Shyheim Franklin, better known to the world as Shyheim the Rugged Child, was a kid rapper out of Staten Island, New York that came on the scene in the mid-nineties. Coming up under the tutelage of Big Daddy Kane and his fellow Staten Island bredrin, RZA, Shyheim was able to score a deal with Virgin Records, where he released his debut album, AKA The Rugged Child in 1994 at the tender age of sixteen. While the album wasn’t a huge commercial success, it did receive positive reviews and receptions from the streets, which would lead to Shyheim releasing his sophomore effort and the subject of today’s post, The Lost Generation.
Like Rugged Child, Shyheim would lean heavily on RNS (not to be confused with the Rebel INS) to handle most of TLG’s production with some of the work being distributed to the likes of D/R Period, L.E.S., and the Abbott himself, RZA. TLG would produce two singles and peak at 63 on the Billboard Top 200 and 10 on the Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Charts, ultimately resulting in a yet another commercial failure for the Staten Island rapper. Shyheim would go on to release three more albums between 1999 and 2009 but would also find himself getting into criminal trouble, resulting in him serving a couple of bids, including a 2014 second degree manslaughter conviction for a hit-and-run that left one person dead. He would serve six of the fourteen-year sentence, before being released in January of 2020.
I know I sound like a broken record by this point, but The Lost Generation is yet another album that I didn’t listen to back in the day. A few years back, I copped it at a used bookstore for two dollars and will be experiencing it for the first time now with you all. So, with no further delay, lets jump into.
Shit Iz Real – TLG begins with arguably the most cliche and overused song title in the history of hip-hop, accompanied by a heavily r&b flavored groove, built around a Surface (as in the group) sample. Shyheim’s voice has definitely matured since his AKA The Rugged Child days, as he uses his newfound tenor vocal tone to terrorize the hood with outlandish tales of peeling caps through peekholes and shooting up cars, making them flip into fiery explosions (It was pretty funny to hear Shy say he “spotted a gangsta bitch, told her to hold it”, in reference to getting rid of the weapon he used to blow up the car with). It was also mildly funny to hear Shy’s guest, DeLouie Avant Jr., croon “It be real when I’m packin’ steel” on the hook. I’m pretty sure the exploits that Shy brags about on this song are far from real, but they’re still somewhat entertaining, as was RNS’ smooth production.
Dear God – This was obviously recorded much earlier than the previous song, with Shyheim’s pre-puberty voice being the dead giveaway. RNS hooks up an emotional backdrop imbedded with a dope whistle that finds the young whippersnapper overwhelmed by the stresses of this world and ready to check out: “I’m in another world looking from the outside in, a corrupt planet, operating strictly off sin, you ask me will I miss this joint when I pass, the world can kiss my ass, I’m staring at the hour glass, everyday lived is a step towards death, it’s not until you’re dead that your body’s at rest.” Pop Da Brown Hornet drops by during the third verse to engage in a back and forth with Shy to talk him off the proverbial ledge, and thankfully, his attempt is successful. With mental health being such a sexy topic nowadays, this song couldn’t be more relevant and the execution of it all was solid. Well done, Shyheim.
Jiggy Comin’ – RNS creates a sorrowful synth instrumental (it literally has a lamenting female voice embedded in the track) that baby voice Shyheim uses to give a big middle finger to all the cops policing the hood. It’s not the best “fuck the police” record that I’ve heard, but it’s decent enough.
5 Elements – RNS does his best Rza impersonation with this instrumental, as he crafts a dark, dusty and rugged canvas tailor made for Shaolin’s finest to shine on. Unfortunately, none of the Wu-Tang members show up for the party, but Shy is joined by some fellow Wu-affiliates. Rubbabandz, Pop “The Brown Hornet”, Down Low Reka and Junelover, all stop by to bless the mic on this cipher session, and all parties involved spit formidable verses to match the hard backdrop, with The Brown Hornet shining the brightest. This was dope.
Shaolin Style – Speaking of Shaolin. L.E.S. gets his only production credit of the night, as he loops up a portion of Patrice Rushen’s classic record, “Settle For My Love” to create this breezy soulful bop that Shy (who transforms back into grown Shyheim) and his homie, Squig, use to rep for their borough, Staten Island aka Shaolin. Shy and Squig (whose voice and delivery sounds very similar to Shyheim’s) turn in serviceable performances, but the creamy instrumental and the clever and catchy Method Man vocal snippet on the hook are the engines that make this thing go.
Real Bad Boys – After a quick interlude that features a pimp beat and some uncredited male voice spewing random thoughts that sound like a freestyle spoken word piece, a semi-triumphant sounding instrumental comes in, and baby voice Shyheim returns to talk more of his thug shit. This was mid-grade at best.
What Makes The World Go Round – The missing question mark in the song title is on Shyheim, not me. Trigger Tha Gambler, Smoothe Da Hustler and Rubbabandz all join grown man Shy on this cipher session, while DV Alias Khrist brings it all together, flexing his grizzly baritone vocal on the hook. Other than DV’s singing on the hook, this song has absolutely nothing to do with what the song title suggests, but all four emcees entertain with quality output over D/R Period’s solid instrumental.
Can You Feel It – RNS loops up Gwen McCrae’s “Funky Sensation” for the backdrop and Shyheim sounds a little more playful on the mic than he has for most of the album up to this point, but still manages to keep things slightly gangsta. He also tries to force us to believe that his line “I’m a max like Nissan” was dope, and then insults the listener’s intelligence by spending the next bar explaining the corny play on words (I hate when rappers do that shit). King Just and Junelover also make cameos, but you won’t recognize their voices, as they’re distorted on some Sir Nose type shit and only appear shortly in between Shy’s verses. This record sounds like an attempt to make Shyheim and TLG more pop accessible, which obviously didn’t work out for him.
Life As A Shorty – Shyheim discusses his rough and tragic upbringing over a synthesized melancholic Tone Capone produced instrumental that results in more mid-grade music.
Don’t Front/Let’s Chill – This song finds our host in an interesting dilemma. A young lady is feeling Shyheim and wants to get serious, and Shy is also feeling said young lady, but he’s not trying to make her his one and only, or as he so blatantly puts it: “You’re mad sweet, and plus you look good like a muthafucka, but Imma player and not just a one-woman lover.” Two young ladies, Lamisha Grinstead and Keemeelah Williams, are credited with singing the hook, and one of his two guests (I have no idea which one) actually sings a rebuttal to Shy’s first verse. The dimly lit backdrop has a hint of middle eastern vibes and sounds nice backing our host’s thug love story. I’m shocked this record wasn’t released as a single; it definitely has crossover qualities, but still allows Shyheim to stay true to his studio gangsta mannerisms.
Things Happen – This one starts with a female, who’s apparently visiting Shyheim on lockdown, asking him how he got there. Then RNS drops his beautifully dark soulful instrumental for Shy to give his explanation, and of course the reason is over some hood bullshit. I could care less about Shyheim’s ghetto Scarface drug tales, but RNS’s production work on this one is super dope.
See What I See – D/R Period gets his second and final production credit of the night and DV Alias Khrist returns (no pun intended) to sing another hook, continuing is quest to become the east coast version of Nate Dogg (rip). Unfortunately, everything about this song, including Shyheim’s bars, was forgettable.
Still There – After hearing Shyheim start the song off by saying “This one of them gettin’ your dick sucked type tracks”, I immediately thought this would be a misogynistic lust confused for love song. Instead, Shy uses the smooth “Roni” interpolated backdrop (shoutout to Bobby Brown) to borrow Nas’ “One Love” idea for the first verse, as he raps a written letter to his baby mama who’s apparently stopped visiting her incarcerated baby daddy. I have no idea what’s going on during the second verse, but DeLouie Avant Jr. drops by again, to sing the hook and adlibs. This makes for decent filler material.
Young Godz – Madman, Rubbabandz and Killa Sin join Shy for this album ending cipher session, while Raekwon drops by to adlib on the hook, along with RZA, who’s also responsible for the hook and the dusty backdrop. Once again, pre-puberty Shyheim’s voice makes it blatantly obvious that this was recorded during the earlier TLG sessions. RZA’s instrumental is passable, but this is definitely the weakest cipher record on the album and a lukewarm closure to TLG.
Shyheim doesn’t cover any new territory on The Lost Generation, as he regurgitates the same thug rhetoric that many rappers before him have already covered, but he and several of his guests manage to make the recycled topics sound moderately entertaining. Speaking of entertaining, the RNS led production, while far from stellar, is a pretty consistent mix of grimy boom bap made for the streets and polished popish instrumentals that were clearly crafted to make Shyheim sound commercially appealing, and I’m not mad at that strategy. My biggest gripe with TLG is the various versions of Shyheim that sporadically appear, as song to song finds him changing from baby voice Shyheim to mature voice Shyheim, as if they took lost records from the Rugged Child sessions and mixed them in with Shy’s current joints just to fill out an album. With that said, TLG plays more like a Shyheim compilation than an actual album, but there are still enough solid records on TLG to make it a worthwhile listen.