Shyne :: Shyne
Label: Bad Boy Entertainment
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Status quo among the cliches of today's rap pharmaceutical entrepeneurs
(read: drug dealers) is they are the true victims of society's ills.
Why do I sell crack, they ask? The answer is that we are all at fault.
Racism, society, impoverishment and lack of opportunity put the coke in
his hands, the gun in his waist, and the finger on his trigger. He's
just doing what he has to do to survive - it's not evil, it's just real.
Somewhere along the line, reality got bent a little. It's probably not
fair to take this problem out on Shyne; Bad Boy's newest prodigy and a
Johnny-Come-Lately who has been accused (and not inaccurately)
of sounding like the late Christopher Wallace b/k/a/ The Notorious B.I.G.
Regardless of who he sounds like or what he
flows like though, his emphatic proclamations in the "Dear America"
intro that "I'm only what you made me - young, black, and FUCKIN
CRAZY" require rebuttal. Tupac Shakur made similar
fatalistic victimization fashionable, but Shakur also injected it with
nihilism that clearly stated playing the victim was akin to becoming
the walking dead. The contradiction between his fiery passion to
live and the bleak outlook that death was inevitable because he was
a young black male was the fuel that fired all of his best works.
Hip-Hop seems to slowly be losing touch with that gritty realism -
the kind of gut check that rappers like Scarface, Ice Cube, and
Schoolly D routinely put in their lyrics. Nobody said being
gangsterous wasn't fun - living life with no consequences is
a roller coaster ride, but eventually it slams to a stop and
you get thrown off. That's what's so perplexing about Shyne and
other rappers of his variety - there are virtually no repercussions.
They sell narcotics, they shoot rivals, they slap up women, and
they live in a fantasy world where it's all okay because they
are victims of society; so hey, it's only payback for being wronged.
If you play the victim though you will GET victimized.
If Shyne is what America made him, then he is nothing - which
contradicts the very "bling bling" he professes is a Bad Boy thing.
Here he is constantly professing that he is not the victim; that
he is in control of his own world, and financially successful
within it. The contradiction of logic is easily solved by
changing the equation - Shyne isn't a gangster because America
made him that way, Shyne CHOOSES to be a gangster because
he enjoys the money and the power REGARDLESS of the
consequences of his acts.
Now facing charges for at least three counts of attempted
murder in relation to a club shootout on December 27th of
last year, Shyne may in fact have a lot of time in prison
to reflect on the same realities he fails to acknowledge
in his raps. Life it seems has an ironic way of providing
consequences for your actions even when you live like you
are above them; and in his raps Shyne certainly does -
the club hit "Bad Boyz" being no exception.
"It's a G thing
Me and Puff in St. Bart's, set it off
Bitches walkin topless with G-strings, menage
Bust shots at your crew, another charge
as the gulf stream fly through the fog"
Another charge? Hardly one. If Shyne committed all of the
fantasy acts he raps about on this album, he'd have long
since been a victim of manditory minimums and life sentences.
He repeatedly makes threats, shoots rivals, snorts cocaine, and
sells drugs to everyone. In "Let Me See Your Hands" he even
calls himself "America's number one dope man." Word? You got
it like that money? Why are you even wasting time
rapping then? Oh, obviously you aren't - with that money
you would have beat the charges, or hired somebody else
to do the hit, or paid bail and skipped town to a country
with no extradition treaty. Only in the mind of his own
fictional self's eye is Shyne any sort of criminal kingpin.
Somehow though he comes the victim again on "That's Gangsta":
"Rich is, my only reason for bein, shit
I never had hope, until I sold dope
Drug game is infectious, got me livin reckless"
Aside from the obvious sins this song commits (it jacks the
beat to The D.O.C.'s "It's Funky Enough" and re-interprets
the second verse of Rakim's "I Ain't No Joke") the completely
contradictory concepts here are way off base. Will the real
J. 'Shyne' Barrow please stand up? Are you the victim or
the aggressor? The kingpin or the cog in the system? Nobody
can tell which way his wheels are spinning, and the result
is that the high-test engine provided by the Bad Boy label
and beats is just being run 'til it overheats and the
block gets cracked.
If you ignore the fact that Shyne constantly lifts from
lyrical hip-hop history (by Slick Rick and KRS-One among
others) and the seeming contradictions of his worldview, the
album does have some musical merit. As a vocalist Shyne's
tones are pleasing, and the spacing of his cadence draws
in your attention. Shyne is not the most clever rapper
but the occasional "you say nothing, like a mime" punchlines
help break the monotony of his choice of topics: drugs
and the slanging thereof. Choice beats on various songs
like "Whatcha Gonna Do", "It's OK", "Get Out" and
"Commission" spark the album where other means fail;
but overall this product comes in around "average."
This album lacks the charm of the year's earlier
Bad Boy rap release by Black Rob. Where on "Thug Story"
Rob's simple and straightforward narratives were laced
with fat beats and ample guest vocals, Shyne attempts
to hold down almost an entire debut album on his own
relying solely on his flow and the quality of his voice.
These are bad ideas, decently produced and well packaged.
There is no unifying theme to this album other than
the fact Shyne (or his rap persona) is a flossy criminal.
He may have bigger guns in real life but lyrically they
sounds smaller in comparison, and this album will not
be the one to resurrect Puff's quickly forgotten empire.
To be brutally honest, if Shyne catches a case and goes
away for ten years, he will not be missed the way Slick
Rick was or MF Grimm is. He will be forgotten. There
is simply nothing at all compelling about his raps or this album.
Music Vibes: 5 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: October 4, 2000
source: www.181-4.com and www.RapReviews.com