Shyheim "On and On" (1994)
Label: Virgin/EMI Records
Violence in a community affects everyone, but, for many, its effects register most strongly when seen through the eyes of the children who witness it. Ghostface Killah's younger cousin and Wu-Tang affiliate Shyheim offered more chilling perspective on Staten Island's crime than his older counterparts simply due to his youthful voice. Filled with dense storytelling—about a mother selling crack, about Shy's friends' grandfather getting shot in a parking lot, about getting caught stealing from the junkyard—"On and On" is such a crystal-clear depiction of a neighborhood's struggles that it is widely assumed the RZA wrote the song's lyrics. Shyheim's effortless flow, the perfect boom-bap beat and straightforward hook made the song a minor hit—and turned the teenager into a hip-hop celebrity who would work with Big Daddy Kane and turn down an appearance on Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt.