FEATURE: Shyne, The Realest [Definitive Dozen]

[Editor's note: For our 12th-anniversary celebration, XXL speaks with 12 artists who’ve come up, and blown up, with the magazine. 50 Cent, Baby, Shyne, Dame Dash, Juvenile, Crooked I and more reflect on how we’ve affected their careers—and how they’ve affected ours.]

Photography Barron Claiborne

Photography Barron Claiborne

Shyne Po’s relationship with XXL began in great trust. In the midst of a very tumultuous time in his life—on trial for attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment and weapons possession, stemming from the famed December 1999 Club New York shooting—the then-budding Bad Boy recording artist gave the then up-and-coming magazine a big-time, exclusive interview for the June 2001 issue. In it he spoke about the drama he’d gone through and his split with his mentor, boss and co-defendant, Sean “Puffy” Combs, but was careful not to offer too much information. The interview was a great look for a success-hungry XXL, catching a lot of readers’s eyes. Unfortunately, the rising star was soon found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison. But hip-hop would never forget about Shyne. Over the next several years, heads carried a torch for the Brooklyn-bred MC, and XXL revisited Po’s notorious story, putting him on the June 2004 cover and interviewing his mother, Frances Franklin. Two years later, Shyne’s relevance was still alive, so in May 2006 the magazine once again interviewed Po and threw an image of him on the front of the book, proving that true fans’s interest will never die. Shyne reflects on his XXL covers and history with the mag.

Your first cover was during a crazy period in your life. Why did you choose to do it then?

It wasn’t even, like, a magazine [cover] or an interview. It was just my innocence and me wanting to air it out. It wasn’t no considerations like, I’ma talk to this magazine or… It was just more like, I need to let people know the things that was happening. It’s like you getting the death sentence, you know you about to die, and they gon’ come snatch your soul. It was a lot of things going on, and I just wanted to put that out.

Do you have any specific memories from that story?

We did that interview while I was on trial, but it couldn’t come out ’til after the trial was finished, ’cause there was a gag order, so I couldn’t say nothing. Then there was a lot of shit that was happening. The way I grew up, the way I was conditioned, you hold it, you gonna handle it. You understand what I’m talking about? You gonna handle it, do the things that you need to do to solve whatever problem you need to solve, but you don’t go and you don’t tell nobody about it. You don’t tell nobody; you do it. If I got a problem with so-and-so, then I’ma go handle so-and-so. So from there I was in a real tough situation. ’Cause I had issues with my co-defendant and what was happening on trial. I wasn’t gonna go up there and do a press conference to say, “Yo, you doing this, and you doing that.” Where I’m from, I was supposed to wrap him up and put him somewhere, but I couldn’t do that. My hands was really tied, so speaking to XXL was my only way out, really.

Did you catch any heat for that cover?

Yeah, they used that interview in my sentencing. ’Cause I was talking reckless, and I was a young hoodlum at those times, and a lot of that was still in me. A lot of the things I say were a lot of frustration, a lot of hurt. I was fighting for my life, and I was in a war, and when you’re in a war, there’s a lot of things you do [that] regular people might not be able to stomach.

The next cover was June 2004, when we interviewed your mother. That was interesting.

A lot of people saw my pain and what happened to me. You wouldn’t want that to happen to anybody, and I think that resonated. And a lot of people shed tattoo tears for me, and that was shown throughout the years. The magazine, it always had something to say about me, so it kept me alive. I hadn’t really decided what I was gonna do, but I knew I had to do something with XXL. And that’s why I had my moms talk. For my mother, that was big, because she had a lot of issues. She didn’t like the way the trial happened, the fact that I was gonna spend the next 10 years of my life in hell… So for me to be able to get that recognition and her to be able to air it out, and to be in the position where people wanted to hear what she had to say, it was great for her. She finally got to say, “Yeah, man this is what happened.” And at the same time smile and say, “Damn, you know my baby boy, he was dead and finished. They forgot about him, but he is still on top of things.” So that was good.

At that point, where did things stand with you and XXL?

To me, it was personal, ’cause I didn’t even expect the first cover. It wasn’t even no, “Yo, let me get the cover.” It was just, “Listen, man, I need to talk. I need to let the people know what really happened.
I can’t let them know right now, ’cause I have this gag order, and I don’t even know what I’ma be thinking once I get, you know, sent up north. So let me put this right here, and then y’all put that out.” When I was on [Rikers] Island, somebody said, “Yo, you on the magazine cover.” I’m like, “Inside the magazine?” “Nah, you on the cover.” To me, as a new artist, somebody that was building his legacy, creating Shyne before the people and trying to get that acceptance, for XXL to put me on that cover while I’m in jail—my life has just been turned upside down; I’m, like, two, three months into my bid—that was incredible, because those are accomplishments for artists to get their first cover. But for me to get my first cover in the cooker, it was great. And even if it sold three covers—me, my moms and my grandmoms bought it—XXL will always mean the world to me because that was my first cover.

Do you think the magazine has played a role in keeping your name relevant?

I definitely think that XXL is an integral part in that. The guys that I’ve influenced, that throw it up for me in their songs, the DJs that still play my records, I really think it is a gift, but XXL was a major part of that gift. It’s not like I was selling tens of millions of records, so [for] XXL it was more of them respecting my cultural significance and appreciating me being, I guess, the essence of hip-hop, you know—that guy that never dies, the one that’s never defeated, that just refuses to lose.

To read more of the Definitive Dozen package, make sure to pick up XXL‘s September issue on newsstands.

  • Enlightened

    I can’t wait to see if Shyne can spark the game.

    He’s in a position to do it like no one can right now.

    People forget he had a “beef” with 50 a couple years back when he dropped that album from prison and even recorded a dis song over the phone.

    He could “end” 50′s career right now in the same way 50 “ended” Ja Rule’s career if his head was in that space-and I’m not necessarily saying I want to see that…

    but, I’ve argued with people over and over that 50 did not “end” Ja Rule’s career – Ja Rule ended it himself and people was already tired of him. 50 Cent just came along with a helluva lot of momentum and kicked dirt on Ja while he was going down.

    50 is clearly going down. If Shyne got out and kicked dirt on him, it would be ridiculous. I don’t really think he will…

    but if he drops good music, especially as weak as these artists are at this time, the game is his, period.

  • Silly Willy

    Nice to see there’s still some kind of loyalty in this business.

    At this point, if Shyne just hit the booth to make good music, then I’ll be as happy as a pig in shit…

  • What what

    puffy will probably blackball this nigga as soon as he gets released

  • http://xxlmag.com Wyzard of Hip-Hop 297

    Shyne is sic!! He is not jus a good rapper hes a great rapper and he is lyrical!! His album was basically a classic 4rm what I remember. He had ballance. He cud make them streeet joints jus b/c thats him but he cud make bangas 4 the ladies *even with 112) without sounding soft or sell out. Shyne we PRAY you the best and U hol your head in that piece and we gonna bang your records till you out to make new ones!!!

    The WYZard has SPOKEN

  • L.a Vet

    Nah homie can’t no nigga but 50 end his own career real talk…

    shyne has NY and internet buzz that ain’t shit…

    he did a bid wow!!!! he can’t see or out rap Tray dee….

    the money 50 got he still sale more records than Jay z the fans he has he ‘s good…

    niggas like rick ross and baby don’t even go gold… real talk…

    niggas say shit like rick ross still standing … so was Ja rule??? nigga went plat after the beef…

    the thing ain’t about yo next album or yo album you coming out with while yo beefin it’s yo whole career…

    370 k is still standing… LMAO

    back to shyne beefin with 50 would end his new career before it starts… for one beef is old as fuck… and this cat’s supposed to be a changed Muslim now… so that shit would not work…

    50, jay, jada, fab, all them niggas is on a decline… but for some reason niggas want to single out 50… shit these other niggas like jezzy only going gold… so u be the judge…

    • Enlightened

      You taking the 50 shit real personal. I’m responding because I’m the only one who said something about 50.

      If you see, in my post I already said Shyne couldn’t end 50′s career, 50 ended his own career already, like Ja Rule before him.

      Nobody saying anything about Jeezy and those other niggas because they were never as big as 50.

      Notice niggas was celebrating and poppin bottles when Jadakiss sold 100,000+ his first week like it was an accomplishment. They didn’t say he fell off.

      When you’re a nigga who was without question the biggest name in the game period at one time whether niggas liked you or not – 50, Ja Rule, Nelly etc. Then it’s no in between. Either you stay on top, or you fall all they way to the bottom.

      These are just observations. And did you even remember that Shyne dissed 50 over the phone and 50 was dissing Shyne?

      When you dissing a nigga while they locked up, you don’t know what’s on that niggas mind. Remember Pac? Picture Me Rollin’? Like he said, all he wanted to do was get out and become the biggest thing out so he could crush all his naysayers and shine on the justice system that locked him up.

      Just saying

  • Mutada/Mullah Atari

    You know what. I’m going to go ahead and say it.

    This dude was always just a two bit Biggie Smalls clone. No better or worse than Gorilla Black.

    Puff caught a boner, because he thought he could capitalize on Bigs death and use Shyne as a tool to make some money.

    None.. and I repeat, none of the songs put out by Shyne were even remotely memorable or good.

    The ONLY thing that kept this dude in the public eye, and gives him the ability to still get interviews etc . Is the club incident.

    He would have been written off as a carbon copy and been relegated to G-Dep status, if not for the shooting.

    • Enlightened

      That’s not true. Did you bump his entire album? If you can honestly say yes and that’s how you feel about the songs, then respect. But I really don’t think you did.

      If you listened to dude’s flow, he flowed absolutely nothin at all like Biggie. Guerilla Black copied his cadence, word structure, pronunciation, etc. (ask my ACCOUNT-TINT what I’m COUNT-TIN)

    • yoprince

      man i kinda agree with mutada…

      the only reason i say “kinda” is b/c i did enjoy shyne’s singles, but that might’ve just been b/c of barrington levy and those bangin beats..

      other than that.. i remember listening to shyne’s album and thinking “this shit sucks..” I can’t give examples obviously b/c the shit was far from memorable

      and just like mutada said… I listened to WAAAYYY more rap/hip-hop back then, was much more into it than i am now.

      with that said, he could prolly make a splash with the east coast being as weak as it is now..

      to the dude who said shyne is muslim.. he actually converted to judaism..

  • Mutada/Mullah Atari

    Enlightened I respect your opinion. You at least have to admit… that the bidding war and early interest in this cat stemed from him being a Biggie clone, and not because of any inherent ability to string words together

    I bumped the whole joint when it came out. That was years ago, so I’m working from memory, but I just recall thinking he was a Biggie clone.

    Yea, he was not as bad as Guerilla: ( speaking of Guerilla, minus the weak sauce lyrics, there were passages were a person may not have been able to tell the difference, without being a true Biggie fan.)

    But honestly Shyne never brought anything exciting to the table. I was probably a bigger hip hop head, listener back then. And I cant recall anything outstanding or memorable from this cat. Not on the level that we are talking about this dude all these years later. .

  • $ykotic/Don McCaine

    To me Shyne was nowhere close to being a Biggie clone. Although people went gaga(no hermaphrodite) over it, the comparison argument was inane.

    I don’t remember if Diddy still has his contract to hang over him when he get’s out, but I see Shyne doing other things in life.

    But I would like to see Diddy sit down with Shyne and have a nice pow wow together. He deserves that with a big walk away check for taking all the heat off of Mr. Combs. Jennifer Lopez should contribute as well.

  • Pingback: XXL’s Definitive Dozen: Shyne – ‘The Realest’ « Crook From The Brook

  • K.ing

    Well if that’s true then the same goes for Jay

    6 Million to 1 million

    Game 5 million to gold

    Nelly 8 million to 120 k

    Em 12 million to 1.3

    Akon 4 million to gold

    etc…

    but we all know that once u get as big as 50 , Em, Nelly…

    i don’t even know why you brought ja in the convo… he never sold over 3 million records at a time… Snoop is a perfect example…

    big buzz then a slow decline… you got to remember G.R.O.D.T came out in Feb 03…

    six damn near seven years later… he still one of the biggest in the game… yea he had a few bad singles… but not worst then Nelly… lets be real a 50
    flop is like only going platinum… shyne will never go plat going foward homie…

    like Mu said dude is a biggie clone ( not as much as G black) oh i guess cat’s from BK sound like that…

    it’s like Slaughter house dog… overated… and when they flop niuggas will still say that’s good for them….

    No dissin… but we all know u can’t sale records like that forever… look at MJ…

  • http://www.justice.gov.za GO-Getta’

    It’s all good 2 c Shyne back but C Murder has just been sentenced 2 a life in prison & that’s sum stoooooooooopid negro sh*t!!!

  • Flyte The Fly Boy

    I don’t care what his record sales are gonna look like. I just wanna hear a another Shyne album, I’m feelin everythang he was on.He’s in my top 3 favorite rappers list, and I never looked at him as a wanna be Biggie or any other shit like that. Free Shyne !!!! – http://www.myspace.com/flyteflyboy