As the youngest affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan, Shyheim “The Rugged Child” hit the scene at the age of 14. He was lyrically impressive and dropped 1996’s The Lost Generation way before Lil’ Bow Wow and Romeo would hit the scene. He came up as a native of Staten Island and even lived with Ghostface Killah for a period of time. The young future of saw his popularity swell as he appeared in movies, videos like TLC’s “Waterfalls,” and eventually released a follow-up – 1999’s Man Child.
But there was another Shyheim emerging as time passed, one that was pulled into the allure of the streets. The young man was facing serious gun charges for an armed robbery gone horribly wrong from the start. He skipped bail and ran from authorities for a year and a half before turning himself in. He did a two-year bid, but has emerged a wiser man of 26-years-old.
AllHipHop.com: So what’s been up, man? You told me that you had did a little jail bid or whatever. We talked about you rhyming with DJ Quik [on Under The Influence – “The Poem”] so what up?
Shyheim: I’m 40 days in the street, you know what I’m saying? I’m about to turn it up. Quick’s a real dude. And I’mma explain to you how I met Quik. See that’s why I believe that if you can think it, you can live it. I was actually on the run, you know what I’m saying? I’m in New York running around, I’m wanted for two fugitive felonies. So I’m like, ‘Damn, where the f*ck am I gonna go? I done ran, so I loss my house. They took that paper. So, I’m like, ‘Damn, what the f*ck am I gonna do? Yo, you wanna go to Cali?’ I said nigga let’s go. Before I want out there, I said ‘Yo, you know who I like? Who I dig? I dig DJ Quik. I wanna do a song with Quik.’ I’m driving in the whip, I ain’t got a license, but f*ck it. I’m driving in the whip, nigga in front of me on a motorcycle, man. Nigga dropped his phone. So I stops, take his phone to him. ‘Oh sh*t, that’s Quik. He’s like, ‘Come to the studio tonight.’ Nothing. I came to the studio, laid some shit. Now, the area I was living it, wasn’t too far from him. I have a mother and I respect my elders. So every time I would go to the supermarket, I would bump into this lady. She’s an older lady, mad bags. ‘Excuse me miss, let me help you.’ Bags, bags, bags. I didn’t know who she was, it’s just a thing I do. You black, I’m black, I support my peoples. So what winds up happening is, Quik calls me, ‘Yo, Shy come over my house.’ All along, she telling him, ‘Oh, I met this boy, he comes to the store and helps me with my bags.’ So then I come in his house, I’m sitting on his couch. We chillin’. We blowing, drinking. She comes in. She like, ‘You know him? That’s the boy that helps me.’ And it was like that pulled are bond so close [and] tight. Because I didn’t know that was his mother. She didn’t know I knew him. It wasn’t that type of thing. It was just out of love, loyalty, respect, trust, and honor. I recorded some songs he put on his albums why I was away. That was a good look. And how we roll, I didn’t get a dime. Homie, that’s you, nigga. Do that. That’s just the type of character that I have instilled [in me].
AllHipHop.com: So what were you in for?
Shyheim: I was in for violation of probation. I got caught with a cop’s gun. Then on top of that, I had an armed robbery in the first degree. It started off on some beefing shit. But once you I take it to that level and it’s popping, everything goes, homie. It’s like, you fronting on me and you got some shines, nigga. I’mma give it to you, I’mma shoot the sh*t out of you, and I’mma take your shine. That’s just the way the ‘hood goes. I’m not just gonna do it to you and leave and you laying on the floor iced out. Nah, gimmie that. So, that’s what turned it into an armed robbery with a deadly weapon. I served two-and-a-half years; I owe ‘em three years on parole. But it’s nothing, I learned a lesson from that. That was Allah’s way of telling me, ‘Look, slow down.’ Because I never had the chance to separate business from real life. I grew up in this sh*t young. So every stumble, every fall I make, is in the public eye. I didn’t have the luxury of growing up, then getting on. It’s a difference, because your mind state is different. It’s Allah’s way of saying, ‘Sit down and evaluate your life. Evaluate what you wanna do. Evaluate the people that’s in your circle. Learn how to separate. And now you know what? Here you go, go back to the world. Succeed. Because now you know and understand your purpose.’ That’s the reality.
AllHipHop.com: How old are you right now?
Shyheim: I’m 26. I got about eight years in the game. I’m the youngest veteran. I’m a product of the streets, know what I’m saying? I’m everybody’s little cousin, everybody’s little brother, in they ‘hood. That’s what it is. I’m getting a lot of love. Peoples is understanding my story. I got something to tell the world. Not only on the cool parts, cause I don’t have nothing to prove. I’ll grab my rap sheet. I got it to show that I could do it. But now, it’s an opposite side to that story. Dig this, you 14 hours from home, it’s snowing, your moms can’t get on that bus and come see you. She’s in the mountains, niggas drive and get killed in the mountains. The police kill people in the mountains. Basically you learn life value, man. And a lot of people don’t value their life. Life is not a gimmick, life is a privilege. So if you don’t take it as a privilege, Allah will take it from you. But even if he take it from you, from the outside in, if one of my homies can killed, all my homies, Big L, that’s my homie—I learned a lesson within his death. So then, maybe he died to teach me something. The words of advice that he gave me, was for me to take and go on and prosper in life. That’s what I truly believe and have faith in.
AllHipHop.com: How have you grown as an emcee from back in the days when everybody loved what you were doing, down with Wu and all that?
Shyheim: I’ve grown intelligent. I’ve learned to know, not to think. When I was growing up, I looked at other peoples life, ‘Oh my man he busts his gun.’ So it’s evolving, I bust my gun. I do this. This is my life now. But listen, this is what I’ve learned in my travels. So I think creatively, I’ll be more effective. Because I know more, I studied everything from psychology. So the reason I studied psychology, ‘cause I wanna know how these people is thinking. So if I can capture how you think, I can capture how you move, and what you would move to.
I been in the game since I was 18, I done did movies, TV, everything. So it ain’t about paper. Nigga in your ‘hood is f*cked up. You not teaching these niggas how to get a business. You not saying, ‘Here son, here’s some money.’ F*ck it, if I got to live regular to help a hundred people, that’s what it is. I’ve learned how to make money work for me. Not on the block. My first advance, I got money, I said, ‘I’m gon’ get some crack. I’m trying to live it up.’ But I’m killing my peoples at the same time. So it’s now just taking it to the next level. ‘Cause this a blueprint that they created. The Willie Lynch letter, if anybody knows about the Willie Lynch letter, muthaf*ckas this shit is created and we in trouble. So it’s all about love, man. That’s why I appreciate even this interview. Because this interview is gonna help me and it’s gonna help people.
AllHipHop.com: Are you still down with Wu in any way or form?
Shyheim: Um, it’s like this. I have personal relationships. RZA, that’s my heart forever. Meth, that’s my heart. But it’s business. If you can’t accepts me growing into a man, and want to create my own? I’m not a worker, I put in enough work where I don’t a check, I want to sign a check. So if you can’t support me on that, love is love. But it will happen and I will do it. I’m Wu-Tang forever. I’mma always shout Wu-Tang. Even if I feel personally that you don’t support me, and I feel you should support me. But at the time, I was moving different. So I understand. It’s like nobody wants to work with a hardhead muthaf*cka.
AllHipHop.com: Can you talk about your new album and what people can expect?
Shyheim: Right now, I got the new album, The Greatest Story Never Told. King Just is signed to my label, as well as myself. It’s called Bottom Up Records. I got my own management company, Brock Brothers Management. We dealing with films, management, labels, all aspects. I’mma turn it up. I’m trying to outdo Jigga. Jigga retired at what? 36? I’m trying to retire at 30. I got four years. I’mma about to turn it up, man, as long as I get the support of the real hip-hop, man. Make it happen. And then I can help other youth. It’s time to raise the children, man. It’s time to really make a difference. It’s time get some land. It’s time to build some bunkers our muthaf*cking self. So when they start acting crazy, we like, ‘Drop all the bombs you wanna drop, we aight.’ And we got water, and we got foods, and we done grew all our shit, and we deep. And I don’t care who you are, you ain’t coming on my property, ‘cause we got guns, too.’ And we understand. It’s for a cause, not because.
AllHipHop.com: Public wise, how do you think people will view you as growing up from a child rapper?
Shyheim: I had space. So I had room to grow. So now that throws in somebody’s mind, ‘What have you learned?’ And I think if that wasn’t in people’s mind they wouldn’t be so attracted to me. Because I ain’t drop an album. It’s love like that. It’s reality, and no one can escape reality, no matter how much you get caught in an illusion.