet expectations it will not prohibit Shyne from selling a grip of records, as even though he’s still incarcerated, his buzz is so strong right now that magazines are fighting for exclusives and even the usually Urban leery 60 Minutes has already completed an expose on him which will be aired at a later date—even “it” girl of the moment, Lindsay Lohan, cannot claim as much. Like the phrase his former labelmate has now coined as his comeback mantra, “Welcome Back” Shyne Po!!
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