Lynne d Johnson

 

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08.20.04 03:59 PM

Godfather Buried Alive - On First Listen

Just in case y'all missed it on vibe.com.
And I'm not saying he's got the illest flow, or even the tightest lyrics I'm just saying he spits truth.

Preview: Shyne Godfather Buried Alive

shyne.jpgA visit to the Def Jam offices reveals that Shyne's debut from that label, entitled Godfather Buried Alive, offers us a matured artist far more skilled at painting on a lyrical canvass to uncover harshful realities and unbridled pain. In the beginning, it was his voice. All we wanted and cared about was his voice, the one remniscent of the nasally guttural flow of our beloved Notorious B.I.G.

Shyne was set up to take over the throne, as one of Brooklyn's finest. But those were big shoes to fill - no pun intended. With that voice, we longed for the same depth and wisdom, and verbal gymnastics. Yeah, he gave us cocky, sure, certain, steady, but it wasn't the same. And we thought it was all a gimmick anyway. That was before all the drama.

You know the drama. The gun, the club, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs gets off, Shyne does time. Shyne signs multimillion dollar deal with Def Jam and gets his own label to speak the truth, to speak from prison, but in some cases it's almost as if he's a lost son speaking from the grave.

At least 65 percent of this album was recorded before Shyne went away, when he was filled with the stench of anger. That's what overwhelmingly comes across on this album. It reads like a diary of a wretched life on the streets, not much unlike Claude Brown's autobiograhpical novel, Manchild In The Promise Land. There's a dark cloud hovering over this album, and yet through the darkness there is a glint of illumination brought forth via witful morality tales. There's no aims of party bangers and commercial penetration, this album comes from the streets and it's breathing life for the streets.

One single already filtering through the airwaves is Shyne's collaboration with Foxy Brown, the Kanye West produced "More Or Less." This track sounds hauntingly eerie, dark, and grim. "Hip hop ain't responsible for violence in America/ America is responsible for violence in America," Shyne explains in the midst of recollections of life in Brooklyn Vietnam. With all the darkness flooding over this track, although Shyne talks about seeing big things and doing big things with celebrities, it's the gripping vision of the street life he's lived that lays it all bare.

Then there's "For The Record," a cautionary freestyle straight from phone to DAT aimed directly at 50 Cent. The track hints that 50 is nothing more than a music industry gangster and more talk than reality. Most importantly Shyne's lyrics appear to affirm what former G-Unit members have cited in various interviews - that 50 Cent is a snitch. Production on this track is extremely minimal, most likely to accomodate the non studio recorded lyrics.

These tracks are not what you're used to in terms of radio-friendly listening or party joints. Take for instance "Quasi OG," produced by Bucwild. The track samples Bob Marley's "No More Trouble," and treads some serious Jadakiss "Why?" territory. In fact, Shyne says "George W. Bush fear me." On the rest of the track, Shyne explains what he calls a 300 year problem that created young black men like him. He talks about the problems of the world in the hands of a secret society, and how capitalism breeds money and power leaving others starving and hungry creating situations in which they become messed up. "I'm here, do something 'bout me," he demands.

This is the tenor of most of the album. The closest anything comes to a party track is the Swizz Beatz produced "Shyne," with a hook sung by Ashanti. It's one of those party and bullshit tracks, on which Shyne reps it up for Brooklyn. "For all of y'all/ keeping y'all in hell/ it's cool when you ridin' with a nigga' like me."

"Martyr," is another serious track. You hear urgency in Shyne's voice and lyrics. It was originally recorded before he went away, but the beats have been redone. There's life or death, and the battle of good .vs evil flowing through the track like water perhaps an attempt to evoke purification images.

Shyne unmasks himself and faces the mirror for us all to hear. This is no industry cat. He has nothing to lose. Nothing to fear. His raucous delivery brash unapologetic. There are moments when you feel the catharsis seeping through the track. When Foxy joins him again, we get hit with a banger. It's straight-up, rugged, and raw. There's no more gangster that one could become. On "Edge," Shyne laments, "you wanna be me/ know what it's like to have a gun charge/ time running out for my flesh." The tinkling piano on the Just Blaze produced "Here With Me," opens up for "Thesis leaving niggers speechless/ All my life ain't never been right."

The final track, another Just Blaze joint, has a larger-than-life feeling. It's full of horns and trumpets making you feel as if you're in the middle of a coliseum. The snares are tripping out all over the place and yet it's somber. Shyne goes on about the Lord's Prayer and says, "God listen it was him or me." And then bang. You realize what you've been listening to.

This album is not going to be for the faint hearted. If you want to know the truth, then here it is. Shyne's truth is the truth for a lot of young black men in the inner city, caught out there, on charges. America's nightmare, but at the very same time, America's baby born and raised within its systems.

One session of listening to this joint doesn't entitle one to make or break it. It feels a lot more like hip hop than rap though. The beats are not dense or multilayered. There's a seriousness to them, on par with Shyne's message and cadence.The ethos is grimy. If you want to keep it real, if you want to keep it gangster, then this sounds just about right.

Written by Lynne d Johnson. Originally published on vibe.com, July 27, 2004.

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