To have Shyne tell it, he learned quite a bit during his truncated stint as Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs protégée. Perhaps, the Bad Boy mantra, “We won’t stop” is an appropriate motif for Jamal “Shyne”Barrow’s life. The last four years of his young life, Shyne has made the Clinton Correctional Facility his home after being convicted for his role in a 1999 shooting. Since the altercation, he has maintained his innocence and his silence – until recently.
From the Dannemora, New York jail, Shyne secured a record label, through Def Jam and signed himself, a deal worth a reported $3 million. During his time away, Shyne’s allure and mystique has only grown as have his legions of fans. All of the aforementioned attributes have culminated as Godfather Buried Alive, his first set since his self-titled debut in 2000.
Scheduled for a release no later than 2009, Shyne is banking he will be out with a bit of trust in a higher power and the worldly help of Harvard law professor and lawyer Charles Ogletree (Tupac Shakur) and Alan Dershowitz (OJ Simpson). AllHipHop.com talked to Shyne to get the story straight from the gangstas’ mouth. (Part one of two.)
AllHipHop.com: What’s up, Shyne. How are you doing?
Shyne: I’m doing well under the circumstances.
AllHipHop.com: Now, how do you feel about this considering some of the material is old, before you went in?
Shyne: Well, that’s to be determined. There is new material.
AllHipHop.com: Some of it is old though, right?
Shyne: You know, I can’t really get into it, but everything on there is fresh. I can’s be too specific, but everything is fresh. As far as the fans, they are the reason I am even putting anything out. They are the reason I even came back in the business. That wasn’t my priority. My priority was to get back to the town (freedom) and get this appeal happening. But, the fascination, excitement and the demand for Shyne was just overwhelming. It was like, “Wow.” I had that Godfather sitting and I was just like “Why not put it out?” I got about 10 albums in my head so I’m like, “Why not just put this out?” I’ll put the other stuff out when I touch the town. If it wasn’t for the fans, I wouldn’t have put that out.
I’m not thirsty like that. I sat for four years, I didn’t talk to nobody and could have when for a longer time before I touched the town but I’m not pressed. What [this album] means to me is that God has made some people timeless. Some dudes don’t last four months in this game. It’s been seven years for me. From the B.I.G. s**t when I was criticized, to people judging me off of the strength of my talent for that to be coming full circle is great – especially here [in jail]. It ain’t like I’m on the town. To invoke this type of fascination from here, without talking, without doing nothing, just falling back, is miraculous. Godfather Buried Alive is my lifestyle, my struggle. I’m the voice of the suffering. This is a way for the suffering to be heard. The same way they are crying for me, they are crying for him [other prisoners]. He can live through me.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think the material and the things going on around the release of this album will affect you getting out of jail?
Shyne: This is American and in this land you have the opportunity to say whatever it is you want to say especially in art and entertainment. Me not being the guy that shot those people is going to get me out and the fact that my co-defendant (Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs) was paying my lawyer fees so my lawyer was doing whatever he said –that’s going to get me out. The fact that I was defending myself, because somebody else pulled out a gun and fired it at me – that’s why I am banking on.
AllHipHop.com: When do you expect to get out, because I have heard as early as 2005?
Shyne: Yeah, I have professor Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law professor, and Alan Dershowitz and I couldn’t ask for much more as far as lawyers. I’m on a journey. Worse case scenario, I got three more joints [years] to do.
AllHipHop.com: Have you learned any lessons since being in jail?
Shyne: I learned more than anything to listen to your gut and to answer to God. At the end of the day, I was the one doing the time. I’m the one that has to suffer and nobody is there trying to suffer with you. Everybody moves on and they keep going, which is fine. Now, that’s why I couldn’t sign as an artist on Def Jam, I had to sign to Gangland Records and then do a joint venture. No one can tell me what to do. I could never put myself in that position again. I had to put myself in a position where I had partners that wanted to invest financially and were willing to trust my creatively and support that regardless of how out-the-box it might be.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like you should have looked out for No. 1, meaning yourself, during the trial? People feel you rode for Diddy and actually, not talking, helped others that might have been guilty.
Shyne: Nah - black, white, from the street or corporate America – that’s unethical. I believe in loyalty honor, respect and that’s just the way I have been all my life. It’s just about putting yourself in the position where you can’t be the victim. I own half of my masters so I am getting my paper. I can’t blame L.A. [Reid], can’t blame anybody, because I made all the decisions. It was all my vision.
Unlike the trial, when I wasn’t paying for my lawyer, you understand? That’s the only thing I would have changed was having my own lawyer. But, as far as being more vocal, I wouldn’t have changed anything. The prosecution should have gone and found the people that shot those people. That’s not my job.
AllHipHop.com: Indeed, and that’s why I think people respect you so much, because you didn’t run your mouth. You mentioned L.A. Reid, but [former president] Kevin Liles has recently left Def Jam. He was a big reason why you came. Have things changed with your relationship with the company?
Shyne: Like I stated earlier, its Gangland. That’s my only concern. Yeah, Kevin was a big part of me going to Def Jam. He called me years back, when it was him and Lyor [Cohen]. I still talk to Kevin, but this is business. He made a decision that was about him and his family and I respect that. The only thing [that would have bothered me] would be if L.A. would have said we don’t want to manufacture and market Gangland Records anymore. He was trying to do something with Gangland when he was over there with Arista so its not like he was outta the loop. He had input and he’s been there. He is a venture himself. He started LaFace with Clive so he knows what it is to execute your vision and have that autonomy. That’s all I can ask. I’m not asking for anybody to hold my hand, I’m just asking to be responsible. I want to be able to put forth that effort. L.A., Kevin – whoever -just don’t interfere and we’ll be friends. I have all the respect in the world for L.A., he’s a f**kin’ legend.
AllHipHop.com: What your issue with 50 Cent and why you have been silent for so long?
Shyne: It’s my time. Timing is everything. He said something about a year ago and it just wasn’t time. [Editors note: In a freestyle rap, 50 Cent said, “I heard Irv [Gotti] trying to sign Shyne so I don't have no love for him/ tell him 50 said he's soft he won't shoot up the club again."] I was working on my appeal and I had priorities. I know who I be. I’m not here [in jail] as a pedophile or raping nobody. I’m here for letting my thing [gun] go off with some real killers, not rappers guys that really kill people. So, I didn’t testify, I faced 25 to life. [50’s diss] was a joke to me and he was calling apologizing. I don’t know if you heard the skit with Sha Money…
AllHipHop.com: Yeah I heard it.
Shyne: So, he was apologizing after he did the thing on the radio. That call came after, he was like, “I’m sorry, my bad.” He even asked me about [signing to G-Unit] so I let it ride. It wasn’t nothing I had to address, but cause he didn’t keep going on with it. I wasn’t talking at the time, I had the VIBE s**t set up, I had a lot of sh**t set up. I’m a business man. When it came time for me to talk, I had to set that straight. You don’t talk about OG’s like that. You don’t talk about dudes that’s buried alive, fighting for their freedom and its just going to go like that. That’s why [my diss record] is called “for the record.” It’s nothing that deep. You had your time to speak, I held it and now its my time.
AllHipHop.com: Will you continue against 50 Cent when you get out?
Shyne: Anything further than this, I’ll speak to him personally. He can respond, but after this, I’m not rapping about it. I’ll talk to him personally.
AllHipHop.com: Most times, 50 would have fired back something, but they did want you on G-Unit, correct?
Shyne: Yeah, you heard Sha Money [on the beginning of “For The Record”]. Everybody knows Sha Money.
AllHipHop.com: In not signing with G-Unit, one of rap’s powerhouses, did you know that you were destined to a bigger situation anyway? Some people would have bitten at the first think that came their way.
Shyne: You have to understand that labels have been getting at me since ’01 and I decided not to take anything, because I wanted to get my appeal shit together and make sure I was right. I wasn’t trying to get slutted out. I heard the Pac stories and just wasn’t trying to get slutted out. I just got done being slutted out and I’m doing 10 years for being somebody’s prostitute. Its like, f**k that. Never again. It came time to live it. I remember when Murder inc came to see me and they were the No. 1 set, on the way to the MTV Awards. Ashanti was on fire. Rule was killin’ em. I was honored that they wanted to f**k with me. But I understood the same way that they had their time, the same way it was Cam the year before, if I stick it, I might get my turn. I might not, but I might so let me wait. So that’s what that was, I could pick and choose. I could be a soldier all over again or I could take what I learned from one of the bosses [P.Diddy]. Despite what I feel about my co-defendant, he was a boss, he was a pioneer on this Hip-Hop entrepreneur s**t. I was there soaking it all up. I said to myself, “Its time to apply what I learned under his watch” and wait. I waited and I got my shot.
Part 2 of this interview is forthcoming.