NEW YORK — Lawyers sounded like warring music critics Friday
as they debated the merits and messages of Jamal “Shyne” Barrow’s debut album during a hearing that ended with a 10-year prison sentence for the rapper.
Prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos said that Shyne’s lyrics show he has no
remorse for his part in the Club New York shootings, for which he was
convicted of assault, reckless endangerment and weapons charges in
“Mr. Barrow is nothing other than a gun-toting braggart — that’s
what he is,” Bogdanos said, quoting lyrics from Shyne’s “Let Me See Your Hands”: “Gun cockin’ and poppin’, somebody call Cochran/ … No time to waste, nine in my waist/ Ready for war anytime, anyplace/ F— it, just another case.”
Shyne looked down at papers on the table in front of him as Bogdanos
spoke, and his supporters shook their heads in disgust.
Despite references to Shyne’s former co-defendant Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Combs’ lawyer Johnnie Cochran, most of “Let Me See Your Hands,” off September’s Shyne, appears to refer to fictional drug deals rather than the Club New York incident. The song also finds its narrator hyperbolically threatening to “head to Capitol Hill to kidnap Janet Reno.”
Bogdanos scoffed at requests for mercy from Shyne’s fans and supporters, summarizing their message as “he’s gifted, so don’t put him in jail.”
“The shooting has boosted his record sales. Then he asks for
forgiveness,” Bogdanos said. “He may be gifted, but he’s chosen to
squander such gifts.”
Shooting victim Natania Reuben — who once pursued a music career of her own under the name Ebone — also criticized Shyne’s lyrics as she described her injuries’ impact on her life. “It takes a real man to write a song with a socially redemptive message,” she said.
But Shyne’s recently hired appeals lawyer, Diarmuid White, accused
Bogdanos of exploiting “the myth of the gangsta rapper.”
“[Shyne is] not glorying in guns. … He’s doing just the opposite,”
White said before reading the entirety of the spoken-word opening track on Shyne, “Dear America,” comparing it to the work of Beat poet
“Maybe if [you would] build schools instead of prisons, I’d stop livin’ the way I’m livin’,” Shyne says on that track.
But despite the lawyers’ discussion of Shyne’s music, Judge Charles
Solomon didn’t mention it as he explained his sentencing decision,
although he did praise Shyne’s talent.
“Why so much detail about his music? Will I really consider what he does or does not say in his songs?” Solomon asked.
Shyne returned to Rikers Island prison on Friday, where he will await
assignment to a maximum-security prison (see “Shyne Sentenced to 10
Years In Prison” ).
Chart-topping rapper Nelly said Friday night that his thoughts are with Shyne.
“It’s sad because it’s a talented brother — you hate to see it like that,” Nelly said backstage at New York radio station Z100′s Zootopia 2001 concert. “We wit’ him, try to send that positive energy he definitely needs. Keep writing, man, ’cause I know you’re gonna make it out of there.”
(Click HERE for a complete explanation of the charges in the case. Click HERE our complete trial coverage.)