Whatup, rap nerds? It's the Summer Man subbing in for #TBT. Rest assured, resident Drake Denier and rapologist Angel Diaz hasn't forsaken you, but in light of a busy schedule the gawd let me take the reins for his series this week. Me being the happy Troll that I am, I'm going to use this opportunity not to reflect on a forgotten and/or underrated gem but instead to resurface an abomination.
The phrase "so bad it's good," used to describe art that's admittedly awful and yet undeniable, is rarely associated with music the way it is movies and TV. We all have our guilty pleasures, sure, but usually if a song is bad it's just bad. Like, never play that in my presence again. When Shyne finally emerged from Clinton Correctional Facility—after famously taking a hit for Puffy—with a seven-figure Def Jam contract, rap heads eagerly waited for him to tap into that debut album-level heat, Godfather Buried Alive notwithstanding. Instead, he came out the bing with a rap voice approximating a weird cross between Christian Bale's Batman-growl and Bane's weird oxy-mask annunciation* (Yes, I'm aware Tom Hardy's Bane didn't impact until 2012), a stilted, lazy flow, and trash freestyles on everything from Drake's "Over" to Rihanna's "Rude Boy." The rap community was bemused, to say the least.
*Pay special attention in the song below to the way he pronounces "Tom Ford suit" and the names of several prominent heavenly angels.
There were original songs in the mix too. Those are best left forgotten—except for one. A song that, even upon first listen, is so phenomenal in its awfulness that it is hard to comprehend how someone, anyone, thought this was fit for release. This song is not a guilty pleasure; truly, it's terrible. And yet to this day I have it in my music library, and not for lack of forgetting to drag to Recycle Bin. A Shyne joke sparked by the Puffy controversy earlier this week inspired me to tweet this reply. To my wonder, neither Fashion Brother James Harris nor any of my other co-workers had any idea what the fuck I was referencing. How could such an amazing audio trainwreck go under the radar?
Released in July 2010, the song samples two unmitigated legends, Sir Bob Marley and the Notorious B.I.G., both of whom help Shyne express his life situation at the time. It's called "Belize," because upon his release from prison, Shyne was deported to Belize, where his father resides as Prime Minister (!). The refrain interpolates Biggie's "I'll be smoking trees in Belize when they find me" from Puffy's "Young G's." If that's not on the nose enough, BIG's whole posthumous contribution is to have his own utterance of that line repeated something close to 17 times in a row. Over Marley's "Sun Is Shining" Shyne is full of drawling non-sequiturs, like a hilariously random shot at Rick Ross: "No, no, no, not the C.O./Bro, bro, it's the C-E-O." Each verse ends with Jay Z's classic "I'm about a dollar, what the fuck is 50 Cent[s]?" kiss-off. Even though it's the exact same beat, here Marley's "Sun Is Shining" goes from chill beach-side relaxation to sounding like a creepy, funhouse score. The melodica (the harmonica-sounding instrument), originally soothing, here just makes me burst into fits of laughter every time I listen. In fact, everything about this song is a bizarre circus. Shyne is its ringmaster. And yet I can't stop listening. I still do from time to time, when I need a good laugh. (Admittedly never fully, but still).
At a family barbecue not long after this beautifully flawed gem dropped, I slipped this into the playlist to fulfill my role as the family asshole. As I gauged reactions, my jovial, at that point, boozy, godfather remarked: "This isn't for everybody. This song was made for 500 people. And I'm one of them." It remains the realest song review I've ever heard. Without further ado: