When an unproven MC is branded a "Notorious B.I.G.
sound-alike," career doom is imminent. Arguably the two MCs do share similar vocal drones. And yeah, they're both unapologetic slum-centered lyricists. However, Shyne's insipid tales of selling dope, packing heat, and sleeping with seedy "ho's" are artless, unlike Biggie's. Shyne does up the ante, but it's in all of the wrong ways (not only does he sleep with multiple "ho's" in his verses but he tells 'em to "Get Out" when he's done). The most revealing track on the album is the spoken-word interlude "Dear America," where Shyne eloquently explains how America made him "a lost cause." "Niggas Gonna Die," "Whatcha Gonna Do," and "The Life" are all ridiculously dark, violent, and thuggish. However, Shyne's slow, moody drawl flows well over the reggae-tinged riddims of "Bang" and "Bad Boyz," featuring reggae balladeer du jour Barrington Levy
. Sadly, Puff Daddy's
unshakeable influence at Bad Boy (e.g., the tried-and-true rhythm sampled on the D.O.C.
's "Funky Enough" is borrowed on "That's Gangsta") further corrupts this album. And why a rapper with a shady past (present and future?) would use his debut album to broadcast his illegal exploits to the world is anyone's guess. In the end, a fast-forward button should never receive this much love. --Dalton Higgins