Shyne, who you probably remember from songs like "Bad Boyz" and "Bonnie and Shyne" (above), was born in Belize and moved to Brooklyn with mom his when he was 13. His father, the Prime Minister of Belize, had strained relationships with his son, and publicly stated that he was unwanted. Shyne found a new family on the streets of Flatbush and was discovered rapping in a barbershop by producer Clark Kent (whose first hit was Junior Mafia's "Player's Anthem") who thought he sounded like Biggie. Fast forward a year, and Shyne is part of the Puff Daddy's Bad Boy crew with a record deal under his belt.
But, his new alliances proved to be his downfall. A few days after Christmas in 1999 Shyne went to a club with Diddy and J. Lo, and a gunfight broke out. The details of exactly went down that night are shady, but Shyne was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement, including shooting a woman in the face, and Diddy was acquitted. Shyne's self-titled release came out in 2000, and makes references to his sentence on tracks like "Whatcha Gonna Do": "Whatcha gonna do when the shit hit the fan / Take it like a man, or snitch like a bitch." He earned a lot of credibility for not fingering anyone else in the shooting, and the whole incident shed a huge amount of media attention on his first release.
While he was in prison, Shyne found Judaism and changed his name to Moshe Levi Ben-David. He was released in 2009, but after only a few hours was immediately taken into custody again on immigration charges and issues surrounding his green card. His dad petitioned Governor Patterson to pardon Shyne, hopeful that he'd be able to pull some strings (especially since the Governor had recently pardoned Slick Rick from similar charges). But after fighting to stay in the country for about a month, Shyne was deported to Belize where he stayed only briefly before moving to Jerusalem, where he has been living as an Orthodox Jew and working on his next two albums for Def Jam, both due out this fall, titled Gangland and Messiah.
In a recent interview about how Judaism has effected his life and his music, Shyne said:
I could be in Paris right now hanging out with Lady Gaga. But when kids see me in Jerusalem, that bears a message of transformation and growth. Who wants to be selling crack all day to poor people? Everybody wants a normal, peaceful life. I was there in hell, and I want to show these kids an alternative. The Israelites are ambassadors for God. I'm not afraid to shout that I got everything from God - the good and the bad. Somebody asked me the other day, "What if your Judaism hurts your record sales?" And I said, "I don't count on statistics. I just stay loyal to Hashem, and follow my soul."On June 5th, Shyne premiered a new song called "Solar Energy" at the inauguration of the first solar field in Israel. He wrote the rap with the president of the Arava Power Company – and you can see the live performance here:
I for one am eager to hear what else Shyne has up his shiny, striped sleeves. He was featured on Lil Wayne's Carter IV "Outro," and still seems to have a lot of support from the rap and hip-hop community at large, despite his dramatic change in lifestyle and values – not to mention what so far has been an extreme topical shift in his music (I can't remember the last time I heard a song about alternative energy sources...). It doesn't necessarily sound like he's interested in drawing a secular crowd this time around, but either way – I'll report back!
my Rolls Royce, it's not for ladies, but girl I'm gonna take you in my Mercedes @toomanyronis