A Gangsta’s Prayer

Shyne’s Bible Is His First Line of Defense

In his future rhymes, Muhammad says, Barrow will target young drug users who never thought that their offenses could lead to a prison term and who are shocked at the stiff sentences meted out to them.

Barrow told Muhammad that he used gangsta rap as a strategy to attract the 700,000 kids "who now wear their hats like me and speak like me." Barrow calls it "the infiltration theory," similar to a tactic the militant rapper Tupac Shakur was moving to adopt when he was gunned down execution-style in 1996. "I felt that in order to change the people in the kingdom you have to become king first," Muhammad quoted Barrow as saying. "In my album, I talk about the things that I've lived and seen to become their king. I can make rehabilitation and progressive songs, but first I had to show that I experienced the same pains that these young guys experienced. Only then I can tell them, 'You know what, even though we experienced these hardships, these new rhymes, these new messages, is what we need to prevent the rest of our people from experiencing our pain.' That was my plan all along. I had to get their attention first."


It’s a G thang: Jamaal “Shyne” Barrow (second from right) sits trancelike while his hip hop idol Sean “Puffy” Combs testifies.
illustration by Shirley & Andrea Shepard
It’s a G thang: Jamaal “Shyne” Barrow (second from right) sits trancelike while his hip hop idol Sean “Puffy” Combs testifies.

Barrow sits rigidly upright at the defense table, as if in a trance, flipping the worn pages of the Bible by rote, seemingly oblivious to the horrible things being said about him.


Jamaal Barrow's attention right now is focused on the rumpled family Bible Old Girl gave him. Gone is the scoff on his face when he recites the "Gangsta Prayer." Gone is the hatred he once heaped on the drunk "niggas" who, he maintains, tried to kill him outside Daddy's House. He sits rigidly upright at the defense table, as if in a trance, flipping the worn pages of the Bible by rote, seemingly oblivious to the horrible things being said about him. He goes from Psalm 27 to 35 to 86. These texts have become Barrow's first line of defense. His prayers, it seems, are being answered.

After the court recessed last Friday, a young woman who had been waiting with her mother for several hours threw herself at Barrow. She hugged him, wished him well, and asked for his autograph. "God works in mysterious ways," Barrow reminded Conrad Muhammad as they left the Supreme Court. "When I leave the courtroom every day, I hear people shout, 'Shyne! Not guilty!' and I just get in my car and I pray."


pnoel@villagevoice.com


Additional Puff Daddy coverage by Peter Noel:Big Bad Wolf
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Puff! Goes the Weasel
An Impersonator Witness and Alleged Testilying Redefine Rap Mogul’s Trial

O.J. Simpson Meets Puff Daddy
Scapegoating Sean Combs to Get Back at Johnnie Cochran

Bad Boy Shyne
The Gangsta Life and Times of Jamal Barrow

Taking the Rap
Are Civil Rights Leaders Frontin’ for Hip Hop Gangstas?

Daddy Under the Gun
Publicly, Rap Mogul Won’t Beg; Quietly, He Pleads

Guns, Bribes, and Benjamins
Can Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs Purchase Respectability and Buy His Way Out of the Club New York Shooting Trial?

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