Godfather Buried Alive (Def Jam)

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A few years ago, Shyne was set to take the place of the late, great Biggie Smalls at the top of the Bad Boy roster. His self-titled debut generated two popular singles and briefly added the phrase "that's gangsta" to the shortlist of rap clichés. Then an altercation led to a legal ménage à trois between him, Puffy and Jennifer Lopez; the fallout, besides breaking up Puff and J.Lo, landed Shyne in jail. Somewhat fortunately, his incarceration also effectively severed his contract with Bad Boy, leading to a profitable contract with Def Jam. Godfather scrapes together previously released mixtape joints as well as B-sides, compilation tracks and some emergency recordings done at the last possible second.

When Shyne was coming up in the rap game, many compared his voice to that of the Notorious B.I.G., which grabbed Puffy's attention. By the time his first album dropped, Shyne had enough hype that the Biggie comparisons became convenient fodder for haters, who rarely subjected the record to a thorough analysis. Now, with the Bad Boy luster removed, Godfather reveals an MC who has little in common with Biggie, save the voice: Shyne has none of the swagger or charisma that made Christopher Wallace a star. Where Biggie went off for days on his crispy suits, blowjobs-on-command and affinity for imported cars, Shyne relies almost exclusively on his crack-dealing accomplishments for subject matter. Occasionally he dips into his exploits with females -- but only to bolster his success in the crack game. No Bad Boy also means no help from Puffy's talented stable of producers, leading to a bland collage of played-out synth strings. Just Blaze's "Diamonds and Mac-10's" finishes the album on a high note but ends up being too little, too late. Godfather's lead single, "More or Less," intelligently tackles the chicken-and-egg problem of crime culture and rap, and Shyne disses 50 Cent over the phone (!) on "For The Record," but this album leaves much to be desired.

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