Shyne Speaks On Jail Time and Deportation
The 30-year-old -- who changed his name from Jamal Barrows to Moses Michael Leviy while in prison for his involvement in a New York City nightclub shooting -- visited students at his alma mater, Wesley College, to talk about his experiences and the importance of education.
"I came up on the streets with guys that gang-banged and were into criminal activity and those tools never worked," Shyne said. "Those tools, you either end up spending the rest of your life in prison or sleeping in a grave for the rest of your life. But with the tools that you are getting here as far as education is concerned, that is the ultimate tool and with that tool you can transcend any situation because I am just like you."
"When I was coming, up we didn't even have toilets," Shyne added. "But one of the things my uncle Finnegan and my father, Prime Minister [Dean] Barrow, implored upon me was education, education, education, education. I didn't really get that, I was like, 'yo, well education, whatever.'"
Shyne went on to say that he used education as a launching pad for his music career, noting that of all his classes English was always his favorite.
"As I came up, my music, being Shyne and being able to go from Curassow Street [to the] United States and sell millions of records, the only way I was able to do that is because I used to be at my uncle Denys' house and I used to be in the corner reading a dictionary," he said. "I was very into my English. I would fail my other classes but when it came to English, I would pay attention. And if it wasn't for that, I would have never [sold] any records. I wouldn't have been able to call Jay-Z and I wouldn't be able to live the life that I live and so education is very important."
After meeting Sean "Diddy" Combs, Shyne signed to Bad Boy Records in 1998 and gained notoriety for his rap voice, which is similar to the late Biggie Smalls. He released his self-titled debut in 2000, but one year later was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a nightclub shooting while partying with Diddy and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez.
While behind bars, Shyne released his second album 'Godfather Buried Alive,' and also changed his name, which he says was not brought on by a rumored conversion to Judaism.
"There was no conversion to Judaism. This is a hereditary thing in my ancestry," he said. "As you know, many Africans throughout Central Africa, East Africa come to Belize. So, this is not a conversion, but nonetheless in life you are what you are and that is who I am. I don't want to be like Michael Jordan, I want to be like Moses or King David or King Solomon. Those are the guys that I aspire to be like. I didn't want to be like the kingpin on my block, I want to be like the guy that [parted] the seas. That is the reason why I took that name because my life is one big Red Sea."
Following his release from prison in October, Shyne was deported back to Belize from New York. His family has since been fighting for his right to return to the U.S. He is said to be working on new music while his immigration issues are being hashed out.