Shyne
Hip-Hop News: Shyne Sounds Off From Clinton State
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
8/13/2004 11:09:35 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Shyne.

Rapper Jamal (Shyne) Barrow is locked up in a maximum-security prison on a 10-year sentence. But he doesn't see why that has to dampen his career.

"It's like Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, they had their handicaps," the hip-hop star says over the phone from the Clinton State Correctional Facility in upstate New York. "It didn't stop them from making their mark."

Some would say Shyne will only make a bigger mark with his new album in stores now, given his, shall we say, colorful circumstances.

In an era when 50 Cent gains great street cred for having survived being shot nine times, Shyne's stretch in the slammer gives him a terrific marketing hook.

Even better for PR purposes, the case that landed him in stir was one of the most-covered trials of the last few years - stemming from an infamous 1999 incident involving Sean (Puffy) Combs, his then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, and a wild shootout at a Manhattan club.

It hasn't hurt Shyne's notoriety that the 25-year-old has recently given several angry interviews in which he blamed his hard sentence on Combs, who was acquitted on all charges.

While the rapper allows that all the "drama brings the intrigue and attention" to him, he insists that "if it was so simple, every tough guy would sell records. It's about the music."

Titled "Godfather Buried Alive," this is Shyne's second album overall, and his first since he struck a deal with Island Records said to be worth $3 million.

Shyne inked with Island, he says, because they offered him his own label, Gangland Records, and because "they have a history of joint ventures, with Murder Inc. and Rock-A-Fella Records. They gave me the autonomy I needed."

"Autonomy" may sound odd coming from a prisoner, but Shyne says he's able to do most of his business there unencumbered. While the overwhelming majority of his album was recorded at the end of his trial in 2001, one cut sounds distinctly like it was recorded over the phone.

Shyne will neither confirm nor deny that. "I don't want the powers that be to get too curious about my activities," he says.

The lyrics probably won't help Shyne's dealings with the law. They roil with righteous fury at the justice system. He says that's because they were recorded when "I was facing 25 years. (Creatively) I was free. There were no restrictions. I poured my soul out over those beats."

While Shyne could have gone down for attempted murder, he was found guilty of five charges including assault, reckless endangerment and weapons possession. The rapper isn't up for parole until early 2009. But he's armed with new lawyers (including Alan Dershowitz), and they're seeking a new trial, buttressed by fresh witnesses.

Shyne thinks the problem with his first trial was that he agreed to use the same legal team paid for by Combs.

"I was fighting against Combs' defense," he says. "People were injured, so somebody had to go to jail. At end of the day, it wasn't going to be (Combs) because he was paying the lawyers. I never had a chance."

Shyne blames Combs for "telling the jury I was just another artist on his label and that there was no danger that night."

This matters, says Shyne, because it undercut his justification for drawing his gun at the club: that he was righteously defending a friend who'd been threatened.

"When you're a friend you have a duty to that person," he says. "People said (to me), 'Why didn't you leave (the club)?' How could I leave when my friend, who I lived with at the time, was in danger?"

Combs declined to comment on Shyne's point of view, but he told Vibe magazine he felt his former protŽgŽ was scapegoating him for his unfavorable verdict.

In the meantime, the rapper says what he misses most about the outside world is his mother, and the freedom to record in the studio.

On another level, however, he sees prison as a

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