The 'Bad Boy Curse'

The Perils of Hanging With Puffy

One day, Barnes cornered Barrow in a Manhattan studio where he had been laying down some tracks on another artist's song. "Shyne, I know you wanna do this and I know you have talent and you're gonna make it big," Barnes remembers telling the teenager. "But don't let this industry swallow you up. You see that drive you have in you, that cockiness? It's like a sponge and it attracts the negativity which swallows you up. Chill out a little bit! You're being too cocky."

Barnes's words had little effect on Barrow. When a young female rapper was having trouble with synching her rap to rhythm, Barnes suggested that Barrow teach her the basics. "Shyne, you know how to flow," he says he told him. "You know how to rhyme. Teach her."

"I'm gonna own 50 percent of her stuff," Barrow responded. "I want 50 percent of the royalties."

illustration by Gary Aagaard

"Shyne, it doesn't work like that," the shocked Barnes explained. "Just calm down a little. Each one teach one. We're all gonna get somewhere. Just teach her."

"No, I'm not teaching her unless I get 50 percent!" Barrow insisted. Finally, Barrow gave up on his demand and worked with the female rapper. But after she failed to "get the flow," Barnes asked Barrow to rap on a record he was producing.

"He had a little rap that was about eight bars," he recalls. "I remember him talking about Cojiba cigars. That was in the rhyme a lot. You didn't necessarily understand every single word, but it had a fluidity to it. It had a good sound. It was easy listening. You wanted to hear more. So we just wanted to be able to introduce his voice so people could be looking for it."

Barnes's idea worked. Shyne from Brooklyn became a cult figure, an unsigned hype. Now he was being wooed by Don Pooh and famed star makers like Jermaine Dupri.

"Jermaine Dupri was supposed to be coming up to New York because he had heard about Shyne," Barnes says. "My friend who had introduced him to Don Pooh was trying to decide whether to go with Don Pooh or Jermaine Dupri." When Barnes found out about the tug of war, he settled on Dupri. "To me, Jermaine Dupri always did good with younger artists and I told my friend, 'You need to steer Shyne toward that type of producer because he still needs to be cultivated. He's not ready. He's still very raw.' "

Then along came a spider. Bad Boy was in the house. "Don't sign with Bad Boy!" Barnes told Barrow after bumping into him one day in Flatbush.

"Nah, I'm good," Barrow said confidently. "I'm good. I know what I'm doin'. I'm good."

Barnes made several attempts to save Barrow from being swallowed up by Bad Boy. "I knew that he should not be there because of the ferocity with which Puffy was coming at him," he says. "Don Pooh was very interested in Shyne, but he was humble. But Puffy was just coming on and there was something very shady about that."

One night, Combs arranged to meet Barrow at a swank hotel in Manhattan. According to the story as told to Barnes, "Puffy just hit him up with a Rolex watch and Shyne just stayed there with him at the hotel." He adds that Shyne "didn't come back to Brooklyn for a while" and says the next time he saw Barrow, he was "dipped in ice and dressed to a T." Barnes told Shyne how happy he was that he was on his way to realizing his dream. But Barnes was put off by Barrow's smug response.

"Yo, what up son?" Barrow said.

Barnes remembers thinking that this was not the same Barrow he knew. "I said to myself, 'Damn! That's sad. This is what happens to young people. This is a child in a candy store.' " Barnes felt that Barrow had fallen victim to the Bad Boy Curse. He noticed that he hung out with a different crowd. "The people I saw around him were not Shyne loyalists. He just seemed to evolve into this monster."

Shortly after he had signed with Bad Boy, Barrow was involved in a tragic car accident that killed one of his childhood friends. According to the story, Barrow, two of his closest friends, and a cousin, were driving home to Brooklyn after partying at a nightclub in Manhattan. They were all drunk. Their Mercedes-Benz crashed, fatally injuring one of the teenagers. "Shyne basically came out of the accident with scratches," Barnes recalls. "But the word on the street was, 'Yo, Shyne is messed up! Heard how he was acting at his boy's funeral; he was just laughing and talking.' There was this terrible story in the street about how he just seemed so indifferent."

Barnes found out that after the accident someone had stolen the Rolex watch Combs gave him. "His main focus was, 'Puff better get me another Rolex.' This is what the word on the street was, and it made me sick to my stomach," he says. "I didn't wanna believe it, but it was just the consensus on the street. He had made it with Bad Boy so it was like he was going to show indifference toward other people. Everybody was talking about it. They said that he gave his dead friend's family $1000 for the funeral. It was just great indifference. They say he was at the funeral acting very nonchalant, not like he had lost one of his dearest childhood friends."

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