For the past nine months, everyone's had something to say about Belize-born, Brooklyn-bred Jamal "Shyne" Barrow... many without ever hearing the MC speak.
The controversy bubbled up years before, following the death of the Notorious B.I.G., with Shyne, freshly signed to Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad Boy Records, catching flak from those who felt that everything about the teenage rapper -- from his hardcore lines to his deep, guttural voice -- was bitten off the late Bad Boy superstar.
Then on December 27, 1999, Shyne, along with Combs and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, allegedly was involved in a high-profile incident at a Manhattan club which left three people injured and the 19-year-old rapper -- whose debut album was pending release -- facing charges of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment.
All eyes were on Shyne as the allegations were played out both in the news and in gossip columns, but the softspoken MC was still very much a mystery to most. September finally saw the release of his debut album: a startlingly dark, often horrific collection of street stories reflecting not only the troubles Shyne has seen, but those of an entire generation of lost -- and misplaced -- young men.
In this exclusive interview with MTV News' Sway, Shyne opens up about growing up on the streets, signing with Bad Boy, recording his album, and facing the future.