NEW YORK As rapper Shyne prepares to go to trial on attempted murder charges, he is also finishing a new album that he says will take a "more responsible" approach than his self-titled debut, with lyrics that will explore the societal causes of crime and urge kids to choose school over hustling.
Shyne will continue to work on the album even after his trial begins next week with jury selection, he said Friday morning (January 12) while standing outside a Manhattan courtroom moments after a pretrial hearing in his case.
"It's gonna be a lot of political stuff, social issues. I gave kind of a reckless perspective last time," Shyne (born Jamal Barrow) said. "This time around, I wanna give a more responsible perspective, [blaming] the people who really cause the problem which they say I cause, which they say the young black man causes."
Sean "Puffy" Combs, who will be tried alongside Shyne on weapons and bribery charges related to the December 1999 shooting at Manhattan's Club New York, will not be directly involved with the new album. It will, however, be released on Combs' Bad Boy Records either in the summer or in the fall, a company spokesperson said.
Producer Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie (a.k.a. the Madd Rapper), who is working on at least two tracks on Shyne's new album, said the rapper has shown an impressive ability to concentrate on his work, despite the charges hanging over his head.
"From what I see, he's able to put everything aside and focus on the music," Angelettie said Friday. "He's a strong dude and ... I think this is all really just kinda more fuel for his rhymes. All the pressure and the stress that he's going through, he's one them dudes who's able to communicate that through his lyrics and his music."
The album, which is expected to feature guest appearances from Prodigy of Mobb Deep, hard-core duo M.O.P. and Jadakiss, will include the track "It Ain't What It Seems," which will send a direct message to listeners, Shyne said.
"I've got this song where this kid wants to be like me, wants to be a hustler, and I give him every reason not to be," he explained.
Shyne, who is accused of shooting three people at Club New York, has appeared glum and lethargic in his courtroom appearances, rarely speaking above a mumble. But he lit up as he discussed his album, speaking animatedly of his plans as courthouse police standing nearby shot him curious glances.
The rapper, who had pulled a fur-collared leather jacket over his suit and thrown a blue baseball hat on his head the moment he left the courtroom, declined to discuss the specifics of his criminal case, citing the gag order imposed by Judge Charles Solomon last week.
"This is my life. I pray to God every day, but I gotta stay focused on what I'm meant to do," he said, adding that in the courtroom, he feels like an anonymous defendant, not a star.
"The only reason people are here is just for Puffy," he said, and gestured at a group of young men sitting outside another courtroom. "I'm just like them."
"He definitely wants to speak for a lot of the youth that don't have a voice," Angelettie said. "Because he's from that 'hood where a lot of these kids, they know what's right and what's wrong, but they don't really have a way to express their feelings."
Shyne faces the possibility that prosecutors may question him about the violent lyrics of such past songs as "Bad Boyz" and "Bang" during his trial. He said his new album will convey one more message: "Hip-hop is not responsible for violence in America. America is responsible for violence in America."