Shyheim is one of those guys you eiher love or hate it seems, and me personally I always liked him though there's no denying that his drug abuse fucked up his ability t make a coherrent classic album again unfortunately. And now he's sitting on Rikers Island again, doing a fourteen year bid for manslaughter due o an accidental killing of a person on New Years Eve 2013, high on benzodiazepines. Listening back to his early albums it kind of gives me a lump in my throat at times, here is this young kid, so talented, clearly living the street life with no parental guidance and even though he made semi-classic records, was affiliated with one of the biggest hip-hop acts of all time, and starred in several movies he still got caught up. And his best records were always the one were he bore his soul on record for the world to hear, like "Manchild" and "Dear God", it was quite evident he wasn't a very happy young man but as we all know pain makes great music.
His first album "Shyheim A.K.A. The Rugged Child" is suprisingly dope, entirely produced by RNS, a Staten Island beat head who showed The RZA a lot of production techniques and equipent, filled with bass heavy, jazz sampling boom bap type beats with call and response hooks made popular by the likes of Black Moon and Onyx. And for anyone thinking little Shy was just some kid getting on because he knew the right people were left silenced after hearing his performances on here. This was no Kris Kross or Another Bad Creation with their cute cookie cutter raps. Shyheim, and later Illegal, proved that even at a young age you could be a credible hardcore rapper as long as you got skills and a tight crew. Shy's crew was made up of The Gladiator Posse, formerly known as G.P. Wu, which also included Pop The Brown Hornet (who RZA once has been qouted saying was one of the guys he definitely wanted in the Clan but couldn't get), Down Low Recka, June Luva, and Rubbabandz. These guys appear on a lot of songs from the debut and the B-sides of its 12" singles and it's a shame they didn't blow up more, because they are definitely talented. The GP crew definitely helped out Shy with some of his writing, but it was not like he used a full-blown ghostwriter on anything except perhaps one song on the album. That track is one of my personal favorites - "Little Rascals", produced and written solely by Prince Rakeem, and if you listen to it it sounds a hell of a lot more like RZArector than Shyheim, even the cadence is more Gravediggaz RZA than Shy. The fact that R. Diggs is the sole writer of the song. An interesting fact is that Shyheim was repping both Wu-Tang and GP The Grain but in an interview with HHC RZA made the outlandish statement of "Shy was already a little Wu-Tang soldier, then my producer RNS stole him from me". This seems to be revisionist history considering that Shy always repped RNS and the GP clique harder than the Clan.
By the time Shyhei Franklin recorded his second album he had more life experiences to build on, a deeper voice and the production of RNS, while still very much prevalent, this time he invited D/R Period, L.E.S., The RZA and King Of Chill which made a somewhat more well-rounded album (though not necessarily better). Unfortunately Noo Trybe Records fucked up distribution and the album was never properly released on vinyl, though various promo copies made the rounds back though missing several essential cuts. Once he signed to Wu-Tang Management in 1999 and released his third album "Manchild" - this is the final Shy album I truly gave a chance and while it does has is moments (the title track is still one of my favorite autobiographical hip-hop songs of all time; "Furius Anger" featuring the last apperance by Big L is a bonafide classic; and a few others) but compared to his two youth LP:s it doesn't hold a candle though it has it's moments. Suprisingly absent from the credits is also RNS - I really wonder if he and RZA had a falling out at some point considering RZA was the exec. of "Manchild" and given the fact that they were real close as far back as '92 it strange RZA didn't give him more shine. Since then Shy has started his own label, Bottom Up Records, released several albums that at least I haven't heard and done a lot of differet business ventures.
But for this Lost Tapes presentation, I wanted to focus on my favorite preiod of Shyhem's career, namely 1993 to 1998 - the "Rugged Child" to "Lost Generation" era. And while Shy didn't apear on too many records by other artists (save for the classic posse cut ("Show & Prove" with Jay-Z, ODB, Big Daddy Kane and Schoob). Luckily back in the early- to- mid-'90s, record labels realized the key to selling singles was to fill them with previously unreleased B-sides and sick ass remixes. And there's plenty of 12" sngles from the "Rugged Child" album, all colected here. So enjoy this shit right here, and send your thoughts to Shy at Riker's Island or send him a letter to Shyheim Franklin,
01. "C.R.E.A.M. Freestyle - Intro" (Ft. RZA & GZA)
I would guess this is from 1994 as Shyheim sound kind of like on "Rugged Child" and of course the "C.R.E.A.M. beat was THE beat to freestyle to. This is really ill and a perfect album opener, solidifing the Wu-Tang connection to the fullest. I was originally gonna use the Madison Square Garden freestyle but everyone and their mother heard that.
02. "On & On" [DJ Premier Remix]
This remix is to me iller than the original which I absolutely loved, and it got a nice flavor that makes it a perfect song to bang early in the selections. The sampled jazz base under Shy's vocals gives this joint a whole diffent flavor - found on the first pressing of the 12" in 1993. Some rumours claimed that DJ Premier actually produced the original version, which is bullshit so if you don't know know you know!
03."Pass It Off" [Underground Remix] (Ft. GP Wu & Big Daddy Kane)
Produced by RNS, this joint features a completely different beat from the album version and more than that it features Shy, the entire GP Wu and Big Daddy Kane go head to head. Kane's verse is short but sweet, showing how much love he had for young Shy. Released in 1994 on the "Pass It Off" single".
04. "Show & Prove" (w. Big Daddy Kane, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Jay-Z & Scoob Lover)
This is the posse cut that everybody knows and its truly one of the great posse cuts of the mid '90s. Released in '94 on Big Daddy Kane's underrated "Daddy's Home" LP, on which along with his previous "Looks Like A Job...", Kane wanted to bring back his street rep. For this particular cut BDK enlisted DJ Premier for a jazzy boom bap cut and invited a bunch of up-and-coming talents - Shyheim, Scoob, Ol' Dirty Bastard and even a young Jay-Z. There even was a video for this gem, see above!
05. "The B-Side: Bring The Drama" (Ft. Down Low Recka, K-Tez & Rubbabandz)
This caused me scraching my head when searching for the B-sides of the various 12" singles. Apparantly they thought it was a good idea to name two completely different songs as "The B-Side" with a parantheses after. This joint is really called "Bring The Drama" and is another dark RNS production featuring Shy holding his own against his GP brethren. This joint first appeared on the first pressing of the "On & On" 12" in '93 that also had the Premier remix.
06. "The B-Side: Lick A Shot"
The second B-side "Lick A Shot" is classic Shyheim/RNS with no guests and would fit right in on the "Rugged Child". But at the same time I love how they not just give fans throwaways on the 12" singles. Originally appeared on the 1994 single for "Pass It Off".
07. "Get Down" (Ft. Rubbabandz,, Snagglepuss, & Leatherface)
This one really caught my attention based on the guest features, Leathaface was part of U-God's team later in the '90s and he definitely knows how to rhyme and Snagglepuss obscure style has always fascinated me since I first heard him on Brand Nubian's "Step Into Da Cipher". This appeared on the "One 4 Da Money" 12" in 1994 that also included three exclusive RNS remixes of the title cut sa well as West Coast remix created by DJ Slip. The RNS remxes are included as bonus tracks at the end of the compilation.
08. "Life of a Shorty" (Ft. Lil' Vicious)
I would guess that this was something that the label put together as both Shy and Lil' Vicious was on Virgin/Chrysalis in '94. Lil' Vicious was about the same age as Shyheim, and had the backing and co-production of Doug E. Fresh. Vicious was doing his lil' ragga thing and Shy was invited to kick a verse dealing with life as a shorty in the ghetto. It was both an album track and a single, and while it's not weak it's kind of forgettable. Released in 1994.
09. "´Shaolin Style" [L.E.S. Remix] (Ft. Pop The Brown Hornet, Squiq, Nefskilove & Illgod)
We now enter Part 2 of this compilation as we leave the early years of Shyheim The Rugged Child behind and enter his second phase, "The Lost Generation" era. "Shaolin Style", the Queensbridge producer L.E.S.' contribution to the album, gets the remix treatment by its original producers and not only is the beat different but it is transformed into a posse cut featuring the alnighty Brown Hornet and a bunch of no names. This would actually have been a good fit for the album as a bonus track or whatever; instead it was released on the "Shaolin Stye" 12" / CDS in 1996.
10. "All Out On My Own" (Ft. Squigg)
Thanks to Lost Tapes reader John's observation in the comments section that I had forgot to add one of the more rare B-sides to the compilation made me revise the "album". The track "All Out On My Own" was included on only one or two out of the several releases of the "Shit Iz Real" single, and is a track as strong as most of what made "The Lost Generation". Just like on the L.E.S. remix up top, it's interesting that the guest of honor is Squigg - not a known name but one of few people from Mr. Franklin's clique that actually followed him through his Bottom Down ventures. No production credit given but probably an RNS production, and released in 1996.
11. "Worldwide" (w. Raphael & Loucha)
This '96 jam sees Shyheim crossing borders, collaborating with two French emcees named Raphael and Loucha. The former is part of the huge crew La Cliqua and the song was produced by Yvan Jaqueent in time for its 12" release in 1996. I also believe this appeared on a French / US compilation around the same time. Slamming cut!
12."Soul in the Hole" (w. Timbo King, Dreddy Kruger, Killa Sin & Tekitha)
This is a true anthem that any Wu fanatic are wel aware of and has been a Killa Bee favorite since it dropped on the soundtrack of the sae name in 1997. Billed as the Wu AllStars, these guys could have formed a succesful group at the time - Killa Sin, Shyheim, Timbo King, Tekitha. This one goes right into the soul!
13. "Co-Defendants" (Ft. Hell Razah)
Recorded in late '97 but released first in March '98, this was the first time hearing Shy and Hell Razah on wax together, two cats with quite different styles to say the least, but with RZA's pumping instrumental and extended vocal samples you hardly can go wrong. There's even a very rare video for this that I just found out about a couple of weeks ago. This was released as one of the A-side 12" singles from the Killa Beez "The Swarm" LP too!
14. "One's 4 Da Money" [Mad Dollaz Remix]I'm closing this out with another RNS remix of "One's 4 Da Money", probably Shy's biggest song ever. Once again only available on one or two of the many versions of the single, this one from 1994. Very different from the RNS original remix, a little more of a West Coast flavor.
15."Pass It Off" [D-Side Remix] (Ft. GP Wu)
This is basicalltý the same as the Underground Remix, as far as lyrics goes, except it doesn't have Big Daddy Kane on it. RNS kills it with a classic early '90s production here! Was released on the "Pass It Off" 12" in 1994.
16. "One 4 Da Money" [RNS Original Remix]
This was rare remix only appeared on a promo 12" of the "One & One" single and it's fucking slamming with a totally different sound. It drives me crazy that I cant figure out who else messed with this sample, but the piano melody is beautiful and really does the sound justice. Released in 1994.... So there you have it, Shyheim used to be the MAN so TURN THIS THE FUCK UP!