When the hell did Shyne become important? Sometime between
releasing an underwhelming debut, shooting people in the face for
Puffy and getting a new contract, Jamal Barrow has gathered a
ridiculous amount of hype on the streets of New York. It also
doesn’t hurt that he’s been talking shit about every
major player in hip-hop who isn’t behind bars. All of this is
buildup for his sophomore album for Island records, Godfather
Recorded mostly during the end of his trial in
2001,Godfather is relentlessly grim and obsessed with the
injustices of the American penal system. Technically, the focus
doesn’t make it too different from many other hip-hop
records, but one would expect more from an artist who was actually
on the way to jail, rather than one who’s just spouting the
typical hip-hop penitentiary fantasies.
The first track “Quasi O.G.” starts the record off
right. Reminiscent of “Bonnie and Shyne,” it breaks
down the hypocrisies of drug war with a beat imported straight from
a Kingston slum. But much to the dismay of listeners, the track
ends, and what is left is a tedious album with all the prerequisite
Ashanti vocals, Foxy Brown guest tracks (who sounds like she has
the worst cold in hip-hop history) and gangsta bravado that is
anything but interesting.
Despite a sub-par lyrical effort on Shyne’s part, the real
disappointment is the Casio keyboard-quality of production. It
sounds as if this album was made with all the available recording
equipment found in a correctional facility. Tinny drums, flat horns
and boring string lines add monotony to his already laid-back,
throaty flow. Not to mention that one of the tracks, “For the
Record,” is actually Shyne rhyming over a prison phone.
On one hand, a stunt like that could be something powerful; the
underdog artist unfazed by his handicaps, determined to win by any
means. (It worked for Kanye and his wired jaw.) However, it ends up
as an inaudible tirade against 50 Cent that makes you wonder how
many minutes of phone time a prisoner gets. Too much of the album
is wasted on his references to 50 and various other “niggas
who wanna be (him).”
Granted, Godfather Buried Alive serves as good promotion
for a rapper whose last album came out four years ago and can only
do interviews from jail — but how good can the umpteenth 50
Cent diss track be? Aiming to replicate the paranoid and
world-weary classic “Me Against the World,” that 2Pac
released in prison, Shyne sounds desperate and under-produced.
Perhaps the remaining five years on his sentence can give him time
to wage a proper comeback.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.