Puffy (sorry, P. Diddy) and Shyne in court. Illustration from AP
If there's one thing in the world that will make you believe in karma, it's rap music. 50 gets shot, he blows up. Now that he's all blown up, he's about to fall off. Ma$e blows up, everybody hates him, and he retires. Now he makes a comeback and everybody's giddy. And then there's Shyne Po. He never blew up crazy, but it's safe to say he made his mark with a couple of seminal joints (namely "Bad Boys" and "That's Gangsta"). He was on the come-up, though. That's for sure.
And then there was the 1999 club shooting incident involving him and Puff Daddy. To make a long story short, let's just say that your boy Sean "P. Diddy" Combs got a little funky with the lawyers, using Johnnie Cochran for his defense and leaving Shyne to deal with some schmuck from out of the Yellow Pages. Diddy got away clean and Shyne got 10 years.
He's diligently been doing his time, barely aware that every other rapper was shouting him out in every other verse and every label was trying to sign him. Def Jam offered him a groundbreaking joint venture, and now the kid is releasing his new album (some of which was recorded over the jail phone) and running his Gangland Records imprint from behind bars. That should be enough karma to guarantee two successful rap careers.
VICE: Is it possible to get an education in jail?
Shyne: I mean, they got programs. One guy got his Master's in here. But at the end of the day, jail is not a rehabilitative place. They don't put you in here to change you, but to confine you. It's a billion-dollar industry, the elephant in the room that no one sees. It costs all this money to keep us here, but is it reducing crime? No way. People get out and come right back. And once you're in here, it's like being in hell. You're basically dead.
What can people learn about what went down with you that night at the club?
I'm not really about teaching people. That's their mothers' and fathers' job. I say what I feel, and if they follow, so be it. I'm also not romanticizing a gangsta lifestyle.
That being said, I was in the club defending myself. I was forced to carry a gun at the club, since I got shot at one month before. But put it to you this way: J-Lo wouldn't have made Gigli if I hadn't pulled my gun out. I knew what was going to happen if I didn't pull out. These guys were real killers from Brooklyn. When you're in the Hamptons partying with Martha Stewart, walking around with a superstar chick who's got the fattest ass in the country, and you're acting tough… niggas ain't trying to have that. People ain't trying to hear that tough guy shit. They'll be like, "Get the fuck out of here." Puff was my man at the time, so I was forced to respond. And there's still no proof that my bullets injured those people. The girl that got shot in the face originally said, "Puff shot me."
So what's the lesson here?
If you're going to carry a gun, be ready to sit up in this hellhole for a certain amount of time. If you make a mistake, and it's your decision, be prepared to face dire consequences. But know that it's not the end, it's not over. Especially in America, where the most impossible things happen. But even in Uganda, even in fucking Sudan, anything could happen. No matter how devastating the immediate effects of your mistake are, things can turn around. I'm the living proof of that. My record is symbolic of hope for dudes who are inside for 50 years and have to feed their family. It's the voice of the sufferers, and no one suffers more than the people that are behind bars, especially those who are there unjustly.
And what have you learned in the process?
I'm just being more of what I already was. It's not like I was a lost soul, like I was twisted or my priorities were fucked up. I was already fasting 48 hours on weekends and I was already vegan. I never had a big entourage. I was never your stereotypical rapper. I'm just a regular guy. I came in here and did not change.
That's why I was confused at first, because I was living an essentially good life. Plus, I had a better lifestyle than dudes that sold 10 million records. I got tremendous memories. There's girls on TV that I can say, "I had that." I was one of the only dudes in New York driving a Bentley. You can't imagine the magnitude of the luxury that I enjoyed. So people ask me, "How could you do it? How could you go from that to here?" The answer is: How could I not do it? Look where I'm at now. I'm here because of no one but my maker. Suffering is a part of existence. The more you suffer, the greater you become.
Shyne's Godfather Buried Alive is in stores now.