Bad Boy Shyne

The Gangsta Life and Times of Jamal Barrow

Pop! Pop! Pop!
When they're shot, who's to blame?
Shyne, muthafucka! Don't forget the name!
—Jamal "Shyne" Barrow

In his gangsta rap "Bad Boys," Jamal "Shyne" Barrow mouths off against those "Andrew Cunanan-ass niggas" who "see me in the streets [and] try to give me death." In the early morning hours of December 27, 1999, as he, rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs, actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, and Combs's bodyguard, Anthony "Wolf" Jones skylarked at the trendy Club New York in Times Square, Barrow may have run into some of these killer "ass-niggas."

As the four revelers left the club, according to court documents, "Combs and Jones became involved in an argument in which they believed a third party was disrespecting them." Then someone insulted Combs, the 31-year-old hip hop mogul who runs Bad Boy Entertainment, and threw money in his face. Such insolence should have meant nothing to the 21-year-old Barrow since, as he claims in "Bad Boys," "hundred-dollar bills wipe the tears from ma eyes." But there is another side to Barrow, whose "hand [is] never far from the safety" of his "two cannons." If the "ass-niggas" intended to put a whuppin' on him, Combs, and Jones, they were sadly mistaken. "I say fuck a fist fight," Barrow roars in "Cock It," a hit rap. "Clip fights is what I'm into."

What happened after the verbal jousting in the dance hall, Barrow's critics contend, was yet another example of a hip hop artist imitating thug life. "Guns I brandish make men vanish," Barrow brags in "Cock It." And that's exactly what prosecutors allege went down inside Club New York: "Within feet and milliseconds of each other, both Combs and Barrow pulled out 9mm semiautomatic handguns, and, after the smoke cleared, three people lay shot on the floor." Although"all three [Barrow, Combs, and Jones] engaged in retaliatory conduct," Barrow is the one prosecutors insist opened fire on the club patrons—none of whom were the dissin' "ass-niggas."

The trial of Barrow, Combs, and Jones on charges of attempted murder, gun possession, and bribery was in the throes of jury selection in state supreme court in Manhattan on Monday when news came that Barrow had had another brush with the law. On Sunday, he was arrested for driving with a suspended license after an automobile accident at the corner of West 19th Street and Ninth Avenue in which two people were injured.

In court papers, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos claims that at 2:52 a.m. on December 27, Midtown South police officers John Murtagh and Paul Franco, who were working the crowd outside the Club New York, "heard three or four gunshots" and saw Barrow bolt from the nightspot. "As soon as Barrow came within an arm's length and made eye contact with the officers, he came to a complete stop, turned to his right, and began to run away from the officers," Bogdanos alleges. When an oncoming limousine blocked Barrow's path he abruptly braked. Murtagh and Franco, "fearing for their safety," shouted, "Police! Don't move!" and "Let me see your hands!" Barrow, who as his alter ego, "Shyne," might have "bust shots at them street cops," threw his hands up. That's when the cops, who had not drawn their weapons, the prosecutor claims, saw a gun sticking out of Barrow's waistband and arrested him.

"With all of his tough talk, a skeptic might wonder if Shyne isn't just a studio gangsta. After the shooting... in Club New York... some people were quick to regard Shyne as an impressionable thug-wannabe with a point to prove."

Barrow was indicted on attempted murder charges, a scenario he's fantasized about in "Cock It." The rapper, however, may have felt cheated by the grand jury because in the gangsta world, the usual charge leveled against him is "murdah; never attempted." Combs was charged with two counts of illegal possession of a weapon after police found a pistol in the Lincoln Navigator used by Combs and his girlfriend, Lopez, to flee the nightclub. Police said a second handgun was thrown from the SUV. Combs and Jones also were charged with bribery for allegedly offering to pay his driver, Wardell Fenderson, $50,000 to claim ownership of the gun in the vehicle. Police said Combs offered Fenderson a diamond ring Lopez had given him as collateral. Lopez, who testified before the grand jury that indicted Combs, was not charged in the case. Shyne faces up to 25 years behind bars.

The Club New York incident isn't a case of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil: Both sides aim to "better a better witness," 50 of whom will be called to testify. "Information in the possession of the defense shows that at no time did the police observe Mr. Barrow with a gun," Barrow's lawyers point out in court papers. Bogdanos, however, is relying heavily on "the dozen or so witnesses who observed . . . Barrow fire his gun inside that crowded club that night" to win a conviction.

Matthew Bogdanos has plenty of ammunition to work with, and it's all supplied by the bullet-mouth Barrow—the self-described "DOA" gangsta who claims in a rap called "The Commission" that he's "sponsored by the NRA."

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