Published On October 31, 2012
In hip hop, one man’s opinion is another man’s headache. Sometimes, it’s simply just a pain in the ass.
“Part of making a great album is you have to have everything,” Shyne Po whole-heartedly stated in his address about Kendrick Lamar’s debut studio album:
Yoooo! Kendrick Lamar is talented with a lot of potential but his album is traaaaash!
— Shyne Po (@OriginalShyne) October 24, 2012
“That’s what makes Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan,“ he continued. “He can shoot from the outside, he can shoot from the inside, he can play defense… So you have to be a complete artist. And I just feel, y’know, ‘good kid’ didn’t deliver that. The beats was trash, and once your beats is trash, where we go from there? I don’t really want to listen to what you got to say.”
This statement wasn’t necessarily surprising. Opinions in hip hop are thrown around like rice at a wedding, and are rarely ever vowed to be honored, so there’s virtually never a honeymoon to settle the tension.
His first, self-titled album “SHYNE” even received platinum-status and was perfectly relevant for the time it came out. To some, it was even noted as a classic.
The effortless essence of Shyne on his debut album was not only Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ executive production, but his own ability to dominate effectively with his baritone to narrate his reality to anyone who would listen. You didn’t necessarily have to relate to his music to like it, or had to have held a gun, thrown up a few gang signs, and known a few mobsters to feel like a gangsta when singing along. He openly and willingly sold his way of life; but failed to sell his story or a dream.
Songs like “The Hit:”
One nigga’s body was split in half,the other nigga still movin
Heard sirens comin closer, as I’m bout to shoot him
But fuck it, I opened his mouth, and let the tec spray
And told him tell Satan I’m on my way — die bitch
“Niggas Gon Die:”
As well as “The Life,” were classic tales about the influence drugs and money play in a community and amongst friends:
If I was different, I’d snitch
What would you do if you got
Millions with niggas
and they had no love for ya?
Couldn’t pay for ya lawyer
I figured shit, why sit in a cell to rot?
I’ll be out in ten, start over again
Most of the songs were violent, with little humanistic characters of remorse or contemplation. It was a real life gangsta movie in music form. More than anything else, these last few bars seemed to speak on the betrayal and disloyalty he felt following the infamous Night Club incident in New York City. And while the rest of the album was head-nod worthy and full of gun-toting advocacies and (possible) true life events, it failed to have any substance that would last over a decade. It didn’t tell the story of how he went from selling dope to being a rapper; he didn’t mention that he no longer desired to live the life he once did. It was a good album; possibly a classic album due to the hysteria surrounding the artist, the essence of New York and re-emerging aggressive music at the time. But it was neither a timeless, nor legendary album.
In critique of Kendrick Lamar, Shyne then proceeds to blame other aspects of his frustration with the project on the belief that he could simply “listen to Cornel West” or “some spoken language album” if he wanted to receive the information Kendrick provided. “That’s what Tupac did, that’s what Jay and Ye do—that’s an art.”
This same exact “art” that Shyne referred to was considerably lacking in his own studio debut. The brilliance that allowed Tupac to sell over 75 million records worldwide post-death (and remain to be analyzed by scholars and professors alike); Jay to have a NY Times Best-Seller decoding his own lyrics (having actually premiered it alongside Cornel West); Nas to be crowned one of hip-hop’s best lyricists nearly 20 years in the game (protesting news channels like FOX about his own politics); and Kanye to do fucked up shit like this and still be looked at as a fucking genius is because their lyrics are more than just these street stories. They could also serve as a critique of themselves, their culture, and be placed on a timetable of historical events.
If Shyne decided to actually listen to the lyrics beyond the so-called “trashy beats,” he may have found that the same bang-bang-shoot-em-up that he spoke about in his self-titled debut allowed the creation of GKMC. In fact, it dissected it. It not only dissected his music, but his past, present, family, friends, culture; our culture. GKMC is for everybody.
While Shyne never said his debut was better than Kendrick’s, I find it rather interesting that he could call an album trash that already means so much more to a generation than he has ever contributed.
Kendrick’s ability to relate to all identities in “the game” from Piru’s and Crips, to the odd kid on the corner, the pretty boy down the street, to the sexually obscure girl, is rare. I’ll hold off referring to it as a classic for time’s sake (as an album is only classic based upon its impact), but it’s undoubtedly timeless, like that of Pac, Jay-Z, Nas, and Ye.
Songs like “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “m.A.A.d city,” “Real,” and “Black Boy Fly” provides commentary that’s more embedded within the context, secondary to the actual content, which melts together perfectly as a marshmallow to a graham cracker (excuse me, I’m rather hungry). The reason why this album is being so heavily praised is because of the seamless insertion of the double consciousness that has been present in black culture since before W.E.B. DuBois. It’s been a long time since music in general has challenged us—of all backgrounds, faiths, genders, ethnicities— to face this reality, if ever.
Shyne’s debut was important for his time, but not for a generational growth. Adding to the list of musicians who contributed to the ‘live by the gun, die by the gun’ mentality, I’d say it would have made more sense for Shyne to say the album went over his head, rather than in his garbage. Or possibly, it was truly trash to him. An opinion is simply an opinion, unless it’s absolutely ludicrous. Then, it’s just misinformation.
You movin backwards if you suggest that you sleep with a TEC
Go buy a chopper and have a doctor on speed dial, I guess
—– “m.A.A.d. city,” Kendrick Lamar