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Hip-Hop News: Clinton Correctional Blues
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
9/5/2004 4:55:39 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Shyne.

The pain of imprisonment is two-fold — there's what you endure on the inside, and there's what you leave behind. It's little surprise, then, that the video for the first post-incarceration single from the rapper Shyne is an inmate's fantasy: a panoptic view of the woman he left behind.

"Jimmy Choo" — named for the pricey shoes with precarious heels, even though the first shoe depicted in the clip is clearly marked "Dior" — is a cobbled-together love duet with the R & B siren Ashanti, who specializes in cutting thug bluster with streaks of sultry breathiness. It's by far the breeziest song on Shyne's "Godfather Buried Alive" album, his second, which was released last month as he continues to serve a 10-year sentence in connection with the infamous 1999 P. Diddy-related club shooting.

Shyne's imprisonment has transformed him from a onetime Bad Boy B-lister into a sort of folk hero. From a marketing perspective, it's a boon. Logistically, though, it's a challenge. (Shyne's vocals were recorded preprison; Ashanti's were added later.) So when it came to filming the video, his associates in "the town" — as he refers to the outside world in interviews — had precious little to work with.

There's something of a tradition in hip-hop of working around artists who are, for one reason or another, unavailable. Slick Rick released videos while behind bars, and the deaths of Tupac and Biggie Smalls have inspired a range of visual compensations.

The director, Benny Boom, was able to shoot limited footage at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., but as this is ostensibly a love song, or at least a tease, the interplay between the thug and his moll is just as important as the testimony — Shyne speaks! — of the film itself. So here's the conceit: thanks to technology, he looms possessively over her from afar, via a cache of video monitors strewn about her home — even one floating in the pool. While she preens and shimmies, he regales her with fantasias of the good life: "Up in Harry Winston, Ma/ Try some rings/ I have you feeling like you was Princess Di."

These shots are interspersed with Shyne's rapping scenes, shot in a Clinton visiting room, which have all the sexual energy of a "Nightline" segment. Everything is a chilly white — the wall in the background, Shyne's long-sleeved polo shirt, the unsubtle lighting. He's framed tightly and squarely, and he barely moves except for the occasional hand gesture, as if he's giving an interview. Indeed, that was likely the pretense under which these scenes were shot. While Shyne is prohibited from conducting business while incarcerated — and can be sued by his victims under New York's "Son of Sam" law if he is found to be profiting from his crime — he is permitted meetings with various media. According to a representative for the New York State Department of Correctional Services, on July 29, Def Jam Records sent a video crew (including Benny Boom) to Clinton for a visit with Shyne that lasted approximately two to three hours.

But it's the deadened expression on his face that's the deal breaker. There's no sly wink, no subtle bravado. And so Boom and Ashanti are forced to overcompensate in this rendering of love without intimacy. There the singer is, cavorting alone on a fur-lined bedspread, then tanning poolside in a scandalous bikini and heels (maybe those are the real deal) and, finally, writhing on the living room floor. Her extreme, absurd slinkiness has to speak the whole volume of their connection.

But she's not wholly alone. All the while, she's surrounded by the virtual Shynes, screens alternating between the jailhouse raps and clips from earlier music videos (from his self-titled 2000 debut). "Can't nobody/ Do them things we do/ And can't nobody/ Touch me like you do," Ashanti coos. Which is to say, no one touches her at all. Just how someone locked

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