For somebody who doesn’t have a critically acclaimed “classic album” or many memorable standout verses throughout his career, Jamal Barrow(aka Shyne) has found a way to made quite a mark within Hip Hop. Shyne Po name still remains anonymous amongst the Hip Hop community, Due to his willingness to stick by his balls and his word, He showcased his realness by following the “g code” of Hip Hop of not snitching and boosted his street credibility by “busting his gun” that infamous night on December 27th 1999. But before the fame and attention, Shyne was just another one of the many millions young black men trying to survive in the streets of Brooklyn and live his dream.
The story of Shyne wasn’t all roses and rainbows. He was born in Belize City, Belize to Dean Barrow(whom is currently the Prime Minister of Belize) and his estranged mother Frances Imeon Myvette. His Father never claimed him and publicly said that “All of his Children except for Shyne were born out of love”. Shyne remained with his Uncle in Belize until the age of 13 and eventually relocated in Brooklyn New York to be with his mother. Between being disowned by his father,Shyne saw escapism in dealing with the street life. He caught a serious knack for hustling and started becoming a troublemaker, Getting thrown out of Juvenile Detentions and became more fascinated with the streets. Shortly it would come with a heavy price which eventually led him to getting shot in the chest at the age of 15. The incident to this day caused him to have Post traumatic stress disorder and became the wake-up call that he could end up dead or locked up for good.
After recovering from his shooting, He soon found out he had a knack for rapping and knew he had a story to tell because he felt the life he lived was authentic. Interesting enough in the Summer of 1998, He was discovered by Producer Clark Kent when he was free-styling for almost 45 straight minutes at a Barber Shop in Brooklyn. Kent mesmerized by the fact that Shyne sounded very eerily to Biggie took him to Daddy’s House where Sean P-Diddy Combs signed him directly on the spot.
The deal for Shyne seemingly looked sweet on paper and a chance for him to escape the street life for good. He also adopted a moniker named “Shyne Po” according to then Bad Boy Mason Betha(Formally known as Mase). He claimed that whenever they use to go to Manhattan together. They were seen as the “Rich Porter and Alpo” of Rap because many looked at Shyne and seen familiarities to Alpo.
The record deal for Shyne by Puffy included a million dollar signing bonus, two homes and 3 cars of his choice along with a contraction 5 album deal. The deal seemed to have been the break that Shyne was following looking for and finally a chance to realize his dream.
Life as a Bad Boy
Shyne slowly started to adjust to his new life as a signed rapper. He had instant access to the nicest homes, cars, women, jewelry,and everything associated to being apart of one of the biggest rap labels in the world. It turned out to actually be a street cred boost for Puffy and he fit right in with the new lions he wanted to unleash as the future of Bad Boy. Puff took the young protegé under his wing and started putting Shyne on different album cuts and remixes to establish a buzz for his debut album.
But considering that Biggie’s death in 1997 was still fresh in many people’s minds(Especially in New York), The world wasn’t ready to accept Shyne and many of his peers quickly rid him off as a Biggie Clone. Lil Kim publicly dissed Shyne on her vicious diss track Notorious Kim for what she felt was plagiarism of Biggie’s memory on Shyne’s part and felt He was a clone. Prodigy(from Mobb Deep) on his Infamous Mobb website trashed Shyne’s mixtape saying it was “trash” and even claimed to have thrown it out of the window. Many felt that the signing of Shyne was a slap in the face by Puffy on the part of Biggie’s memory.
But even in the midst of the hate, Shyne kept on working on his debut album titled SHYNE. Shyne’s up and coming album along with Black Rob was a true reflection of the change of direction Bad Boy was going through. Hip Hop throughout 1998 into 1999 were heading back to the streets due to the shift of the Ruff Ryders/Rocafella sound being the true representation of the hardcore NYC sound. Puff and the Bad Boy started to eventually fall behind in Popularity throughout 1998 and it wouldn’t get any better in 1999.
Puff knew his flashy Jiggy Pop Image was becoming a thing of the past and becoming eventually played out(Especially since he seen his Forever album flop horribly) so he knew he had to find ways to compete to stay relevant. Rappers stopped wearing the Shiny Suits and started wearing the timberlands, baggy jeans and catering to the streets and less to the radio. Puff believed that he actually had to boost more of his image and wash away the stigma of being the Shiny Suit man.
He chose one of his personal pawns to carrying this new-found attempt at gaining street credibility. He alongside four of his men broke in to the Offices of Record Exective Steve Stoute and assaulted him. Puff took it a step further by hitting him over the head with a champagne bottle and smacking him in the face with the telephone. Puff was furious of the response that the Nas Hate Me Now video had gotten during his listening board. The video diplicated Both Nas and Puffy hanging on Crosses like Jesus Christ. Puff blamed Stoute for leaking the video without proper editing and wanted to show that he was a big bad wolf. It may have boosted Puff’s image into this Mystique New York like Gangster, But this move almost had Bad Boy and their distributors drop them for good.
Puff was obviously feeling the serious pressure of staying in the radar and it showed within his erratic behavior in the coming months. He had already worked the Bad Boy production crew to the bone to where Stevie J was feeling burned and demanded more money from Puff. Stevie demanded 300,000 to produce Mary J’s new album or else he walked. His newly found girlfriend Jennifer Lopez became a victim to the bad press Puff was receiving, to mount another problem off the top of another, The Bad Boy camp would suffer an even bigger blow when one of his biggest artists Mase shockingly announced he was retiring from Rap to become a Minister.
The Announcement came so shockingly that nobody in the world expected it. Puff was already under hot water with that Steve Stoute incident so this further added more to the perception that Bad Boy was in jeopardy of falling off from grace. Sensing serious desperation, Puff seeked his biggest cash cow(The Late Notorious B.I.G.) and attempted to release a new album by him. Manyof Biggie’s longtime fans and friends were astonished by the news because they finally get to hear possibly some new or unreleased material. But instead it ended up looking like a horrendous attempt on the part of Puff to capitalize off Biggie’s name as he had him rapping aside the hottest of the industry at the time. Possibly guys Biggie would have never worked with himself had he been lived. Hearing Biggie rhyming aside The Cash Money Millionaires, Eminem, and Missy Elliot didn’t make too many people happen at the time either. If these setbacks didn’t really get to Puff, The incident on December 27th 1999 would forever change Bad Boy.
Even though Bad Boy Company had suffered a year of Turmoil and financial strain, Puff himself still had a reason to celebrate the year out. He had hooked up with Jennifer Lopez, Whom one of the Entertainment Industry’s most beautiful women and started to produce for her album, His clothing line Sean John would explode into a Phenomenon Tran-setting the fashion world grossing at 160 Million worldwide. Puff had every reason to want to smile because he found new hustles to keep his brand-name out in the public despite Bad Boy’s slump of a year. He was confident that his new lions Black Rob, Shyne, and G Dep were gonna put Bad Boy back in the streets in 2000 and vowed to write all the errors he made throughout the year of 1999.
Puff in typical braggadocios fashion wanted to make a big impact upon entering the club that night. He had his young protegé Shyne with him, Jennifer Lopez on his arm, and some of the best security money can buy alongside his longtime friend Wolf whom would protect him at any angle. Even if it rubbed many people the wrong way, He wanted a Moses like reception entering into the club that night with people parting as if Moses was splitting the Red Sea and tossing money in the air. An altercation would later take place by a group of men whom grew tired of Puffy’s flaunting and went far as to throw money at him as an insult. Shyne fearing for his life started to fire shots from his Semi Automatic handgun at the man whom he thought was drawing a gun himself. Instead of hitting the man, He accidentally hit 3 innocent bystanders. Puff allegedly had a gun on him and fired a shot in the air that night which led him to getting arrested and charged of Gun possessions and bribery charges. The Bribery charges came from Puff offering 50,000 to his driver to say he didn’t have a gun in the car with him that night, If convicted Puff would do 15 years in Prison.
Shyne was charged with attempted Murder and Gun possession along with HIS FRIEND Wolf whom was accused of having the gun by his feet. Three of the victims whom were struck by Shyne that night filed a lawsuit against all three men for an 100 million dollars despite Puff denying all the charges and pleading his innocence. This was the darkest moment of Puff’s life next to losing his biggest asset in the late Notorious B.I.G. The only difference is that his whole life along with Shyne’s, Wolf, and the entire Bad Boy empire was at risk of crumbling if the verdict plead Guilty.
I didn’t like the way Diddy did Shyne with different Lawyers
Nas from the track Purple.
This became possibly the biggest trial in Hip Hop history with tons of media coverage covering every move. For the right or wrong reasons, Shyne defending his life and shooting at the club gave him instant street credibility and helped him in some strange way become a Martyr to the Hip Hop Community and a spokesman for street individuals obeying by the street code of never snitching.
The trial took a heavy toll on Puff as he feared everyday of his freedom slipping away as the trial progressed . He used alot of that money and muscle to hire the rights of High price attorney Johnny Cochran whom was responsible for getting OJ Simpson Acquitted of double murder of his ex-wife and close friend in 1995. Shyne on the other hand caught a raw deal, Couldn’t afford an attorney so he had to receive one from the state.
Even though the trial weighed in on the Bad Boy family like a black cloud, 2000 would still possibly go on as one of the best years musically the label has had since 1995. Black Rob’s single titled WHOA was a smash hit and brought Bad Boy back into the streets along with dropping his long anticipated debut album Life Story. Puff also found his luck in the R&B world again with the releases from Carl Thomas’s Emotional album which cranked out hits such as I Wish, Emotional, and Summer Rain. The Track Emotional would become one of 2000 Biggest songs and would later be remixed in typical Bad Boy fashion. Faith Evans and Carl Thomas turned the cold-blooded Dr Dre Phone Tap beat into a nice Quiet Storm R&B type of track and featured one of Shyne’s brightest verses as he vowed to haunt Mayor Rudy Giuliani until he’s six feet deep. This verse had the conscious community supporting him because They saw Rudy as a true cancer as Mayor of New York and a bigoted Racist.
“Dear America I’m what you made me
“Young, Black, and FUCKING CRAZY
Dear America Introduction
Shyne’s debut album was surprisingly an instant success. That’s mainly due to the fact that the track Bad Boyz Anthem was one of the hardest street bangers of the year 2000. Black Rob set the bar with WHOA which was a smash hit that tore up clubs earlier that year and Bad Boyz Anthem with Shyne’s hard street raps, reggae hook provided by B Levy and slap hard production from The Hitmen. This was the hit that Shyne also needed to create strong numbers for his debut album.
Shyne also proved throughout his debut that he was also a pretty decent rapper in his own right and that he wasn’t no Biggie Smalls Clone. Even though lines such as “Who’s the greatest Emcees? Biggie, JayZ and Shyne” kind of had people scratching their heads, The Hitmen provided the perfect theme for Shyne to bring his testimony to the world. There were also Songs such as The Life and The Hit ironically spoke prophesy of his fate as he fought for his life at the stand and drew parallels of the shooting that night
I’m a regular guy, man,” he says. “I’m not tougher than nobody. I’m not better than nobody. I know real killers. I know people that really snatch bodies. I’m not that. I just did what I had to do. Somebody pulled out a .40 caliber and I had to pull mine out or I was gonna die.”
10 Year Incarceration.
May 17th 2001 would be the date that Puff, Wolf and Shyne would learn their fate. Puff did a total 380 in regards of changing his image in hope that it would ease off some of the negative press he’s been receiving, The future of Bad Boy was in the hand of 12 Jurors. The tension between Shyne and Puff started to grow even more when Shyne pubic ally did an interview with XXL a month prior telling his side of the story while labeling Puff as “disloyal” and someone who’s only out for himself”. Shyne also felt that the witnesses Puff’s lawyers called to the stand hurt his chances of being acquitted.
When the Verdict was finally decided, Puff would eventually be Exonerated and Acquitted of all charges becoming a free man. Bad Boy as a staff, record label, and a crew was spared a serious blow and Puff, thanks to his money, muscle, and strong defense team was given another chance at redemption. His friend Wolf was also acquitted of his charges as well but it was Shyne who caught not only the bad wrap but the short end of the stick.
When he learned of his sentencing, Shyne broke down in tears while clutching the Bible at his grasp while silently saying the Lords Prayer to himself. He offered sincere condolences to the victims and the Court for everything that occurred that night of the shooting. Shyne was Sentenced to 10 Years in prison for First Degree assault, Gun Possession and Reckless Endangerment which basically put his career on the shelf. Shyne’s sentencing was a proven bittersweet victory for Bad Boy because many felt that Puff’s handling of the situation was caused by him and Shyne was the fall guy as a result.
Whenever a rapper is facing incarceration or having to do a length of time in prison, Their value as an artist and a brand start to eventually decrease. Unless they have a serious organic follow or left behind a heavy amount of work for their record label to continue to promote, The chances of an artist staying relevant are very slim to none. As Tupac once stated in one interview during his incarceration: “Prison kills your spirit”.
Puff would go on to sing the phrases to the almighty lord for his acquittal . He vowed to erase all of the wrongdoings of his life and become a true follower of his Christian Faith as well as revamp Bad Boy Records for the new millennium. He even changed his name from “Puff Daddy” to “P-Diddy” thinking he left the remains of his name in the past and wanted to be reborn again. Shyne knowing the true nature of how Puff really was heard of all of this “cheap talk” and grew even more disgusted behind the cell walls.
GodFather Buried Alive
In such a genius marketing fashion, Shyne found ways to keep his name out in the radar in-spite of being on lock-down. Many felt that Shyne was dealt a wrong deal and didn’t respect Puff’s handling of the situation but they accepted it because Puff was still regarded as a power player in the industry. Shyne(As aforementioned) not only found loopholes out of Puff’s contract and was able to ink a 3 million dollar contract with Island Def Jam with the opportunity for Def Jam to use material Pre- incarceration.
It was very unheard of for a incarcerated rapper(Not even a top 20 one at that) to have offers on the table from different labels. Everybody from JayZ, Nelly, Dr Dre, Lyor Colen and Murder Inc even threw an offer on the table. A Free-Shyne Movement was orchestrated by many of his peers whom felt he caught a raw deal which led to Def Jam shelling out 10 million to his imprint Gangland Records.
The rumors of a possible Murder Inc Signing caught their rival’s 50 Cent radar. 50 seen anyone whom was helping Murder Inc or co-signing them as an automatic target and he targeted Shyne in an unauthorized freestyle calling him a punk and boasting at him that he won’t shoot up the club again”
Shyne responded via telephone with For The Record calling 50’s gangsta as a bluff for record sales and claimed “Niggas would have died if they shot me 9 times”. This started off another feud but it wouldn’t go far since Shyne was locked up.
He also other ways to not fade out of the radar. His team organized an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes explaining his story to the world and why he felt Puff was a traitor. He made an appearance on one of the biggest records of the year by making a surprising appearance on Usher’s Confessions album which was totally unheard of. It’s a clear indication that Shyne was the real deal and people wanted to use him for instant street gratification.
Release from Prison
Throughout Shyne’s time spent in prison, He went through a spiritual revival and started showing more of an effort to re-establish his new-found faith in Judaism. He changed the way he talked, his entire look was revamped which had people believe Shyne has really lost his mind. Especially since he legally changed his Government name from Jamal Barrow to Moses Levi. Shyne also used some of his muscle to make an appearance on Lil Wayne’s Carter 4 which showed that he really lost a lot of his flow(while being incarcerated).
Shyne’s music showcased a heavy decline(Which he admitted on the Breakfast Club) due to his incarceration but he vowed to work back at it and in the mean time continue to spread his truth. If it wasn’t speaking out against Rick Ross, 50 Cent, Drake, or calling Kendrick Lamar’s album “Trash”.
The Kendrick Lamar criticism received a lot of backlash from most of the West Coast rappers. Most notably The Game, Nipsey Hussle and Schoolboy Q but there was one vendetta that he vowed to never settle it with and that was with his former Employer/Mentor, and Friend Sean “P Diddy” Combs”.
Homeboy did me dirty, he knows that; he apologized. He’s said he’s gonna spend the rest of his life helping me get my life back, so how you don’t help your man come back to America?!
Does Puffy fear Shyne?
The Estranged relationship of Puffy and Shyne has had it fair share of up and downs. The turmoil between the two since Puff’s Acquittal has clearly been eating Shyne up for many years. The two seemingly to have patched things up when they took a few pictures together in Paris.But when Puff whom vowed to work to bring Shyne back into US by helping him resolve Immigration issues. Shyne decided it was time to air out the grivences of his former friend:
Diddy offered me money, I turned it down. I only wanted Diddy to support Ms. Jones, she’s the mother of my former bodyguard, Anthony Wolf Jones. Don’t give me any money fuck I don’t need it — but take care of Ms. Jones.
Diddy gave her $10K when I started talking to him, but that was it. But while we were in Paris, he spent half a million on his chick, Cassie. …
If it weren’t for Wolf, if it weren’t for me, things would be very different. There would be no Cîroc deal, he wouldn’t be worth close to a billion.”
Puff whom usually had a response to accusations of being a shady business when it came to the LOX, and Mark Curry have been strangely silent whenever Shyne opens his mouth.
One of the possibilities to take under consideration is that Shyne’s street cred playing a major role. He was able to score a multi million dollar deal and album deal with Bad Boy and then inking another deal with Def Jam without any form of legalized tussle. Could it be that Shyne really knows more of Puff’s dirt which could damage his image? Could it be that Shyne knows that Puff really shot his gun that infamous night at the club? Is Puff staying silent out of protecting his image or Is he just taking the high road because he felt guilty? Those questions are often raised in the air by many and considering Puff’s flamboyant personality. It’s strange to see him remain silent when Shyne goes on interviews telling his stories or airing out the dirty laundry on Social Media.
Today Shyne is totally focusing on rebuilding his brand with a new crew called “Gangland” and trying to re-focus on putting out better music. He is currently residing in Belize(which he was sent too due to Deportation in 2010) and still awaiting a chance to come back into the States.There have been many opinions of Shyne’s life throughout many publications, his peers and throughout the industry, But one thing that clearly obvious is that The trials and tribulation of Shyne Career has been a captivating story.
We’ve seen him achieve his dream of signing to one of the biggest label in Music, We’ve witnessed his street stories which he expressed in his music becoming vividly parallel to his everyday life. We felt his pain when he lost 10 years of his life for being loyal to a man whom didn’t return the favor back. We saw his true intelligence and resilience manifest when he managed to stay relevant throughout his prison stint and seen him grow spiritually as a new man. Shyne’s story is a perfect example of how authenticity often triumph’s being fraudulent.
Vic Da Ruler