Shyne – Gangland – 8.3/10

Shyne - Gangland MixtapeWhat landed Jamal Barrow in jail could easily have been another ‘when keeping if real goes wrong’ sketch on the Chappelle’s Show. Everybody knows the backstory. No need to dwell on it too much: young kid gets thrust into the limelight and has to run with the ball after the untimely passing of the late great Christopher Wallace. He’s the biggest star on arguably the biggest hip-hop label at the time, Bad Boy Records, with the best in-house production team in the industry. How could this possibly go wrong? One nightclub shooting later, the next big thing ends up doing a ten year bid. Take that, take that.

It seemed that his legacy would be confined to two solid and highly underrated albums, his self-titled debut and ‘Godfather buried alive’. And his life could be summed up with a Bill Duke line from Menace II Society: “you know you done fucked up, right?”

Against all odds, all the drama ends up seeming as a mere prelude to Shyne’s actual recording career. After the jail time, converting to Judaism while incarcerated and getting deported to Belize upon release, Shyne aka Moses Levi releases the Gangland mixtape. Truth be told my expectations weren’t high for this one since he’d been deprived of The Hitmen’s production genius and at first glance didn’t sound like the nimble 21 year old rapper that exploded on the scene more than a decade ago. Gangland is a monster of a record through, to the point you actually feel like you’re doing it a disservice calling it a mere mixtape. Shyne comes across as the last real rapper alive of the course of the album’s 18 tracks and as a refreshing alternative to rap’s current batch of manufactured drug Kingpins, personified by the omnipresent Rick Ross.

Shyne’s fluidity on the mic has been replaced by a slower, hoarse flow and he’s trying to come to terms with the fact that he’s lost nearly ten years of his life. As such Gangland might not be a demonstration of skill, dude’s lost a step over the course of the last decade from a mere technical standpoint, but it does make for an utterly compelling record as a more contemplative Shyne emerged after all the trials and tribulations. At times he sounds bitter, other moments remorseful but always brutally honest. There’s no glorification of crime or his past actions. There are no excuses being made, shit happens. Gangland is a headphone masterpiece, one of those instances where a rapper’s words carry so much weight that they transcend nearly all of his limitations as an artist. Don’t get it twisted, Shyne is still a gifted rapper and gets to ride some gritty and bleak soundscapes as he takes you with him through his personal purgatory. There’s none of the gloss of his debut album and only a few nods to current trends, with some Lex Luger style drum programming and synths thrown in the mix. For the most part it’s that vintage boom-bap, Nuevo York aesthetic that’ll keep your head bopping throughout.

He’ll probably never be a household name again but if this tape is any indication he’s going to end up being one of rap’s brightest stars, on his own terms. The King of New York is back.

Recommended: You’re welcome, Meyer Lansky, King Judah, King David


Shyne – Godfather Buried Alive

Shyne - Godfather Buried AliveAt the moment of this review, Shyne Po is Hip-Hop’s most wanted. Originally a Bad Boy-signee, Shyne’s first CD suffered in sales because Po was labeled a Biggie sound-alike. But after being incarcerated just as his career was taking off, Shyne blows up his rep by revealing a deal with Def Jam, a possible appeal and an album of songs recorded right before his sentencing. All this combined, plus his increasingly noticed back-and-forth with 50 Cent, has made all his fans jump out the woodwork.


1) Buried Alive Intro 

Shyne over the phone, telling fans to have faith in him.

2) Quasi OG 

A dope-as-hell beat with guitar strings and strums has Po rhyme about how the industry says he’s too thug or dark, and his childhood. The track has the feel that he’s pouring his heart out, and his verses are pretty damn good. (Great)

3) More or Less

Another guitar-filled beat, with a woman wailing opera-style in the background. Shyne spits crazy, grimey verses (love the line ‘I sound like who? Yall sound like trash/’). The only letdown really is Foxy’s too-thick, disgustingly deep voice on the hook. (Good)

4) Behind the Walls (Eastcoast Gangsta Mix) ft. Kurupt, Nate Dogg

A remix of Kurupt and Nate’s joint. Kurupt, as usual spits damn good verses and Nate’s hook is his usual smoothness. Shyne comes in and lays good rhymes, as well. (Great)

5) Shyne 

Lovin this joint, a string beat laid by Swizz Beatz. Shyne tells the haters to go ***** themselves, borrowing various lines and twisting them, and just generally coming hard as hell. Love the assisted hook, Shyne rhyming and a woman singing “Shyyyyyne…” (Great)

6) For the Record 

A clearer, better-qual version of Shyne’s diss to 50 Cent from jail, explaining how 50 sucks and tried to get Shyne to join G-Unit. (Good)

7) Martyr 

A very deep record, Shyne spits sick, sick verses to an echoey, heartfelt beat, questioning life. Kinda a really good version of Jada’s “why.” Probably my favorite cut on the album. (Excellent)

8) Jimmy Choo ft. Ashanti 

A club banger produced by Irv Gotti, who probably wishes he’d discovered and signed Shyne instead of Ja Rule. This is a look at what Murder Inc could be if Rule was replaced with Po, and it sounds damn good. Shyne spits illness with Ashanti singing a great hook over one of Gotti’s best beats. (Excellent)

9) Godfather 

A track with a darker, simpler string beat, where Shyne raps some good shit about people trying to get his spot. (Great)

10) The Gang ft. Foxy Brown 

Over a beat that sounds only slightly different (less layered) than that of Raekwon’s Verbal Intercourse w/ Nas and Ghostface, Shyne rhymes pretty good verses about gangsta and hustlin. Foxy comes on with a pretty good verse at the end, too, but really the only thing special about this track is the beat–and that’s bitten. (Good)

11) Edge 

Po over a great, darkish Just Blaze-style beat, spitting about being pushed to the edge. Parts of it sound like a diss to 50 (keep it real dogg, you dyin to be me), but he doesn’t say the name. (Great)

12) Here With Me 

A bouncier, more West Coast-sounding almost G-Funk beat gives Shyne rhyme some good verses about lost homies and those who’ve stuck by him. (Great)

13) Diamonds and Mac-10’s 

Runner up for my fav cut. Just Blaze laces a horn and piano-intensive beat that sounds like something at the end of a really long action movie where the hero wins; great choice for the last track. Shyne spits deep, personal, sicc lines over it as well. (Excellent)


My Rating: 4.5/5

One of the greatest albums of the year, from someone behind bars. The album has few failing points, and those aren’t very disappointing, and it showcases Po’s ability without too many guest appearances but keeping it fresh. Credit for this goes to the producers as much as Shyne himself, as some of the beats were redone after he was jailed, and the producers did a damn good job of building beats around his vocals.

My Recommendation: Buy it. At this moment, Shyne seems to be perfect at what everyone is trying to do–the modern thug type, sounds good on club records, radio joints, anything. Finally…a much sicker, more authentic, non-***** version of 50 Cent.