Where The Hell Have You Been: Shyheim

posted January 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 29 comments

In 1994, the then 14-year old emcee Shyheim the Manchild had a major record deal, several television placements and had already touched mics with the best of the best, including 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G. and Big Daddy Kane. The young man was a product of the pre-Rudy era of New York, cursing, swearing, and growling into the mic, arguably before his voice dropped. Shyheim was a prodigy far different than what rap witnessed in Lil Bow Wow or even B.G. From a lost era, with a lost story, Shyheim was deemed fitting for a HipHopDX "Where the Hell Have You Been?" feature.

There was a bit of excitement rushing through our veins, yet we were sure that this was also an opportunity he was flattered with, due to the idea of him venting and displaying his side of Shaolin, behind the 36 chambers.

After being incarcerated and dismembering himself from the Wu, Shyheim came clean to HipHopDX, to talk about his battles with success, his days as the youngest member of the [extended] Wu-Tang family, and the formulation of his Bottom Up imprint. With a now-public beef with Raekwon and a diss record attached [click here], the 29-year old, rugged emcee from Staten Island opens up about his relationship with the Wu family (or lack thereof). Although this interview took place prior to the Raekwon diss, the seeds were already planted as DX gets to the root of the problems between Shyheim and Wu Tang. The Manchild is all grown up, and he reveals his wisdom with candor.

HipHopDX: Its been a long time since youve been in mainstream media. Whats been going on since your humble beginnings as an emcee/actor?
: I had an album out and it was called, Man Child I was on Wu-Tang Recordsthat was umm, I wanna say 99 and that was around the same time I was on The Parent Hood- the television show and I was in In Too Deep, the movie that had just dropped. I didnt know how to separate entertainment and being a recording artist from real life. With that said, I was livin a double life. I come from an era where you couldnt say it if you didnt do it. You know what Im sayin? So, all the shit I was talking about I was actually doing.

I caught a few cases, and I was on the run for a few years, which really strained my relationship with Wu-Tang because it was likeas a business, we need to put this album out but the law is looking for you. I was looking at them like, "Yo, we from the same hood." What you mean, Go turn ya self in? To the police? They wanted me to turn myself in. I wasnt feeling that. I decided to go on the run. I was on the run until I got caught and so I went to prison for three to three-and-a half years. It was on The Source cover, Hip Hop Behind Bars. I came home a couple years ago and started up an independent record label called, Bottom Up Records. I released an album called The Greatest Story Never Told.

Its new for me because I never had my career in my hands. I was a kid and I had people making decisions for me. With my time away, I read a lot up on the industry. At the time, I had a lot of personal experiences in the industry, but I really didnt have the book knowledge and so I educated myself. I came home and now Im in tune with all the hottest shit out here in Staten Island. It's not just Wu-Tang. Its a big world and its a big place out here. We on the come up, right now.

DX: Being that youre still under 30, you have an interesting story to tell. If people really wanted to, they could place your story into a book or make it into a film and it would possibly be a fascinating display. If you could name that film or book that reflected your experiences, what would you call it and why?
A Scarred Star. The reason I would call it a Scarred Star is because I was scarred and had 300 stitches from the middle of my eyebrows to my cheek. It happened at a nightclub in Staten Island, when gang bangin hit hard in New York. Like I said, I was caught in the middle of that shit because I was a celebrity, but I was still with my friends and we were street niggas. I was caught up, real bad and I really didnt have the guidance or the direction from someone to point me in the right direction.

I would call it a Scarred Star for several different reasons. Ive been scarred mentally, physically, emotionally and as an artist. Im one of those artists where my credentials and stats that I have, nobody in the game has those. Nobody has had two halftimes. Im at a halftime in my career, as well as in my life. The first half, I was a kid who had a lot of things accomplished, so I think me coming back aroundinterests a lot of people because I was on a hiatus and it gave me room to grow as a man. I believe people are down to hear whats on my mind. Check for me.

DX: Being that you are from Staten Island, New York youve been exposed to the harsh reality of the inner city. What are some of the beautiful depictions you could pull from growing up, in Staten Island?
I could say growing up in Staten Island we had unity. We were outcasts. We were part of the five boroughs, but it was Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan... We had our own love and our own, unique way of expressing that to each other. The beautiful thing about Staten Island was definitely the loyalty.

DX: Word. As of today, whats up with your relationship with Wu-Tang outside of Ghostface Killah?
As a businessman, will I ever do records with Wu-Tang? Who knows? Personally, its like this man- if I get bit once, Im not going back to get bit again. Those were my older brothers. Paint this picture. Youre looking up to older people, they have all the answers and theyre gonna help you- educate you and point you in the right direction. When you grow up and youre be able to look at a man in his eyes and know whats right and whats wrong- love, loyalty, respect, trust and honorand you can look at a man in his eyes and hes not one of those, then the respect goes. Once the respect is gone, everything is gone. I dont respect niggas.

DX: Wow. Whats your relationship like with Ghostface?
The reason why I can say that I dont respect niggas is because a lot of people ask me on interviews, Are you still Wu-Tang? Where I come from Wu-Tang was Wu-Tang before the group. Is Wu-Tang still Wu-Tang? Thats the question. Dudes are just... I dont fuckin know. I think money and egos change the fuckin people. To me, those arent the same people that I knew, so for the people that they are nowI dont respect them. From the time and era from when I knew them and it was love, loyalty, respect, trust and honor- those dudes [back then] are my fuckin heart. You know how it goes. Shit changes. What can you do?

DX: What about Ghost though? Thats your cousin for real. So-
The same shit with Ghost. I dont discriminate. It's like this: Aiight, this is the best way I can put it. Its like when you broke together it's one thing, but when people reach a certain level and they get a certain amount of money, they hang around a different crowd. The people that theyre hanging around might have more. So the people will take from the people to go live this fuckin fantasy, when in all reality, everybody is still here. You feel that? Everybody is like, Yo, you left us. The whole world might think, its Wu-Tang; its Staten Island, and this and that. You fuckin walk around here dudes like, Yo, Shyheim the truth. They can see and they can feel me. You cant touch them niggas, man. You gotta better shot than me. If I dont get called personally, Sha, come open, Im not going to a show. Can I reach them? Do I have numbers? Sure. But Im not calling you, muthafucka. Im in the struggle; Im in the grindnigga reach out. You not here.

Every other crew passed the ball. You got Jay-Z shouting out to Memphis Bleek, Here, take the ball! You got Cash Money sayin Here, take the ball. Here I am, the youngest member of Wu-Tang, a dude who paved the way for those young artists [to be the Memphis Bleeks and Lil Waynes] and here I am runnin up and down the court, open for the lay up like, Throw the fuckin ball. Throw it to me Im gonna score! Theyd rather go to the west coast and put the fuckin west coast Killa Bees on and stupid bitches who cant sing [Blue Raspberry] and some Spanish nigga on the strength.

But nowadays, during the age of the computer you cant be stopped now. Now theres a problem. The truth must be told. The truth is, Im Staten Island and thats that.

DX: You really feel like nobody ever really threw you the ball?
They never threw me the ball.

DX: Aiight.
Fareal. The whole world might look at it like, Wu-Tang put Shyheim on, but no, that never happened. Shyheim put Shyheim on. I got my first deal on Virgin Records with RNS on my own. I had my deal. My shit aint get fucked up until I started to think about runnin with my brothers and the dudes from my hood and stop fuckin with these crackers and start fuckin with my dudes. They had distribution, so Im like Im gonna let them put my third album out and get money for real. Niggas dont handle shit right. So nah, they never passed me the ball. Have you ever heard Shyheim on a Wu-Tang album? No. Have you ever went to a Wu-Tang show and saw Shyheim do a track, open up or do a Meth tour, a Wu tour? No. Why is this? Because I have something to say that they dont want the people to fuckin know about.

Have you ever been around somebody who dont wanna hang around you because they know that they cant be the person that they made up in their head, because youre around and you know [who they really are]?

DX: Word. [Laughs] Yeah.
Nahy'all dont want me around because I know the truth. None of y'all niggas bust guns, none of y'all niggas been to jail. No, noyoure not tough! What made y'all tough is (that) we went 300 niggas deep and the hood held y'all down and y'all all kicked doors down, and fought together. What happened when niggas got rich? They left everybody. But, heres the flipside, and I tell niggas in my hood everyday. Niggas dont owe anybody anything. Niggas are their own, man. Get out there and get your own. Im not cryingI do have career and Im in a position that niggas will kill for. Everything that Im saying is the truth because you can bare witness. You can see it yourself without me being involved. Do you think I want to be involved? Nah. Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang..how? If I see them, Id say whats up but thats it. Im not gonna front for no cameras like we peoples, 'cause we arent.

DX: Outside of rap, you had a lot of visibility in television, when did you think the tables turned and things started to go in the opposite direction for career?
I didnt have that guidance. My moms is a fuckin drug addict and my pops is in prison. My brothas was these niggas, you feel me? This was my guidance. Instead of fuckin schoolin me, like the gods, and giving me the true knowledge of myself, wisdom and understanding and setting me up right, niggas let me get fucked up in the politics and bullshit of the streets. At the height of my career, I was still being caught up in lil' bullshit and went to prison. But, you know what? The fucked up part about it was, is that I was a kid and I didnt know no better.

DX: I always thought that what Memphis Bleek wanted the most, beyond anything was respect. Whether or not Jay is going to back him financially or not, as an emcee, I would think he wanted the respect. With that, youve performed with Big Daddy Kane, 2Pac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., do you ever feel like, your opportunity has passed to be a superstar emcee?
Nah. You know why? Because Im not that. I was never in it for that. This shit was therapy for me. My moms was a dope head; my pops was a dope head, and as a kid, I was fucked up mentally. When Hip Hop came along, it was a way for me to say that my aunt died from AIDS, and I watched her deteriorate. For me, it was a way for me to express that and say it. Its true to me. I wouldnt give a fuck- niggas will tell you, Shy think he regular like everybody else and thats his problem. I was never in it for that. I dont make shit up. This is my life. Everything I say, I can prove. Everything is documented. I dont give a fuck about people's response. Ive met the best and Ive touched mics with the best. To some people, I am the best. Im good, as far as that. My joy comes from seeing lil niggas do their shit. My ultimate goal is to be big CEO, and gives dudes the opportunity to taste it, that havent tasted it. Ive tasted it though. Some dudes will never be able to taste.

DX: Lets talk about Bottom Up Records and your vision for the company.
I dont believe in cheating people because Ive been cheated. Each artist with Bottom Up is still independent or of their own. Of course, Im going to make money with them, but overall, they're independent. Its not just a record label but also a school of education. I want to educate each artist that comes through me about his or her own LLC, incorporation, etc. Its not them personally doing business with Shyheim but corporation to corporation doing business. Thats the first step. Niggas will never be able to say that I did them dirty. I want to make my people stronger as a people.

DX: Lets talk about the new album.
Im very competitive. The album is incredible but Jay's album came out, Kanye's album came out, 50's [album] came out. I thought Kanyes album was very, very, very good. I thought to myself, "You know what? This is my competition. Them lil' niggas are not my competition." I dont care who you name. Those are lil niggas to me. The big dogs are my competition. I had to go backand dudes are gonna have a problem this year. Whoever got a problem, fuck em. If I aint getting money with you then we have problems. The funny part about it is, is that; Im really [laughing] tough.

DX: [Laughs] What can we look forward to on the album, as far as concepts and production?
Concepts- well Im concepts crazy. I touch abortion topics, big brother, little brother topics, coming up, prison topics, all that. Ive never done the bouncy in the club, dancy dancy records. My shit is reality Hip Hop. If you like reality Hip Hop, about pain, solutions to problems, revolutionary shit, then you can check me for that. Thats what Im all about- power of the people.

'Pac is gone. Whos gonna say something? Everybodys glorifying money, glorifying carsYo, I was happier when I didnt have shit. Now I got some and I have to be skeptical when my phone rings. I cant hang out because certain people want to hang with me cause they think it's cool.

DX: Word. Lots of people glorify the hustle and the good side of committing crimes. Let's talk about the dark side. Lets talk about being behind bars.
S: Oh man, Ive seen good shit in life, and when the reality came that I had money, I thought that I could spend it on a lawyer, Ill beat it the case, Ill bail out, etc They didnt care, they were like, You little black nigga youre going to jail. We dont want your money. To be placed behind bars and be a rapper or a celebrity or whatever and youre nothing but a number- 0283873. Thats the reality. I didnt have the pleasure of being in protective custody. A lot of celebrities or rappers that go to prison, they really dont see prison. Dont get it fucked up theyre not in general population. The prison that I was in was a different prison that they were in. It was fucked up. It was weird because, all the niggas in the streets knew me from gang life, so I got in a lot of fights, drama and a lot of crazy shit. I grew up in that shit. I [realized] that it was time for a change.
White C.O.s had choked me, Ive seen them with nooses, and black babies tattooed on their arms, being hung. Ive been called, nigger and I was out there like I didnt give a fuck. I figured that I never wanted to go back. I never will sell drugs again and the time spent serving and being in jail not making anything isnt worth it. Id rather get a job. I could have made more money working at McDonald's, than hustling on the block. Aint no more big drug dealers- that shit is over. Its about education. Youre gonna work, regardless. Isnt no sitting on your ass in prison. Youre gonna mop floors or do something. You either gone do it there or you can do it and be free. When youre free you can open your refrigerator, you can have sex, or do whatever you want to do on your own or do it under the jurisdiction of a white man. Youre gonna do it.
When you get out of jail with a felony, what are you gonna do then? People dont want people with guns and drugs, running their establishment. Who wants that? When you educate yourself, about business, you start to think that way too. Do you want a muthafucka working with you whose been convicted of armed robbery? We need to educate the people. These little niggas are dumber than we were. Theyre dumb as a doorknob. The realness to them, are the rappers from the late '90s. At least we had respect. I think my generation was the last generation. They didnt have a KRS-One that told them about self-destruction. After 2Pac, there was nobody. They dont got nobody tellin them nothing except to sell drugs and those guys havent sold drugs in 50 years.
When was the last time you packed a gun or sold a drug to glorify this shit? I dont believe these dudes walking around with $500,000 bracelets and niggas are poor in the community. Niggas going to jail, 'cause theyre selling crack for survival man, cmon. All the rich niggas, should just put up something. Niggas put up money when the Twin Towers dropped, lets invest in some black teachers, re-constructing our community and we dying everyday. Its genocide here. Let's build some schools. We were stripped of our shit we were stripped.
Spanish people, Africans and everybody got some shit to go back to- to their countries. We here, with nothing- our history, language fuckin nothing. But the government allows them to talk that shit. They dont wanna hear the shit I gotta say. Thats why I dont get no radio play now they dont know whats gonna come out my mouth. Ima tell it like it is. These niggas are lying and they lied to me. I believed that shit. My daughter aint gonna go through that shit, B. When I came home from prison, I had a daughter. Im playin' the game, for 18 years from now.
DX: What did you appreciate so much about Kanye's album? Im curious.
S: Hes himself. Thats what I respect. Bottom Up. My slogan is Be you, cause you cant be me. When I listen to Kanye, he touches on his emotions. You can never be wrong for that. I felt him. It made me feel him and I dont feel a lot of rappers these days. Even though Im not his type of dude. Kanye dont talk about being tough, and he hasnt been through, what Ive been through, but I can relate to him. He seems cool. I can tell hes not tryna be Common. I listen to a lot of niggas, like, yeah he tryna be like this nigga.
DX: Word, [laughing] I hear you. What was your most memorable experience in Hip Hop?
S: I got a lot of memories but I think my most memorable one is my man Big L. L was just a real dude. Everytime I was in his presence, it was Hip Hop. He was Hip Hop. He wasnt a rapper, he was a brotha and somebody you can kick it with on some everyday life shit. He was a real nigga.

For more information check out Shyheim on Myspace at: http://www.myspace.com/shyheimthemanchild

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