Al Pacino is getting more props from the hip-hop community, but this time it's not Scarface that an MC is identifying with, it's another of Pacino's onscreen icons, Michael Corleone. Shyne says the character gave him inspiration for his new LP, Godfather Buried Alive.
"My life is parallel to Michael in the fact that I was forced to do the things that I do," Shyne said recently in Dannemora, New York's Clinton Correctional Facility, explaining the "Godfather" portion of his title. "I don't want to be a bad guy. The bottom line is, whatever I do, I'm forced to do. I'm a good guy, I aspire to be a good guy, because we all have that ugliness in us. I know that part of me, and I don't want to be like that, not at all.
"In that club that night, I had to pull my gun out," he continued, referring to the infamous Club New York shooting (see "Shyne Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison"). "I didn't pull it out and wave it around and say, 'Somebody want a piece of me?' Somebody was trying to pop my head off, so I had to do that."
Shyne also explained that the second half of his album's title is dedicated to his comrades in prison.
"The 'Buried Alive' part of it is like, when you go to jail, it's like being dead," he added. "You see who won't come to your funeral. You see who's gonna love you, but you actually get to see it because people think you're dead. They don't call you, they don't write you, they don't come to visit you. I'm not necessarily talking about me, but I'm talking about my comrades."
The imprisoned MC was mindful as well of his fellow inmates when he decided to make "More or Less" the first song from the album to go to radio. "It's not necessarily a pop record," he said, "but that's me unadulterated. I didn't think I should come with anything else. That's how we talk, we got our own jargon up here, that's how we communicate. When [prisoners] hear that record, it gives hope."
While recording the song a few years ago, Shyne obviously was forward-thinking. He used Kanye West before the Chi-Town native blew up with the Roc.
"Once again, it just shows how ahead of everything the music I was making then or now is," Shyne bragged. "It's still all relevant. That's the hottest producer in the game and he happened to produce that record. I've known him before anybody knew who he was. Just Blaze is on the album [as well]. So all the music is urgent and contemporary. Whether I did it then or I'm doing it now, [it doesn't matter]."
Shyne says he was also ahead of his time when he made "Jimmy Choo."
"I actually did that record one night after the club," he explained. "I was in Lotus or one of them spots and I had a supermodel chick with me and she had on her Jimmy Choos. I was like, 'Man, look at them heels!' I was amazed, it was like four and a half inches off the ground. I was like, 'Before we go to the club, let's go to the studio, I've got to rap about this.' It was a lifestyle record. That's my life, that's what I do. That was then, now everybody knows about Jimmy Choos."
"They sent the vocals to us," said Ashanti, who guest stars on the Irv Gotti-produced track. "Irv did the beat, then they called me and said, 'Come write a hook to this Shyne record.' That was something incredible for me. Shyne gets a lot of love, and unfortunately with his situation now, it's like, 'He's really gonna come out with an album?' The anticipation is bananas. I actually spoke to [Shyne after the song was done] and he's like, 'Yo, I can't stop singing it. I love the record.' He paid me a compliment and I was like, 'Wow, I was talking to Shyne!' "
Gotti said that when he was approached to work with his friend, it wasn't a question of whether he would do it or not, it was when he would do it.
"For Shyne I ride," Gotti said. "Since it was for Shyne, it was an immediate thing. We immediately put forth the effort and immediately tried to make it a smash. I didn't know it was going to be a single. We just finished the video."
To shoot "Jimmy Choo," director Benny Boom traveled to Clinton Max a few weeks ago and shot Shyne's part. Then he traveled to Los Angeles last week and worked with Gotti to film Ashanti.
"Ashanti is looking really good in it," Gotti said. "I'm on set like, 'Yo, this is crazy!' It's a landmark thing because [Shyne] is in jail. They gonna bug out because this n---a's in Clinton spitting verses."
Aside from Ashanti, there aren't too many other guests on Godfather Buried Alive. Shyne added his own vocals to Kurupt and Nate Dogg's "Behind the Walls," which was originally released on the "Oz" soundtrack in 2001, and Foxy Brown appears twice, once on "More or Less" and then later on "The Gang."
"I've known her since '96," Shyne said of Fox Boogie. "We used to go to high school together. I remember when Big used to come pick her up. I've known her before rap and she's always maintained with me and she's been through her own little things, so we've got a connection in that regard. It just happened organically — there was nobody else I was really feeling. Jay[-Z] don't rap no more. Getting him to rap is like pulling teeth. So nobody else fit the puzzle."
Shyne said Foxy is at the top of his wish list of artists he wants to sign to his Def Jam imprint, Gangland.
For more on Shyne, check out the feature "Blessed With Curses."