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Songs released; he isn't

August 15, 2004|Soren Baker


"Godfather Buried Alive" (Gangland)

** 1/2

This Brooklyn-raised rapper's affiliation with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has been both a blessing and a curse. P. Diddy used his marketing savvy to make Shyne one of the most anticipated rappers of the late 1990s, but in December 1999, Shyne was involved in a shooting at a New York nightclub that he attended with Combs.

Now, amid a 10-year prison sentence for the incident, Shyne has assembled his second album, an uneven affair that includes previously released material and at least one song recorded over the phone from prison.

Shyne's appeal stems from his allegiance to street ethics -- he refused to testify against anyone to reduce his sentence -- rather than his rapping skill, which is average at best. As on the majority of the album, his lyrics on confrontational selections such as "Quasi OG" and "For the Record -- No Murda" are simplistic and don't involve much intricacy.

Recorded over the phone from prison, the latter is a dis aimed at 50 Cent, who Shyne says isn't as tough as he claims to be. Whether that's true or not, Shyne's barbs, though at times sharp, aren't stinging or ingenious enough to dent 50's standing.

Shyne's words gain their potency and urgency from the controlled angst in his rapping and his steely resolve in the face of his adversity. So when Shyne teams with Ashanti on "Jimmy Choo," a blatant attempt at a radio-ready single, the results seem forced and stiff. Shyne's lyrics about the finer things in life just aren't as believable as his gangster tales. Fortunately, the breezy beat of the previously released "Shyne" and the eerie sound of "The Gang" (featuring Foxy Brown) give the 13-cut collection much-needed musical polish.

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