To walk with Shyheim is to walk through history. The hip hop prodigy, still known to many of his fans as The Rugged Child (a nickname he gained from his first album at age 14), is experiencing a collusion of past and future as he explores his own legacy. A longtime affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan, a frequent collaborator of his cousin Ghostface Killah and Method Man, Shyheim is hailed as an influence on modern giants such as Jay-Z. And on a breezy night in New York, fans still stop the artist as he waits for the Staten Island Ferry, quoting his lyrics that have resonated with them for years. We follow him from the Ferry to Fraunces Tavern, the oldest bar in Manhattan. Through that journey he tells us about his next great adventure – a special NFT commemorating his 30th anniversary in music.

Shyheim's 30th Anniversary Party Hosted By KLIK At THC NYC: Music, Art, Cannabis And NFTs

Shyheim has joined with KLIK, a groundbreaking new app, to create a once-in-a-lifetime song that encompasses his decades of work. On Thursday, April 4th, KLIK will host an unforgettable after-party to NFT.NYC – the nation’s leading NFT expo – which will dovetail cannabis and artistry. Headlined by Shyheim, the event will take place at Soho’s The House of Cannabis (THC NYC) museum, a five-storey immersive bonanza featuring interactive exhibits, visual art by artists such as Peter Paid and Danny Cortes, and a different DJ spinning on each floor, including the legendary Large Professor. Only VIP ticketholders will have access to the Peter Paid-designed NFT that caps off The Rugged Child’s milestone, however… and those who don’t download it in time will see their chance to listen to the track disappear forever. (Click here for tickets to the party, and read on for instructions on a special giveaway with renowned glassware brand Jerome Baker!)

Shyheim's NFT with KLIK, with art by Peter Paid(C) Prince Dumas / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @princeamud

Why Is Shyheim's 30th Anniversary NFT With KLIK Special?

“There’s a piece of art, something that didn’t exist in the universe, that now does,” Shyheim says. “This song has to represent 30 years; it’s very important. The track is titled "Technology Is King," produced by Donald Wilson, Jr. (DonWilMadeIt LLC)… We’re going to do this one drop. It represents two things: The ending of the 30-year chapter, and the start of a new chapter.”

David Zelinger, Partner at KLIK, actually sees the project as a reflection not just of Shyheim’s evolution, but of the hip hop genre as a whole. “It’s like a next generation of the mixtape in some ways,” he notes. “Going from mixtapes to being the first artist to release an NFT linked track on this platform, it’s a fascinating narrative.”

“That’s what the app represents, right?” Shyheim responds. “I didn’t even understand until we started building off it and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute.’ I had an album, I had a mixtape, I had a CD, I do [downloadable content], I do streaming. What it taught me is that technology is king. That’s it. So you have to be on point with technology, so you can leverage your creativity. If you don’t know where technology is going, you don’t go [anywhere]. Simple as that.”

It's this perfect harmony indeed that brings the creator together with KLIK. The app is a first-of-its-kind platform that builds community by allowing users to memorialize and share special moments using Tap4Token technology (Near Field Communication). Zelinger demonstrates that with special stickers, people can upload their own media files to the app and develop them into personal NFTs. From images to audio and beyond, the possibilities are endless.

Shyheim and David Zelinger of KLIK(C) Prince Dumas / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @princeamud

Shyheim's Journey To The Past

Preparing for his electrifying anniversary has also allowed Shyheim to focus on lessons he’s learned from the past. During the short voyage from Staten Island to Manhattan, he makes his way to the stern of the Ferry just like he did as a teenager. After taking a few pictures, the performer contemplates the New York City skyline, the duality between his home borough and the dreaminess of the Big Apple mirroring his own.

“I’m two separate things: Shyheim The Rugged Child and Shyheim Franklin,” he comments later over dinner at the Fraunces Tavern. “I wasn’t the only rugged child in the world. [But] I was fortunate enough to have older dudes around that didn’t treat me as a kid. So they allowed me in, and sometimes I heard conversations, seen things that I shouldn’t have seen at that age, but it also prepared me. It gave me wisdom beyond my years. I can’t take the credit, but the people were nurturing me and giving me that wisdom that I needed… so that I can give it to my generation. It’s like I was of the era, but I was also a fan of the era. I was blessed to have my idols as my peers.”

In the late 1990s, the adolescent artist not only performed with the Wu-Tang Clan, but also with icons like The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Big Daddy Kane, and The Fugees. At the same time, he kicked off an acting career by appearing in the 1995 music video for TLC’s hit single “Waterfalls,” in acclaimed films including Original Gangstas and The Preacher’s Wife, and having a significant character arc on popular sitcom The Parent Hood.

Shyheim at the Whitehall terminal entrance to the Staten Island Ferry(C) Prince Dumas / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @princeamud

The Rugged Road To Recovery: Shyheim On Prison, Mental Health, And Giving Back

But growing up too soon allowed personal problems to derail Shyheim’s success. In 2002 he was sentenced to a year in prison for attempted robbery, being released in November 2003. Though he spent the next decade founding his label Bottom Up Records and producing new albums, he couldn’t capture the same momentum as before. Then, in 2014, Shyheim turned himself in to police for leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident that left a person dead. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but was ultimately released in January 2020.

“I used the penitentiary as a university,” the rapper states, noting that being locked up made him refocus his life. The Rugged Road to Recovery, a wellness movement he founded in recent years, aims to help people struggling with addiction and mental health issues, as well as raise awareness of trauma affecting incarcerated citizens. In his YouTube series The Rugged Reality and across various social media platforms, Shyheim discusses his own experiences with addiction and interviews those living with similar conditions.

“I don’t look at it as giving back, because these are things that I see in myself,” he explains. “I’m not there to convince anybody to do the right thing. Listen, I came into this business very young, got money, drugs, alcohol, lost everything, got my life back together. It’s a recipe… You follow the right measurements with the proper ingredients to do anything you want to do. Do it right the first time. Don’t let your ego get in the way… Educate yourself. What I’m saying is, if you come in a room giving, you’ll leave with more. If we come together, we can accomplish a goal.”

Shyheim and musician/actor Sean Breed in the St. George Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry(C) Prince Dumas / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @princeamud

What Does Shyheim Think About Cannabis And Creativity?

It's a particularly poignant time to be discussing these things, with New York’s legal cannabis industry focusing on social equity and striving to repair the harms done by the criminalization in the War on Drugs. As Shyheim observes the latest developments in the cannabis culture, he reminisces about his relationship with the plant.

“I was a late smoker,” he recalls. “I enjoyed weed, but it made me tired. So as I started to understand there were different [kinds of] weed, I started to smoke sativas at night.”

Whether the sativa influences his creative process, the innovator won’t say. But he does assert that to him, process is everything: “I tell people, enjoy every day. I think we lose that by not looking at [the details]… You miss all the process and when you get to the success, you can’t enjoy it because the best part was the process. If you break it down to the smallest compound, you’ll see how much you didn’t realize it because you kept it moving. Stay present and keep it moving. The reality is, the past ain’t coming back, the future ain’t here yet. What you got is today.”

Shyheim and team are interviewed by Honeysuckle Editor-At-Large Jaime Lubin. Clockwise left to right: Kate Storch, Jaime Lubin, Shyheim, Sean Breed, and David Zelinger.(C) Prince Dumas / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @princeamud

Shyheim On Memorable Moments

That certainly sheds light on why he would find NFTs, which are both ephemeral and eternal, intriguing. When we ask Shyheim about his most memorable moments from the last 30 years, he says it would be an injustice to pick any memory above another. But what he does treasure is the memory of being embraced by a community when he was “just a little guy that showed up… and I had people saying, ‘Open the door! Give him a chance!’” For him, that’s what needs to reemerge in hip hop and our overall society – the willingness to give someone a fair shot at success.

“At the end of the day, we’re spiritual beings that share a human experience,” he concludes.

(C) Prince Dumas / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @princeamud

A Special Giveaway: Win VIP Tickets And A Jerome Baker Bong For Shyheim's 30th Anniversary Party

Attendees at Shyheim and KLIK’s anniversary party at THC NYC on April 4th will have their own shot to get a truly unique gift from the experience. Honeysuckle is proud to be a media partner for this event, with a little collaborative effort with our friends at KLIK and Jerome Baker, a lucky few will win a special giveaway.

The Prizes:

5 winners will win 2 VIP passes to Shyheim’s 30th Anniversary Party.

One winner will win a unique Jerome Baker bong.

How To Enter

Follow @honeysucklemagazine @jerome_baker and @klikpass on Instagram.

Download KLIK: Your gateway to owning and controlling your digital content.

Search “Honeysuckle” on KLIK: Stay connected with the pulse of modern culture.

Request Honeysuckle’s KLIK Pass: Your entry into the draw.

Don’t miss an unforgettable night of music, art, and cannabis culture! Shyheim’s 30th Anniversary Party (an official NFT.NYC after-party) takes place on Thursday, April 4, 2024, 4-8PM at THC NYC, 427 Broadway, in New York City. Click here to get your tickets via Eventbrite.

For more about KLIK, visit the app’s LinkTree.


Written By:

Jaime Lubin is Honeysuckle's Editor-At-Large. Her writing has appeared in HuffPost, Observer, Billboard and more. Also an actress and singer, she can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

@jaimelubin (IG)

@jaimelubin (Twitter)


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Featured image: Shyheim on the Staten Island Ferry (C) Prince Dumas / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @princeamud