Photo: Gett
  /  01.08.2022

S5 E53 | Shyne


On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN sat down with Shyne to discuss his career, politics, and life after prison.

Originally born Jamal Michael Barrow, the Belizean native changed his name later in life to Moses Michael Levi after deciding to adopt Judaism. As a child, he spent his early years in his home country, but relocated to Brooklyn, New York when he got older to live with his mother.

After being influenced by hip hop, Shyne started rapping as a teenager. Then, a twist of fate happened in 1998 when DJ Clark Kent discovered him freestyling in a barbershop. Kent later introduced Shyne to Diddy, who signed the rapper to Bad Boy Records on the spot. Throughout the late ‘90s, Shyne made guest appearances on a string of Bad Boy tracks. However, trouble soon found its way to the budding star. Before releasing his debut album, he was involved in a notorious incident with Diddy and the Bad Boy exec’s then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez at Manhattan’s Club New York. The event left three people injured and Shyne was later charged with attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment. Diddy, on the other hand, was charged for felony gun possession and bribing a witness. The high-profile case went to trial in June 2000.

After it ended, Diddy was acquitted on all charges while Shyne was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In the midst of the trial, Shyne’s self-titled debut album was released in September 2000. Though its singles, which included “Bad Boyz,” “That’s Gangsta,” and “Bonnie and Shyne” achieved moderate success, the album peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. A few years later, Shyne inked a deal with Def Jam while incarcerated for $3 million and released his sophomore effort Godfather Buried Alive in 2004. The album later hit No. 3 on Billboard and briefly brought the rapper back into the spotlight.

In 2009, the rapper was released from prison and was later deported to Belize after fighting to stay in the U.S. As the years went by, Shyne continued to record new music, but he later decided to put his rap career aside and embark on a new endeavor.  At the time, his dad, Dean Barrow, was serving as the prime minister of Belize and the former Bad Boy emcee aimed to follow in his footsteps by becoming a public servant. Almost a decade after he was released from prison, Shyne campaigned for a seat as the Leader of the Opposition in Belize’s House of Representatives and won in the country’s general election in 2020.

To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the Shyne interview. Check them out below.

1. On Naming Himself After Alpo Martinez

Early on in the emcee’s career, he adopted the moniker “Shyne Po,” which was a nod to the ‘80s Harlem drug lord turned informant Albert “Alpo” Martinez, who was slain last October. On “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. asked Shyne about his decision to adopt the nickname and the former rapper revealed the backstory. “So, the way I got that name was a mixture of Edgar Allan Poe, the poet, and Alpo,” he said. “I was dating a female [who also dated Alpo]. She called me that name because when I was young, I had a lot of energy. I was real aggressive. I had that Brooklyn aggression. [Alpo was] a Harlem guy. But I was flashy and I believe I had that Belizean in me. We’re really confident. But thankfully, I was not like him because I stuck to my honors and I stuck to my integrity. And you’re not a man or a person with integrity until you’re faced with a decision that you have to make where your life is on the line.”

2. On Trying to Convince JAY-Z to Sign Him

Before signing with Bad Boy, Shyne said that he once showed his music to JAY-Z to get a record deal. But in the end, the Roc-A-Fella head honcho was not impressed. “[I told him], I’m the greatest thing you’re ever going to hear,” he said.  “And if not, you can shoot me in my foot. I was so confident. So, I ran back on him when he [lived] at 550 State Street. He was like, ‘It’s alright.’ So, I was like, I’ll see you at the top. Then he tried to sign me three times after that.”

3. On Being Compared to Notorious B.I.G.

When he first arrived in the industry, Shyne’s signature baritone voice gleaned him comparisons to fellow Bad Boy emcee Notorious B.I.G. While he acknowledged the similarities, Shyne told N.O.R.E. and EFN that in any field, newcomers always get compared to someone before them. “People been trying to find another Michael Jordan in the NBA forever,” he said. “Until you realize that Lebron is just the first Lebron, there’s never going to be another Mike.”

DJ EFN later asked Shyne if the B.I.G. comparisons bothered him and the emcee said that he just brushed them off.  “No, because I knew who I was,” he said. “I knew I was a guy from the streets. Of course, it takes a while as a new artist to find your footing, but the comparisons drove me to be great. I didn’t want to be Mike. I didn’t want to be B.I.G. I wanted to be Shyne.”

4. On His Relationship with Diddy

Shyne’s friendship with Diddy soured after the Club New York incident and he would often speak out about how he felt betrayed by his former boss. Years later, the two reconciled and Shyne explained to the “Drink Champs” hosts that his feelings about the situation have completely changed. “I don’t really blame that on [Diddy] now as much as I did then,” he said. “Because I did go through a stage of bitterness. But in retrospect, I blame it more on the lawyers that were advising him. Because his lawyers were there to secure a ‘not guilty’ verdict by any means. He’s a $100 million corporation and they looked at me as the enemy. So, he was much younger then and it was a lot of pressure. When your lawyers are misguiding you, that’s how everything fell a part. I forgave him. It was traumatic. That was over a decade ago and I was in a different space then.”

5. On Diddy’s Support

Shortly after Shyne was elected as the Leader of the Opposition at the House of Representatives in Belize in 2020, government officials in the country called for an amendment that would prevent ex-convicts like him from running for office. Shyne told N.O.R.E. and EFN that Diddy quickly rallied behind him to help fight back against the measure. “Diddy lost it when he heard that,” he said. “He got the REVOLT people [involved], he got the publicists, he got his legislative friends. He said, ‘We can’t let this happen.’ Puff, to me, totally redeemed himself.”

6. On Rappers Using Their Powers to Bring About Change

Now that Shyne has turned his life around, he said that he wants to see other rappers use their powers to bring about change in the hip hop community. “You got your powers and the entire point of your powers is to use them for good,” he said. “I’m very grateful to be in a position to be a global leader. Hip hop is the most dominant force on the globe, but unfortunately, there’s a lot of celebration of destruction. All the gangbanging and all the genocide, it has to stop. We have to stop relying on other communities and we have to start holding ourselves accountable.”

7. On President Biden

Kanye West spoke out about U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and the Democrats during his appearance on “Drink Champs” last November. Shyne defended President Joe Biden in the wake of West’s comments and said that people should give the current administration adequate time to address the nation’s concerns.  “We can’t do everything in one day,” he said. “But I’m telling you, he’s delivering. I wish in Belize the government would do what they said they were going to do. Joe said infrastructure. And Joe just delivered infrastructure. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m a Moderate. I’m for whatever is best for people.”

8. On Creating a Documentary, Movie, and TV Show Based on His Life

It’s obvious that Shyne has endured his fair share of obstacles throughout his lifetime and now, he wants to share his story with the world. He revealed that he is partnering with Steven Victor, senior vice president of A&R at Universal Music Group to create multiple projects based on his journey. He also hinted at potentially returning to the mic to record new music. “We’re doing a bio documentary, we’re doing a bio movie, and we’re doing a TV series about my life,” he said. “All of those three assets will be accompanied with albums inspired by [them].”

9. On Wanting to Become Belize’s Next Prime Minister

Ultimately, Shyne wants to advance his political career and become Belize’s next prime minister. During his interview, he discussed all of the things that he would like to provide for his country.  “All the things that I compliment President Biden for doing, I’d like to do for my people,” he said. “I’d like to provide free education for my people. Access to healthcare is still a problem. We have to raise minimum wage. Access to funding to afford your own business. We got to teach our people to grow what they eat. We got to be self-reliant.”


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