Addison Sarter
15 min readJan 4, 2019


He Helped Save Jennifer Lopez’s Life: Then Was Deported

The government, the establishment, people that cut off our education budgets. People that don’t invest in our future, that would rather build a prison instead of a school. I don’t know of any . . . poor people that have a manufacturing house that makes guns. Poor people don’t have a port that accepts the shipments of heroin and cocaine and weed and all the drugs. But they’re the ones dying of it”

- Shyne at age 20 years old, Washington Post, 2000

In the year 2000, at 20 years old, the rapper Shyne was on par to be one of the biggest rappers of the year and possibly of the early 2000’s. He was born Jamal Barrow in Belize, which is located between Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. He was born out of wedlock to a housekeeper and the prime minister, who Shyne says was the “most successful politician” in the history of Belize. His father pretty much neglected and rejected Shyne, so he and his mom moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was 8. By the time he was 10, he was already getting in trouble on the streets with the law. At 15 years old he was shot in the shoulder during an altercation. Shyne states that this incident made him stay in the house and focus on writing rhymes.

In 1998 at 18 years old, he was rapping at at a barbershop in Brookyln and the person he was rapping to had connections to Bad Boy Records, the biggest record label in the country at that time. Bad Boy Records had just went through many ups and downs. The legendary Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed the year before.

The rapper Mase would help save the label with his songwriting and rapping skills, blowing up into a superstar. Puff Daddy who was known as a producer, blew up as a rapper as well. Lil Kim had made herself a household name as a rapper, but the rap game was still a male dominated industry. Mase would retire in 1999 to be a pastor. The throne was for the taking.

  • To put things into perspective, Shyne’s debut album charted at #5 on the billboard 200. Four years prior, Jay Z’s debut album, reasonable doubt debuted at only #26. Shyne’s album also contended with the top rap albums of that year which were Mystikal’s Let’s Get Ready, Nelly’s Country Grammar, Lil Bow Wow’s Beware of Dog and Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP. In 1999, Shyne would change Bad Boy Record’s “Shiny Suit” image into a more street and raw image.

On December 27, 1999 Puff Daddy, his then girl friend Jennifer Lopez, and Shyne went to a club in Manhattan. Puff Daddy and a man bumped into each other, causing a drink to spill. Words were exchanged. According to Shyne, one of the men arguing with Puff Daddy pulled out a gun, threatened them, before Shyne pulled out a gun and shot him. A gun brawl ensued in the club and three people were injured in the fight.

Shyne would be charged with 11 counts stemming from the night club shooting. In the spring of 2000 there was pressure for Shyne to deliver on his debut album. He had been facing criticism, including from his label mate Lil Kim for “sounding too much” like Biggie. He was also facing up to 25 years of prison.

After Shyne’s arrest, he “lived in the studio”, and poured out his emotions of pain and anger on the album. Knowing his freedom was going to be stripped away, he recorded at least two albums worth of material. In a 2016 article with Rap Radar, Shyne said I knew I was going on this long vacation, so everything I did was all about my legacy…I’m going up top..whatever I do this is all I have.” Shyne lived up to the hype and then some when he dropped one of the hardest rap songs and music videos of my generation. I will never forget it being one of my favorite songs of summer 2000. I was only 6, but my mother loved music a lot so she was always playing 93.9 and 99.5. As soon as the song started, the base hit like an earthquake, and Shyne’s voice matched perfectly matched with it. The melodic and spiritual sounding hook was layed down by a Jamaican artist named Barrington Levy.

Shyne said this video was his defining moment that solidified him in the industry. One thing was for sure, Shyne’s shoot out in the club, was all the evidence hip hop fans needed to know he was authentic and lived the life he rapped.

He would then showcase his versatility by dropping the classic (in my opinion), love song, Bonnie and Shyne.

Besides the trial, what made Shyne’s debut stand out from the rest of the other artists on Bad Boy, was the lack of Puffy’s presence on it. As we all know and as Suge Knight stated, Puffy was usually “All in the videos..dancing”. Shyne stated, Diddy distanced himself from Shyne due to the trial. Shyne would later say that Diddy turned his back on him while he went to prison. Diddy was only facing probation and Shyne was facing 25 years. In an act of betrayal against a man who helped save his life, Diddy called a witness to the stand that prosecuted against Shyne.

He proved that he was just there to save himself,” Shyne said. “There are no boundaries to what he would do to exonerate himself. I had the Bible in front of me, and I was just praying that he wouldn’t continue to lie.”

Witness Charise Myers] lied for him. Fine. But don’t let her testify against me. That’s when I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t believe it. … I couldn’t even look at him anymore.”

Shyne had to rely on his own image to get his message out there.

Shyne returning to trial at Manhattan Supreme Court March 15, 2001 from a lunch break during jury deliberations

Not only was Shyne leaving his legacy as he recorded his album while awaiting trial, he rapped as if he was representing himself in court, trying to plead his innocence. His self-representation would touch upon the topics such as:

  • the pain of growing up in poverty
  • the anger of growing up without a father
  • racial injustice
  • PTSD
  • above all else, being born into a war that he did not create, but America did.
Shyne’s Debut Album Cover. His album was released September 26, 2000, during the time Shyne was facing 25 years in prison.

Dear America Intro Lyrics:

“Dear america, im only what you made me…
Young, black, and fuckin crazy
Please save me

Im dyin inside
Can’t you see it in my eyes?
Im hopeless, fearless on the outside
Gun on my side, shit

Maybe if y’all niggas build schools instead of prison
Id stop livin the way in livin
Probably not
Im so used to servin rocks and burnin blocks
I ain’t never goin stop
Been doin this shit all my life
Im a lost cause
But what bout the rest?
Don’t them suckas deserve a chance?
Somethin better then shoot outs,liquor stores, and food stamps
Maybe if y’all teach them niggas a craft and a trade they wouldn’t have to play that corner
You know wha i mean, servin that yay

America, you got a fuckin problem and i ain’t never goin away
There’s bout 20 million other motha fuckas just like me
Reparations is due
And y’all goin pay”

Cover for Shyne’s second album, Godfather Buried Alive, which was released in 2004. Besides two songs, the album was recorded between 2000–2001 during the time he was on trial. The two songs not recorded prior to his incarceration, were recorded over the phone in prison.

Quasi OG Lyrics

“I’m what the fuck happens when the CIA conspired

distributed crack in my environment,

the roosters crow,

Man black people don’t know own no ports or boats

so how we getting all this how the fuck we getting all this coke..”

“Spitting up truths hopin
The young youth a soldier hear me dearly
G.W. Bush fear me
They know I know, they want to sweep us under rugs
Hopin we just keep killin, shootin each other with slugs
Look up above and pray to god he protect me
From these cold jurors and the heartless judge
Imagine, grow’n up and never have’n;
Faggot ass pops actin like you never happened
Watching the tears stream down yo mammas cheek
She helpless in the kitchen looking
for eats

“I’m just following in the tradition of Joe Kennedy, bootlegging ties with the mobs n shit”

Whether the rumor about Joe Kennedy having mob ties is real or fake, Shyne brought up a good point. Before being embraced as white, European immigrants like the Irish, Italians, and Jewish people etc, faced discrimination in America. Due to this, they turned to illegal activity, and formed some of the biggest criminal enterprises in America such such as the Mafia. The government went out of there way to help uplift these European immigrants out of their predicament and to stop the bloodshed. Black people tried to uplift themselves out of their condition but the government went out of there way to suppress and destroy these movements.

“After the 1963 March on Washington and King’s most famous speech, FBI Assistant Director William Sullivan, head of the Intelligence Division, told J Edgar Hoover about a plan to target Dr. King Jr. He said in a memo, “if handled properly, [could] take him off his pedestal… the Negroes will be left without a national leader of sufficiently compelling personality to steer them in the proper direction.” Had the government not suppressed these movements, black communities and neighborhoods, we would be more intact and united. Also, the same type of lifestyle that would cause men to pull out weapons on Shyne, Puffy and Jennifer Lopez, would not be as prevalent, since crime stems from poverty.

For more information on how these movements were crushed by the government click the article below.

Quasi OG Lyrics continued:

“The day I stuck my head out my mother’s womb
I was doomed
Repeatin’ the lords prayers sittin’ in this court room
I’m cursed
We havin dreams of leavin here up in a hearse
I wonder when I close my eyes will it hurt?
I’m suicidal
Can’t take this pressure or this pain

Eleven counts, but only one count
Thats the color of my skin
Black robes, white justice
Clarence Thomas is a motherfuckin puppet”

Life ain’t real its a dream we see tomorrow
Reality, shit that’s pain and sorrow
Reality, disaster beat breaks
A little girl up in the projects gettin raped
Reality’s a nigga gettin rock shot 41 times
And you askin why I run from one time
I don’t even get justice
Nigga sometimes, no times, oh I’m bout to lose my mind
Reality’s fucked up, like a hard workin mother, losing her job
The battle of good and evil
Like the devil, ain’t losing for god, we on lucifer’s squad
Not knowing what the fuck it all mean
I can’t even, get a can of sardines
Niggas driving bentley’s, burning money, I’m yearnin money
Taking your shit, I’m earning money
Yet you call me a thief I call me a broke nigga trying to eat
On this earth suffering, why its like that
Guess we the punished, blame Adam and Eve”

The line “gettin rock shot 41 times” is a reference to Amadou Diallo, the black man who was shot and killed in New York by the police in 1999(the same year of Shyne’s night club shooting incident.)

Unlike the white officers, Shyne didn’t murder any one. Shooting a person in self defense is nowhere near as bad as shooting somebody 41 times, killing them, because they thought the person’s wallet was a gun. Unlike Shyne, the officers faced zero jail time.

What Shyne did was no where near as bad as what George Zimmerman did, stalking and murdering a teenage boy. Zimmerman a grown man with a gun, said he acted out of fear against a teenager,who didn’t have a gun. Unlike George Zimmerman, Shyne was not awarded the privilege of “standing his ground”. As stated earlier Shyne was shot in the shoulder at age 15. A horrible event like this most certainly would cause PTSD in an individual, making it understandable as to why Shyne had to go in a fight or flight mode to defend himself in the night club.

He was actually diagnosed with PTSD after he was convicted. Shyne attributed this to being shot and also watching his friend get his brains blown out in front of him when he was younger. A month prior to the club shooting in New York, Shyne was shot at, which he says made him start carrying a gun with him again. In a 1994 BET interview, the legendary rapper, Tupac Shakur bluntly explained the misunderstanding of black males and violence in the inner city.

We all living in a war zone. It’s not as easy as these people are making us think, that we are some criminal ass black kids with guns. It’s not like that. We live in hell. We live in the gutter. You got us stacked up, 80 deep in one building. By the time you get out your house, you strapped to protect yourself because you’re living in the same community where police are carrying rifles, riot gear… the same reasons they need the riot hat, the riot jacket, the flak jacket, the double vest, the 9mm glocks with extra bullets, the tear gas, the mace, all of that — who do you think the police is using that against? Dogs? Niggas! We fighting the same villains that they fighting in the street. But instead of them seeing us fighting villains in the streets, we all villains.”

And the main thing for us to remember: the same crime element that white people are scared of, black people are scared of. The same crime element that white people fear, we fear. So we defend ourselves from the same crime element that they’re scared of. So while they waiting for legislation to pass and everything, we next door to the killer. We next door to ’em in the projects, where there’s 80 niggas in the building. All them killers they letting out, they right there in that building. But just cause we black, get along with the killers or something? Or the rapists? What is that? We need protection too.”

Shyne, somebody who was almost killed by gunfire as a youth, had every right , if not more, to act out of fear than trigger happy or scared white police officers . In a 2010 n MTV interview, Shyne spoke on the shooting.

And I don’t give a f — — what the consequences are. If I’ma defend myself, I’ma defend myself. If somebody tryna kill or hurt one of my partnas or my comrades, that’s with me, there is no, ‘Yo,’ or, ‘Damn, well, if I pull this sh — out, this is what’s gonna happen.’ No! I don’t wanna die. I don’t wanna be laid up in no f — -ing hospital with a tube runnin’ through me, hurtin’ and sufferin’. Pain is real. So you know what? I’m not doin’ that. You gon’ do that, mother — — er. You gon’ roll and say hi to Satan, not me. And that’s that. Your survival instincts tell you to protect and preserve, and you deal with whatever later”

The guy that was trying to shoot me I shot in the shoulder and thats because after threatening us, after telling us they were going to kill us, after saying thy were going to pop our head off… so when I see somebody go for their ratchet…it was kill or be killed”

Shyne did what Puffy’s bodyguard was suppose to do for him and Jennifer Lopez, which was save their lives. Unfortunately as we have seen within the last few months, black men do not get the privilege of being the “good guy with a gun.” Three black men have been killed by police since July for trying to stop a mass shooting. They were mistaken for the shooter but were heroes turned into villains, just like Shyne.

While incarcerated, Shyne was still able to achieve musical success that some rappers dream of. He was featured on a remix for arguably one of the best R&B albums of our generation. The Grammy award winning album, Confessions by Usher. He recorded the verse in prison, over the phone.

Shyne also stood up to one of the biggest rappers at the time, 50 cent, who was bullying his way through the industry. In 2004, after over a year of declaring a war against Ja-Rule, anybody who was associated with Ja Rule was considered an enemy. Despite being in prison, Shyne was still heavily sought after by record labels. Murder Inc, the same record label Ja Rule was on, was seeking to sign Shyne. This caused 50 cent to diss Shyne. Making him probably the first artist to record a song in prison. Shyne recorded not only a song but a diss track towards 50 cent, over the phone.

Years later in an interview Shyne would expose 50 cent for being a snitch (getting Irv Gotti and Murder Inc indicted), and getting a protection order from police, all while claiming to be a “gangsta.” I can’t speak on things that 50 cent did, because I don’t know, but from what we do know, Shyne’s street cred is more authentic. Shyne’s debut album blew up off the back of him shooting somebody. 50 cent’s debut album blew up in part because he survived 9 shots. As miraculous is that is…. my Uncle once told me about the saying “Respect the shooter…not the one who gets shot”. Gun violence should never be glorified but hey, rap is still a competition.

Shyne’s album “Godfather Buried Alive” was released while he was in prison in 2004. The album sold 434,000 copies and reached number one on the Billboards top R&B/hip hop chart. The prison began clamping down on Shyne and prevented him from being able to properly market the album.

After being released from prison in 2009, Shyne would get deported back to his country, Belize. He had a green card, but was not a naturalized citizen. Although Shyne has yet to achieve the same rap success as before, partly due to losing his voice while incarcerated, but he is still letting his voice be heard. Ever since being back in Belize, Shyne has built a youth center for children and speaks at prisons to uplift inmates. He also plans to follow in his father’s footsteps at becoming prime minister of Belize, so he can help build the country up for his people. Hopefully Shyne will also be allowed back in to the United States soon.

As mentioned earlier, Shyne put an emphasis on leaving behind a legacy. I would categorize his legacy with one word which is “perserverance.”

Despite being almost killed at 15 and 19, going to prison, the prison sabotaging the marketing for his album, losing his voice, and being deported, Shyne’s message could not be silenced nor could his purpose be blocked. He is “The Rose that Grew From Concrete” that Tupac wrote and spoke about.

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it’s dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.”

If you saw a rose growing out of concrete, even if it had messed up pedals, you would marvel at just seeing a rose grow through concrete. So why is it that when you see some ghetto kid grow out of the dirtiest circumstances and he can talk, he can sit across from you and make you smile, make you cry, and make you laugh, all you could talk about is my dirty rose, dirty stems and how I’m leaning crooked to the side? You can’t even see that I came up out of that shit.”- Tupac Shakur

Thanks to technology, in 2016, Shyne performed live from Belize at the Bad Boy Reunion Tour, which was being held in New York. Judging by the video and interaction from the crowd, his music is still timeless and still has support world wide.

Part 1

Part 2

Thanks for reading!

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