[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.]

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.