January 03, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

While P. Diddy enjoys his mansions, his former protege Jamaal ”Shyne” Barrow, 24, spends his days in a big house of a very different kind. And signs suggest that when Barrow is released from New York City’s Rikers Island prison — he is currently appealing his 2000 conviction on four felony counts and won’t be up for parole until 2009 — he’ll be a Bad Boy no more.

Now serving a 10-year sentence for his role in the early-morning gun battle at Club New York, Barrow is in discussions to end his Bad Boy contract and pursue other deals. Already, he has been courted by Murder Inc. label chief Irv Gotti, who recently visited Rikers at the urging of the rapper Nas. ”I spoke to Irv about it and I told him to go see Shyne,” says Nas. ”We’re talking now, me and him, about [a record deal].” Surprisingly, P. Diddy is open to the idea. ”I told Irv, if that’s what [Shyne] wanted to do and [Gotti] felt like he had a plan, then I would be supportive,” says Combs. (Shyne has no plans to record in prison.)

While Shyne’s eponymous 2000 debut sold 866,000 copies, Bad Boy has honored the rapper’s wishes and withheld another disc of material recorded prior to the verdict. ”Shyne didn’t want them to release an album that he couldn’t promote,” says Barrow’s entertainment lawyer, Matt Middleton. Whenever the next CD hits, Middleton doubts it will feature pre-jail tracks: ”I think he’ll have some new things to say.”

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