Moses Michael Levi[3] (born Jamal Michael Barrow),[4] better known by his stage name Shyne, is a Belizean rapper, who moved from Belize to the Brooklyn neighborhood of East Flatbush as a teenager to live with his mother. He is perhaps best known for his time under Bad Boy Records and a 1999 shooting incident that led to his nine-year incarceration. He was released from prison in 2009 and was subsequently deported back to Belize.

Early life

Shyne was born Jamal Michael Barrow[4][5] in Belize City, Belize to Frances Imeon Myvette and Dean Barrow, the current Prime Minister of Belize.[6][8] His mother, Frances Imeon Myvette, is the sister of Michael Finnegan, one of Dean Barrow's long-time political colleagues.[9][10] Shyne's mother moved to the United States, leaving three-year-old Shyne with his uncle in Belize City. When he was 8 years old, he moved to Brooklyn to live with his mother in East Flatbush.[11][12]

Shyne's father and mother were first to welcome him back to their home country upon his return in 2009.[13]

Music career

1997-1999: Career beginnings and signing to Bad Boy Entertainment

In 1998, while Shyne was freestyling in a barbershop, American hip hop producer Clark Kent discovered Shyne, noticing "something very weird in his voice". He sounded eerily similar to the late, Notorious B.I.G.. At the time, Clark Kent was working on the Born Again posthumous album from B.I.G.[14] He quickly took Shyne to the Bad Boy studios where Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs signed him on the spot.[14] Reports indicate that Shyne received millions of dollars, 3 cars of his choice and two homes just for signing.[14] The contract also included a five album deal.[14] This event caused a small media shockwave that had Newsweek stunned.[14] Not long after, Shyne started making appearances on recordings made by his Bad Boy Entertainment label-mates. He was notably featured on Mase's second album Double Up (1999) and on a remix of Total's "Sittin At Home" single.[15] In the same year he featured on Bad Boy Records' chief executive Sean Combs' debut album Forever.[16]

1999–2008: Shyne, Godfather Buried Alive and incarceration

On December 27, 1999, Shyne, along with Combs and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, allegedly were involved in a high-profile incident at a Manhattan club, which left three people injured and the 21-year-old rapper, whose debut album was pending release, facing charges of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment. This led to rumors about Shyne's position at Bad Boy Records and doubts about whether his debut album was ever going to be released.

Shyne managed to release his self-titled debut album in September 2000. The album featured guest appearances from Barrington Levy and 112's Slim, as well as production from Bad Boy's in house producers The Hitmen. Shyne's self-titled debut album was recorded prior to the rapper's arrest, and released on September 26, 2000. The album made Billboard's number five spot on the charts[17] and sold over 900,000 copies.[18]

In July 2001, Shyne was sentenced to 10 years in prison. While many labels met with Shyne while he was at the Clinton Correctional Facility, the rapper ultimately signed with Def Jam Records for a $3 million contract. In 2004, Shyne released his second album Godfather Buried Alive, while imprisoned. The album, recorded prior to imprisonment and partially over the phone, sold 434,000 copies and hit No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart.[19]

2009-present: Release from prison and third album

Upon his release from his decade-long prison sentence in 2009, for which he was charged with attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment, the Belize native deported back to his homeland. On February 16, 2010, it was reported Shyne signed a seven figure deal with Def Jam Records.[20] Shyne collaborated with reggae and rock musician Matisyahu, on his single "Messiah".[21] Shyne also released "Roller Song", in 2010,[22] Shyne would later announce he was recording two LPs for release in 2010.[23] Messiah was set to be the first of his 2010 release schedule, while Gangland, was set to be his second.[23] In April 2010, Messiah's first single, a track by the same name, was released and has been harshly criticized by both fans and music critics.[24]

In October 2010, Shyne criticized Def Jam and announced hopes of signing to Cash Money Records. Shyne said he had definite plans for where he would like to go if he can untangle himself from his Def Jam distribution deal – Birdman’s Cash Money label. "I'm definitely trying to get with Cash Money….I'm not signed to Def Jam anyway, I just need to find another distributor. I might just have Cash Money do everything. Who knows? That's the beauty about being in the business for yourself. You can decide where you want to go and what you want to do.[25] Although he blamed Def Jam CEO L.A. Reid for his frustration, later that month Shyne retracted his statement by issuing an apology.[26] In November 2010, Birdman stated Shyne's deportation is what was stalling his Cash Money deal.[27]

Shyne made a surprise guest appearance in the Matisyahu and HaDag Nachash concert in Jerusalem’s Kikar Safra on June 23, 2011. He rapped into Matisyahu’s set for "King Without a Crown". He shouted "Free Jonathan Pollard, Free Gilad Shalit" to thunderous applause before he exited the stage. Due to Matisyahu's and Shyne's Jewish nexus, the two have since became best friends and talked about collaborating more frequently in the future.[28][29][30][31]

In August, Shyne appeared on the track "Outro", from Lil Wayne's platinum-selling ninth studio album Tha Carter IV (2011), along with Bun B, Nas and Busta Rhymes.[32] In December 2011, Shyne said signing to Cash Money Records "is still a possibility".[33] In March 2012, Shyne and Diddy finally reconciled. The two were photographed together at Fashion Week in Paris and Diddy even tweeted "Me and Shyne Po front row at Kenzo #ParisIsBurning RT to da world!!!!"[34]

In April 2012, Shyne traveled to Kiev, Ukraine where he was a featured speaker at a conference on inter-religious understanding. The conference – called Global Winds of Change: Religions' Role in Today's World;The Challenges in Democracies and Secular Societies – was aimed at bringing together members of the world's many faiths to discuss the role of religion in modern society. Oleksandr Feldman, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and the President of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee hosted the three-day event.[35] In October 2012 Shyne endorsed Mitt Romney for president of the United States, faulting President Obama for not doing anything to prevent the rapper's deportation back to Belize.[36]

In 2012, Shyne released a mixtape titled Gangland. Shyne called out Rick Ross, due to his blasphemous Black Bar Mitzvah mixtape, as well as Jewish-Canadian rapper Drake. He has also recorded diss tracks towards Diddy, Swag Blanket's DLSupreme and 50 Cent.[37] The most avid of all these however is when Shyne eventually became involved in a feud with West Coast rapper Game, after Shyne claimed fellow West Coast rapper Kendrick Lamar's universally acclaimed debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012), was "trash". Shyne dissed Game on tracks such as "Bury Judas" and "Psalms 68 (Guns & Moses)"[38] The downfall of Shyne was named 23 (out of 30) of the worst fall-offs in rap history by Complex Magazine in December 2012. In contrast to his ranking on the aforementioned Complex list, Shyne's "Gangland" mixtape has been downloaded over 100,000 times on, earning him a "Gold" ranking.

In 2013, Shyne released his clothing brand Gangland, which is being sold online and in select stores around the world.

Personal life

Club New York shooting

On December 27, 1999, Shyne and his then-girlfriend Monay Hawkins, who were with Sean Combs and his then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, were involved in a shooting at a Manhattan club which left three people injured. As a result, Shyne, then 21 years old with a debut rap album pending release, was charged with and later convicted of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment. His debut album was released in 2000.[39][40]


On June 1, 2001, Shyne was sentenced to ten years in prison.[41][42][43] He began serving his sentence at the maximum security prison Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. This seemed to spell the end of his rap career and his legal team's attempts to appeal for a suspended sentence ultimately failed. Rumors that he had severed all ties with Sean Combs and Bad Boy Records proved later to be true.[44][45]

He had his name legally changed, in early March 2006, from his birthname of Jamal Michael Barrow to Moses Michael Levi to reflect his grandmother's Jewish heritage.[4] Just days later he was in court again to challenge New York's application of the 'Son of Sam' law, a law which resulted in his assets being frozen and limiting his ability to line up record deals and remain profitable.[46] He and his lawyers argued that allowing him to make deals with record producers would also increase the value of a potential settlement with the victims involved in the night club shooting.[47]

Despite his crimes, his incarceration drew many sympathizers, as well as the admiration of many in the hip hop community.[48] His adherence to the code of silence, which he made reference to numerous times on his self-titled debut album, earned him a hardcore reputation in both the prison community as well as on the streets. Even while incarcerated, his name continued to be linked with several record labels.[49][50] However, he was not without his detractors; fellow New York rapper 50 Cent even went so far as to call him a punk and made light of his situation and his involvement in the "night club incident". Shyne responded in kind on his 2004 release Godfather Buried Alive, with a track entitled "For the Record".[51]

Release and deportation

On August 4, 2009, Shyne was released to his former producer Nick Dahms. A Manhattan judge signed the order that would schedule Shyne for release on October 6, 2009.[52] Having served over 9 years of a 10-year sentence on which no terms for post-release supervision had originally been placed; at the request of the New York State Department of Correctional Services the recent re-sentencing calls for a mandatory probation period of at least two and half years.[53] Shyne and his attorney, Oscar Michelen had initially hoped to avoid this, with Shyne labeling it as being akin to "extra jail time". However Michelen did allow that the state was well within its rights.[54][55] He was then transferred to the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, where he spent the last months of his incarceration, from Rikers Island where he had awaited his parole hearing.[56]

There was considerable anticipation for his release in hip hop and mainstream media alike.[57][58] On October 6, 2009, Shyne was released from New York State custody. However upon his release, Shyne was immediately apprehended into Federal custody.[59][60] It became public knowledge a few hours following his apparent release that he had been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a then "undisclosed detention facility in Western New York State". At least one source revealed that the facility in question was the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia.[61] According to his attorney, Oscar Michelen, Federal officials were reviewing the rapper's immigration status and making a determination on whether or not he would be deported to his native Belize.[62] He went on to clarify that Shyne was in possession of a "green card" but had never been naturalized.[8] There was some speculation that Shyne might have been released on bail in the US while his case was being resolved.[63] However, there was no real indication that a bail was ever set or notification of any change in his official status.

Although statements from his family in Belize and the US remained positive, according to Shyne's uncle, Michael Finnegan, preparations had been made in the event that the rapper was sent back to Belize.[64] He also revealed that Shyne and his representatives had been expecting to be intercepted by ICE officials upon his release and had deferred members of his legal team to prepare the necessary documents in an effort to deal with this situation.[65] Shortly into the developing ordeal, Dean Barrow, Belize's Prime Minister and Shyne's estranged father, sent a petition to New York Governor David Paterson to pardon his son.[66] In 2008 Governor Paterson pardoned rapper Slick Rick who, in a similar situation, also faced deportation.[67][68] Barrow stated that he'd been assured that the Governor received his letter and that it was under consideration, but that he did not expect to have any influence in swaying the decision.[69] The family also indicated that they had sought the assistance of Charles Ogletree, a Harvard Law professor who is known for being a mentor to President Barack Obama and a part of his inner circle.[71] On October 15, 2009 Michael Finnegan released a statement indicating that all legal matters regarding the case had been turned over to Ogletree entirely. The decision was apparently agreed to by all concerned members of Shyne's family.[69][72]

By October 22, 2009 most publications were indicating that a final decision had been reached and, barring a last minute pardon from Governor Paterson, Shyne would be deported back to Belize.[73] Shyne was deported back to Belize on Wednesday October 28, 2009 though he continued to fight for residency in the United States.

In 2010, he was living in Jerusalem as a Hasidic Jew under his new name, Moses Michael Levi and spent his time learning the Torah and stated that he spends up to 12 hours a day studying it.[74][75]

In February 2010, the rapper was refused entry into the United Kingdom due to his criminal past. He had commenced his journey in Cancun, Mexico, but was deported upon arrival in the UK after immigration officials refused to allow him to enter the country.[76]


Studio albums