A few years ago, Shyne was set to take the place of the late, great Biggie Smalls at the top of the Bad Boy roster. His self-titled debut generated two popular singles and briefly added the phrase "that's gangsta" to the short list of rap clichés. Then an altercation led to a legal ménage à trois among him, Puffy, and Jennifer Lopez. The fallout, besides breaking up Puff and J.Lo, landed Shyne in jail. Somewhat fortunately, his incarceration also effectively severed his contract with Bad Boy, leading to a profitable contract with Def Jam. Godfather scrapes together previously released mix-tape joints as well as B-sides, compilation tracks, and some emergency recordings done at the last possible second.

By the time his first album dropped, Shyne had enough hype that the Biggie comparisons became convenient fodder for haters, who rarely subjected the record to a thorough analysis. Now, with the Bad Boy luster removed, Godfather reveals an MC who has little in common with Biggie, save the voice; Shyne has none of the swagger or charisma that made Christopher Wallace a star. Where Biggie rapped about his crispy suits, blowjobs on command, and affinity for imported cars, Shyne relies almost exclusively on his crack-dealing accomplishments for subject matter. No Bad Boy also means no help from Puffy's talented stable of producers, leading to a bland collage of played-out synth strings. Godfather's lead single, "More or Less," intelligently tackles the chicken-and-egg problem of crime culture and rap, and Shyne disses 50 Cent over the phone on "For the Record," but this album leaves much to be desired. -- Andrew Friedman

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