Shyne is working to redeem himself. For anyone that has come to believe the Belize-born, Brooklyn-raised, street griot is nothing more than a thug with a record deal, the remarkably reflective man that spoke to HipHopDX yesterday, (October 12th), is attempting to atone for his past actions that led to those perceptions - respectable humility that will hopefully have everyone understanding why he believes his story of struggle and survival “should be an inspiration” to you.
Deported to his native Belize exactly a year ago this month after serving a nearly nine-year sentence for the well-documented Club New York incident that took place on December 27, 1999, Moses Michael Levi (formerly Jamal Barrow) is working to redeem his life and career from the Central American country where his once absentee father is currently serving as Prime Minister. But as he notes on his Bob Marley and Biggie assisted ode to home, “Belize,” the literal Rap royalty will soon be “coming to America like I was King Jaffe.”
A couple of months before his return to the rotten apple, at the end of a busy press day yesterday, the orthodox Jew spoke to DX via phone from his second home in Israel. While the conversation stopped short of addressing the new questions that have arisen about the future of his music career following his just-reported declaration of independence from Def Jam Records, Shyne Po did however speak in arguably the most candid manner he has ever spoken to the media before about the man many believe betrayed him during the 2001 trial that led to Shyne sadly becoming the Slick Rick of his era. But now determined to, like MC Ricky D, not let a lengthy prison bid and incessant immigration issues stop him, Po is doing what rollers do and beating the odds as he rolls forward on his road to redemption.
HipHopDX: …I heard you’re in Tel Aviv right about now?
Shyne: Nah, nah, don’t say that, you gonna make some rabbi’s beat me up. I’m in Jerusalem, kid.
HipHopDX: Oh, okay. [Laughs] What’s going on out there right about now?
Shyne: I’m here having dinner and ya know, taking it easy, man. The last couple of weeks [have] been a very busy, special time for Jewish people all over the world, with the new year, then Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and a bunch of high holidays for the Jewish people over [the last] thirty days. So, [I’ve] just been down here making that connection. [My faith] ain’t nothing that I ever ran away from, I always kinda made it known since my first album, since Shyne, [when] I was doing the “Gangsta Prayer” and all that. So I just always been who I be, and last year I was in a prison cell…making a blessing over one slice of bread [with] nothing else to eat [with] it for 23 hours a day [and] saying, “Next year: Jerusalem.” So definitely it’s by God’s grace I was able to hop on that hawker and fly down here. And thank God, man, [because] it’s the place to be. You got everybody down here, you got Christians down here, Muslims down here, everybody down here, man. That’s when you know this the place to be. Everybody that disagree, they all agree, “We gonna come to Jerusalem.”
DX: I hate to have to do this, man, but it’s my job, [and so] I gotta ask about some less spiritual things. Let’s just get straight to it, what happens when you and Diddy run into each other at some point?
Shyne: Nah, ain’t nothing gonna happen, man. Yo, Diddy [is] alright. Diddy ain’t got to worry about nothing. That’s the past, man. You know, part of being a man is moving on and accepting responsibility and accountability, and he had done that. He submitted to me that he made a mistake and he handled that situation wrong. What I’ma do? I’ma keep holding on to that? I got to move on with my life, man. It take a man to say yo, I blew that and I messed that up, and he had submitted that to me and we gonna move on. I think that’s the way to handle it. It don’t need to be no 2Pac, no [Notorious] B.I.G. – God bless. It don’t need to be that, so we move on.
DX: I want you to move on too, trust me, for the sake of Hip Hop, but just one more Puff-related question: do you feel like Diddy should have to pay that $130 million to the young lady who got shot in the face?
Shyne: 130 million, man, that’s a lot. What she was doing, she was an investment banker or something or a hedge fund [manager]? Really, I don’t know how it works. Obviously, there’s nothing that can equate to the pain somebody goes through when you’re injured and what that does to impact your [life], but you have to be practical at the end of the day. I don’t know the price of that. You think a 130 million is the price of that? I don’t know. I definitely believe that the victims should be compensated. And I been trying to pay the victims for years, with the little paper that I got. Obviously, I ain’t got Diddy paper, but the little paper that I got I been trying to say, “Here man, take this paper. And, you know, I’m sorry.” Even though I don’t believe it was my bullets that injured those people, ‘cause it was like four guns in the club that night, so we don’t know who shot who, but the bottom line is they got shot and they deserve something for they suffering and they pain. But what that price is, I can’t tell you that my dude. I don’t know if it’s a 130. I don’t know.
DX: Man, I’m not even trying to gas you up, [but] I think you’re the first person I’ve ever heard like take that type of ownership for a situation that went down they were involved in. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a rapper, or anybody I even knew in the street, ever take that kind of responsibility.
Shyne: Really though, thank you, my dude, thanks for recognizing [that].
DX: Now, I gotta switch gears to some…just the straight up bullshit, the straight Rap beef bullshit stuff. First, why all the new disses to 50 [Cent]? Why not just leave that shit in the past?
Shyne: You know what? It wasn’t even really like that, man. It was…I don’t censor myself. I don’t filter myself. Like, you asked me about Diddy, I’m cool. I ain’t sitting there trying to set trip and just trying to be talking something and trying to be a bully, I’m cool. You’re probably the first person that I gave it to like that, ‘cause I don’t really talk too much [about Diddy] and nobody even really asked me about [what I will do when I see him]. It’s crazy, all day nobody asked me. But as far as ol’ boy, wasn’t nobody really thinking about it like, “Oh, yo, I’ma diss.” It just came naturally: “I need a couple mill, what the heck is 50 Cent?” It just came naturally, ya dig? ‘Cause that’s a rhetorical question I be asking myself all the time. I never understood that. I never understood how a victim became the hero. How a dude could lie so much about who he was and pull the wool over people’s eyes and have them believe that he was living this life. And I take it personally, ‘cause I knew too many partnas that’s in the grave, too many partnas that I’m sending commissary to, too many partnas that’s on trial right now for they life ‘cause of the life he claims he lives. And I know for a fact he didn’t live that life. I know this. And ya know, I ain’t in the business of minding other people’s business, but he’s the one that brought me into this situation with whatever he was going through in the first place. So what, when he decides to stop it stops? That ain’t how it go. That’s ‘cause he used to being the bully. He used to doing what he wanna do. It don’t work like that. When I don’t feel like talking about it, that’s when I ain’t gonna talk about it. I don’t care if he ain’t been talking about it. He shoulda never talked about it in the first place. What he shoulda been doing was paying homage. He’s so much not who he is [that] right before he did his little crank call, playing the games that he’s playing, he was reaching out through his deejay trying to make some peace. [He was] trying to ask, “Yo, tell Shyne I don’t want no problem with him. Man, my problem’s with [Irv] Gotti. I don’t want no problem with him, man, tell him just chill.” So c’mon… But still, ain’t nobody even thinking about him like that. The records wasn’t even no records like that, man. The records wasn’t no “Ether” records. It wasn’t no “Hit ‘Em Up” records. It was just yo, one line. One line! Ain’t nobody said nothing major about that dude, man.
DX: Let me ask about another line you spit - that I was a little surprised, a little taken back by – on your tribute to how you’re living in your homeland, “Belize,” why’d you take a shot at Rick Ross?
Shyne: Why wouldn’t I? I mean, you know, I don’t get that. I don’t get an ex-prison guard being the #1 gangsta rapper. I don’t get that at all my man. I’m not saying you gotta feel the way I feel, but please, please have some compassion [for someone like me who is back home] from just doing ten years and going to war with the cops…you bangin’ on police because they trying to talk to your girl, or they trying to touch ya mama in the wrong place. So I deal with crooked cops my whole life. Ain’t nothing worse to me than a crooked cop. That’s the worst thing you can do is use your badge to get ahead. I’d rather a cop just be a cop. And I respect where you stand, and you respect where I stand. But how a cop gonna profit from the life that I live? Uh-uh, I ain’t jackin’ that. So yeah, I just want people to be clear, “No, not the C.O.” Nah, that ain’t me.
DX: On that same “Belize” joint you said, “On my way back to New York for them to crown me.” When is that coronation supposed to happen; when will Shyne Po finally be returning to the streets of New York as a free man?
Shyne: Ahhh, ahhh, [Laughs], alright, alright, now you talking that good talk baby. Let’s talk about how I’ma burn down Madison Square Garden and get ‘em [inaudible] at Yankee Stadium. That’s what I’m talking about, partna. Now listen, that’s by God’s grace, man. I’ll be there by the end of the year by God’s grace.
DX: You don’t have any like travel restrictions while you’re in the states?
Shyne: Nah…We working all that out right now. Obviously, I do a lot of work for my country [as the Musical Ambassador]. So being a musician, I try to use my celebrity and my notoriety and popularity to do whatever I can to [raise] the visibility of my country, bring that exposure… I’m trying to get instruments for the poor kids. I’m trying to bring teachers down there to teach them math and science. [I’m trying] to do different things to make it a better society. And that’s not just some [talk], that’s what I’m really doing. So a lot of governments don’t give me a hard time knowing the good I’m trying to do.
DX: I think that would just be ill if after everything that happened you come back to the states with the diplomat plates.
Shyne: It’d be crazy, right? Listen, one thing with me you gotta tell these people, man – ‘cause a lot of your fans, they was probably like 10-years-old when I [first] came out [on “From Scratch” from Mase’s Double Up]. They don’t even remember me, [so] you gotta let ‘em know the history of Shyne Po, man. Shyne Po is a dinosaur, I done survived it all my dude. I done been through it all. So with me, never think it ain’t gon’ happen. ‘Cause I’ve proven time and time again that with God’s help anything is possible… I should be an inspiration to people, man. More than people being negative and following anything negative, Shyne should be an inspiration my dude: ten years, stood up, and ain’t come out complaining, ain’t come out bickering, moved on, man. How you said, owned up to my part of it and just moved on. That should inspire people. Yeah I’m deported, but that don’t stop nothing. We gonna keep going. We gonna help the kids in Belize. We gonna help the Ethiopian Jews in Israel. We just gonna do whatever we can. We gonna help the Mexicans in Mexico. Wherever I go – Brazil, we gonna help the poor [there]. Africans… This is a textbook lesson in moving on and making the best of your situation, man, rather than sitting there crying and blaming everybody.
DX: You sound remarkably content, [so] are you gonna stay in Belize for good, or are you gonna keep fighting to get your green card back?
Shyne: Well, I’m in Israel right now. And I just came from Spain. [Before that] I was in Paris. I was in Germany…Australia. I travel all over the world, champ. I’m global, baby. Russell Simmons ain’t global grindin’ like Shyne Po. So I’m all over the world, man. So thank God I don’t gotta be one place. You know, after being confined to a prison cell for ten years, thank God that I don’t have to just be in one place. But aside from Israel and New York, Belize is where my heart is. So I’m multitasking, ain’t nothing that say that I can’t go to Belize every couple of weeks as my schedule permits to check up on things. Ain’t nothing to say I can’t mix in that bread that’s going back there. Ain’t nothing to say when Baron Davis, or Antoine Fuqua, wanna know where to go for vacation I can’t say, “Yo, go down there. Yo, Mark Wahlberg, go down to Belize.” So, I could do more for my country [while] not in my country, ya dig? But I definitely got a house there. I got a house in Israel. And you know, we got that Park Avenue spot, and that Brooklyn spot, in New York.
DX: You miss Flatbush?
Shyne: Oh don’t forget the Church Avenue [and] East 18th [Street] stash house, just in case I ever got to go back to the block if this Rap shit don’t work. But of course I miss Flatbush, man. That’s one of the most devastating things about my life, besides having to deal with the fact that my partnas is still in prison, and they still suffering – even being here in Israel and watching the Palestinians suffer, watching the Israelis worry about terrorism, you know, it’s just a whole lot of things that bother me. And it definitely bothers me that I can’t give my moms a hug – just hop in the car and drive to her crib. Or just go to the block and shoot some dice. Or stay up all night and then go sleep at the crib on Church Avenue & East 18th like I used to do – park the Bentley outside, don’t nobody do nothing, dudes might just go to sleep on the hood, and then I wake up in the morning and buy everybody coffee and breakout. You know, c’mon. If I wasn’t so hard I might shed a tear thinking about that, man… It hurts, man. It hurts to not be at the [MTV Video Music Awards] [in Los Angeles], and to not be rocking [at] whatever that new hole-in-the-wall club is. And not to be in California: not to be in Athens Park, and not to be with the Rollin’ 60’s, not to be on Sunset Boulevard, not to be in Watts, not to be in Oakland. It hurts, man.
DX: I can understand, especially with your moms still there [in Brooklyn]. I mean, does she come back and forth to Belize?
Shyne: Well like I said, I’m not in Belize a lot of times so…sometimes it be hard for her to catch up with me… [But] by God’s grace I’ll be there in January, man.
DX: She earned some real respect with me after that XXL interview I remember she did. Everybody’s moms loves ‘em, but she was in the trenches with you for sure.
Shyne: Listen man, nobody’s perfect. And one of the greatest things I ever did was love my mother just for who she was and not expect her to be perfect, and not hold her imperfections against her and feel sorry for her, feel sorry that she had to suffer, and feel sorry that she had to go through the difficulties that she went through, and not blame her for things that were out of her power. That’s the greatest thing that I ever did. That transformed my life. You never have another mother, man. Not matter how imperfect she might me, that’s all you ever really have, and thank God.
DX: I hate to end things back on some bullshit, but I just gotta ask ‘cause I just saw -
Shyne: [Interrupts] Man, we ain’t gonna do no bull.
DX: [Laughs] Well, let me just ask this, ‘cause I just saw the SOHH quote you just gave ‘em about Def Jam.
Shyne: [Interrupts] Nah man, no, no, no, man, let’s end on a good note.
Shyne: Let’s end on a good note. You got me talking about my mom, you got me ready to cry. Leave it alone. But nah, I promise we can talk again… Let’s just end on a good note. You got me real emotional right now. I don’t even wanna talk about nothing [else]. After I get off the phone with you I’ma just go sit down for a minute [and] just think about my moms. I don’t even wanna say nothing negative about nobody, I just wanna think about my moms right now.
Shyne has asked that in addition to comments on HipHopDX, fans tell him what they think of this interview using the social media below: