Moses Michael Levi Barrow, the one-time hip hop star on the rise known as Shyne, who transitioned after a lengthy prison sentence to become a member of the Belizean parliament, has revealed the heavy influence of Jamaican music, particularly that of Bob Marley, on his life.
“Bob Marley inspired me to want to impact the world and I was a leader in my community. I was the guy on the block saying ‘Listen, don’t kill him. Why are you treating him different than you treat me?,” he said, noting that Marley’s music used to calm him down, pushing him to move away from a violent lifestyle and instead help quell disputes in the community.
Barrow, who was appearing on the Drink Champs podcast with host N.O.R.E., was in Florida recently in his capacity as opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, diaspora affairs, culture, youth and sports, to attend the Florida International Trade and Cultural Expo.
He used the opportunity to fulfill a promise to N.O.R.E., a legendary rapper in his own right, to appear on his popular podcast which has hosted the likes of Kanye West and Alicia Keys in recent weeks.
In outlining his start in music, Shyne referenced Jamaican artistes Barrington Levy, with whom he would later collaborate, Buju Banton and Shabba Ranks as early influences.
He said his name in the underground scene used to be ‘Shabba’, in honour of his idol with whom he shared a heavy baritone voice. He said he used to ‘chat’ much like the dancehall DJs who were popular in the Flatbush community in New York that was filled with Caribbean natives.
Shyne also spoke of listening to Terror Fabulous, the DJ best know for Action, a collaboration with Nadine Sutherland, as well as Jamaica-born rapper Heavy D, whose music was heavily influenced by dancehall.
Shyne said that, as he continued to grow in the music, he would become influenced by artistes like rappers Nas and Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, who he recognised as being critical thinkers, much like Bob Marley.
Shyne would later go on to be heralded as the next big act in New York hip hop, signing with Bad Boy Records and expected to step into the space left after the 1997 death of the Notorious B.I.G.
But that would all fall apart one fateful night when on December 27, 1999, Shyne, along with Bad Boy owner Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Combs’ then girlfriend, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, were involved in a high-profile incident at a Manhattan club where three people were injured.
Shyne was charged with attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment and, in June 2001, the then 22-year-old rapper was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He would be released in 2009 and deported to the land of his birth, Belize, where his father, Dean Barrow, was prime minister.
Years later, he would join representational politics, winning a seat in Parliament at the November 2020 election.