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Jailed rapper barred from using phone

Shyne recorded the raps for his latest album over the phone.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jailed rapper Shyne, who signed a $3 million record deal and recorded part of his new album while in prison, had his phone privileges revoked Monday and was barred from conducting in-person interviews as authorities investigate whether he may have violated prison rules in making about 100 phone calls.

Shyne (real name: Jamal Barrow) has been in great demand in the media with last week’s release of “Godfather Buried Alive.” Already, MTV has aired a special about him, The New York Times conducted a phone interview, and he’s on the cover of the September issue of Vibe, wearing his dark-green prison uniform.

Shyne, a former protege of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, has been in jail since 2001 for the 1999 nightclub shooting that involved his former mentor and Combs’ then girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez. (Combs was also charged in the case but was acquitted.) Three bystanders were wounded.

Although Shyne is being held at a correctional facility in remote Dannemora near the New York-Canada border, that hasn’t stopped his recording career. He signed the lucrative contract with Island Def Jam Records in April, and he even recorded raps for the album over the phone.

Shyne’s phone use is what state prison officials are investigating. Under New York law, prisoners can’t call cell phones, have calls transferred to another party, conduct business over the phone or call reporters not on their designated media list. An investigation indicates Barrow did all of those things and provided phony names on his designated call list, said James Flateau, a state Department of Correctional Services spokesman.

“If a call is transferred to a cell phone, we have no idea who that call is going to or where that person is,” Flateau said. “In a post-Sept. 11 world, we’d like to know who inmates are talking to.”

If an investigation shows Barrow was doing business over the phone before his newly released CD, state law would allow victims of his crime to sue for compensation. Prison officials contend Barrow, while in prison, discussed the marketing and promotion of his work with Def Jam.

Signs in the prison alert inmates that their calls are recorded and may be monitored, Flateau said.

Barrow was notified Monday that his phone privileges and the ability to give face-to-face interviews were being taken away. Flateau said privileges were suspended pending further investigation.

New York’s Son of Sam law prevents convicts from profiting from their crimes. The New York Crime Victims Board sent a letter to Def Jam dated Aug. 10 seeking information on Barrow’s contract with the company.

A spokeswoman for Shyne and his record label, Def Jam, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.