And Shyne Po thought prison was bad. Being locked up for a crime against society is one thing, but the shackles of a record label (no matter the millions of dollars) are a new level of injustice.
Def Jam is poised to fool a whole slew of people with its release of Shyne's "sophomore" album, "Godfather Buried Alive," an album that somehow functions half as a Shyne record and half as a Def Jam lesson in marketing and publicity. As appealing as Shyne's pre-Bad Boy life, attempted murder trial, and subsequent jail sentence are, and as hard as Shyne reportedly worked before being sentenced to his ten-year prison term, Def Jam ignores what "Godfather Buried Alive" could have become and instead focuses on what they wanted it to become. The result is an album that relies on an awkward mix of vintage Shyne material sprinkled with very commercial Def Jam appeals to people that probably did not even regard Shyne during his days at Bad Boy.
On "Godfather," Shyne, clearly caught up in his revved-up trial mentality, laments, "I don't rhyme, I just talk about this life that's mine," over an eerily looped-up Yogi-produced beat, while the powerful "Martyr" features Shyne asking, "If you had a choice, life or death, what would you choose?" as he spits his view of reality and life over low-key Moses Leviy production. Both tracks exemplify the maze of Shyne's mind during his court struggles with a specific emphasis on the lost thoughts of a young man about to do long, hard time in prison.
Elsewhere, Shyne seems perplexed at the attention that his trial receives and wonders on wax, why people would consider him so cold-hearted and ruthless. While he is not so quick to back down from these charges, "Quasi O.G." implements a mean Bob Marley sample as he attacks everything from the legacy of the Kennedy's to capitalism and the political platform of the U.S. of A. And all of the insecurities of Shyne rush out on the culminating Just Blaze banger "Diamonds and Mac-10's," where he spills, "I'm suicidal, Can't take the pressure or this pain, Too much for these young eyes, Real G's don't die, That's a lie, 'Cause I'm dyin' inside, cryin' inside, look at me sweatin', palms sweatin', hidin' inside."
Shyne and fellow Brooklynite Foxy Brown also tag-team for both "More or Less," a spooked-out Kanye West production with Fox Boogie sounding oddly testosteroned-up, and the even better "The Gang," which carries an absolutely infectious beat (which was also used on Raekwon's "Incarcerated Scarface") and shows Foxy and Shyne trading very well done and hyped-up verses.
Amongst these certified Shyne Po records, however, are a variety of Def Jam enterprises designed to both capture attention and sell the image of Shyne through catchy gimmicks. "Behind These Walls (East Coast Gangsta Mix)" joins Shyne with Kurupt and Nate Dogg for a terribly out-of-place jailhouse anthem that many may mistake for an ode to Shyne's own incarceration (it's not). "Jimmy Choo" brings the required R&B ladies' night track (a la Ashanti) but squeezes itself between tracks where Shyne ponders his meanings of life. If the shoe doesn't fit, Def Jam, don't force it onto Shyne's foot.
The over-the-phone diss track "For the Record," where Shyne takes shots at 50 Cent, also makes itself onto this record. Though one might also wonder that if Shyne was barred from ever putting out another record from the clink, would he want 50 to believe that he was this high up on his list of people that he needed to say something to? Probably not, but controversy sells records.
"Godfather Buried Alive," Shyne's, and use this term lightly, “sophomore” album is actually quite a good listen despite the con-job that Def Jam attempts to pull with various tracks that might not have escaped the studio had Shyne been out on the streets with more control over this. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Unfortunately, Def Jam keeps Shyne's mind locked up too often here. Lucky for him, Shyne knows a thing or two (or ten) about being locked up and still persevering.