Mase. He was the new protégé after Biggie bought it. And back when Puff Daddy was blowing smoke up other people’s arses, not just his own. Mase hit in big with Harlem World and with his guest appearances in the late 1990s.
Then he went soft.
Welcome Back was his “comeback” album. It, brilliantly, went nowhere. And even more hilariously, was never followed up. We’re still waiting. Though the exact number of people actually waiting is pretty small I’m sure.
I liked Mase’s vibe, his flow, his feel – even if his best stuff happened early on, maybe even so early that he was better before he was signed up and paraded around like a champion. But I’m such a fairweather hip-hop fan and so overtly never the target market that I can like what I like and of course so can anyone, but even if I’m digging the best hip-hop at the right time no one would ever give a fuck and nor should they.
Recently I’ve been digging a lot of early 2000s hip-hop; the positive vibes that crashed in and wiped out a lot of the gangsta-rap misogyny of the 90s. J5, Blacklicious, People Under The Stairs, Ugly Duckling, Antipop Consortium. All good things. Always dug them. The Roots of course. Even the early-early Black Eyed Peas.
And then I found my copy of Mase’s album Welcome Back. I love the use of the dollar sign – Ma$e. Crack-up.
That is basically all the effort that went into this album I think.
And it’s a fun, funny, good-time soft-banger of a track. It lopes. It cruises. It’s so pleased with itself that it doesn’t care whether you care or not. It doesn’t need you to like it. It already likes itself. A lot.
And that’s usually red rag for me. But in this case I just caught onto that vibe and enjoyed it.
I remember reviewing this album at the time. And being so hooked on the title track – and it’s silly/happy vibe – that I can’t remember exactly what I thought about the rest of the album. I know I never thought it was a classic. But it was just easy to like. To leave on and just let it happen in the background.
Another silly, lazy example – My Harlem Lullaby where Mase, sorry Ma$e, sings the Madonna La Isla Bonita melody but makes up his own words. Lol.
So much of the hip-hop and rap music from that era (early 00s) was so pleased with itself for telling you that rap was making a comeback, and that they were doing it old-school and that was a pleasing thought I guess, but it was often hard to take and lyrically it become redundant very quickly. Mase went one further, just bigging up himself, rolling out the red carpet for himself – arguably no one had missed him – and then there was no follow-through. He’s like Drunk Uncle at a 21st. His dated old party moves are funny. And then sad. In that order. And very quick is the change between the two states.
But I’m in that state now all the time. I am Drunk Uncle. I am funny. And then very, very sad. I am trotting around a basketball court trying to score points in a game that’s not actually happening. I am watching the horror films I saw when I was a kid and the only thing scary at all now is how much time I appear to have to watch and re-watch them. This isn’t self-loathing by the way. This is self-laughing, almost self-loving. I am very happy in my regression-loop. Playing my drums again about as well as I ever could. Or better. Or not. Either/or. And who cares.
So as I float back through some hip-hop albums from the past I find myself still thinking Mase’s “comeback” album – Welcome Back by Ma$e – is crap. And that’s a good thing. Because I still don’t mind hearing it now and then.
Welcome back indeed.
I’m about to release my first book of poems. Something I first dreamed of doing 20 years ago or. I’m glad that never happened then. I’m glad it’s not a comeback.