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DAR Hip Hop: Mase's Harlem World

By @CherchezLaPorsh 



Tracklist 
1. Puff's Intro 
2. Do You Wanna Get $
3. Take What's Yours
4. Mad Rapper (Interlude)
5. Will They Die 4 U
6. Lookin' At Me
7. White Girl (Interlude)
8. Love U So
9. The Player Way 
10. Hater (Interlude) 
11. Niggas Wanna Act
12. Feel So Good 
13. What You Want 
14. Phone Conversation (Interlude)
15. Cheat on You
16. 24 Hours To Live
17. I Need To Be
18. Watch Your Back (Interlude)
19. Wanna Hurt Mase? 
20. Jealous Guy

For all of us who were alive and spent our teen years in the late 90’s, we will never forget the enormous visibility and presence Bad Boy had. Puffy isn’t my favorite and I’m pretty vocal about that, but what I will admit is that at the time, no one was bigger. He had a ton of artists signed to Bad Boy, they were known to make endless amounts of chart topping hits and Puff was known for being on the lookout for new talent. Bad Boy was always adding people to the roster and each one was almost guaranteed to succeed and give the fans the most high energy, fun, entertaining album packed with banger after banger.

Let’s rewind to 1996. Puffy and Jermanie Dupri were in Atlanta at a rap convention and sure enough Mase is there. He meets Puff, drops a freestyle and long story short, Mase was signed. His first appearance and feature was on 112’s Only You. (Rumor has it Mase’s verse in that song is the freestyle he spit for Puffy) After that, Mase was busy in the studio preparing for his very own debut.

1997, “Harlem World” would be released. Yet another artist under Puffy’s wings and much like everyone else, fans already liked him, so anticipation built. Would this be a profound album sprinkled with great lyricism and depth? Not at all, but what it did have was incredible beat choices, a substantial amount of bangers and an entire line up of flawless featured MC’s. With Puffy (really the Hitmen) behind the majority of the album's production, coupled with dropping video after video, Harlem World truly became a gift to hip hop, as fans loved it and clubs thrived off it. This was a great debut for Mase but where the album gets a ton of (valid) critique is that he simply gets outshined by the guests...in fact, it almost seems like this is more of a "various artists" compilation and he's just a guest himself, but like I said the entertainment value is almost perfect.
Now the tracklist is extensive. Sitting at 20 tracks deep, there’s no way to cover each one, but we’ll take a look at the tracks that made this album so incredibly entertaining.


Of course, we start off with an intro track, and this is entirely narrated by Puff and he basically sets the stage for upcoming tracks, as the instrumental is very "new york" it reminds me of street lights, traffic ridden streets and smokey bars. Once again, I have to give credit to Puff. He knew how to lay the framework and he executed it well.

The first track is "Do You Wanna Get $?" Featuring Puffy. I'm not thrilled about it, but it works. It's a fun song for sure and much like we expect, it's a banger. Of course it is! Mase's flow caters to high energy, dance-y music, but this works for and against him: you don't pay much attention to the lyrics as much as you feel the beat. It has the signature "Bad Boy" bounce (which we will hear often) and that high pitched chime. It works well but what I like most is Mase's wit and buried under a whole bunch of nonsense, we hear some clever bars. Take this one for example leading perfectly into the chorus:

"Dealers give me credit any place I go to/
Drive out in the Benz say "Let Mase owe you/'"

(Chorus)
"With all this money that we can make/
Why ya'll cats wanna playa hate/
Do you wanna get money with us, do you wanna?"

Anyone who is familiar with Bad Boy and all the artists on that label will know they flexed all of the luxuries that came with fame. It was always about "Ice", "benz-os" and loads of money. This song is a perfect example and Mase solidifies their image.

The next track features DMX, and is "Take What's Yours". I definitely like this track. DMX as a feature is such a breath of fresh air after the abundance of Puff. The tempo on this one is slower, but somehow still maintains the club-like undertones. I also appreciate the reference to Wu-Tang by mentioning "CREAM" about four lines in and then DMX's familiar dog-like grunt before he drops the hook/chorus. What DMX does is interesting, as he modifies his normal style to match Mase. He sort of rounds out his edgy style, but balances out the entire track with his raspy base ridden voice. D is completely out of his element on this track, but being the more seasoned of the two, he brings the track together. Does he outshine Mase? Almost. If he had an actual verse, he would have killed it. Where I think Mase was amazing was the last verse:

"If you think I'm on some sweet shit/
Then won't you creep quick, I let the heat spit/
Make a nigga "G" flick, classic criminal/
Keep a gat by my genitals/
Thugs love me, so don't get splashed for the minimal/"

I appreciate the rhyming and as usual, his wit is entertaining. The next track is the "Mad Rapper Interlude", and to be honest, in my opinion, this simply serves as a break, a minute of "interview-like" conversation and then we get right back to tracks.


1/4 of the way through the album and we get to see Lil Kim featured on a track along with Puffy. We can't escape it, the guy is everywhere. "Will They Die 4 You?" is interesting. That same banger beat we heard in the first track, that signature bounce and a ton of busy sounds in the background and the constant change in rappers is dizzying. It matches the intended purpose of this track. They are flexing their hardcore image while still maintaining their high roller status. There is a ton of claims made, some absurd and hilarious at the same time:

(Puff)
"When it's on, I guarantee my team don't choke/
Want a war, you niggas better bring yo' force/"

(Mase)
"Still watch your back/
A nigga smack me, I'mma smack 'em back/
If it lead to the guns, then that be that/"

(Lil Kim)
"Speak when you're spoken to and only with permission/
Like E.F. Hutton, when I talk, niggas listen/"

Wars, smacking and Lil Kim's aggression seemed slightly out of character, but like I said,  production and beats are so dope you can almost ignore the lyrics and just enjoy the vibes.

I wish I could say the "hardcore" aspect was over after the last track, but that would be a lie. Next up, we've got "Lookin' At Me" once AGAIN featuring Puffy. This is reminiscent of guys going to clubs looking for trouble, mean mugging people, and Puffy's opening lines support that claim. This is however, a different kind of track and the only one of its kind from a production standpoint. That bouncy chime that is weaved into every track on this album isn't heard here and we have The Neptunes to thank for that. These guys were on top of their game and everything they were involved with was a hit. This one was no different. This was released as a single and was received very well by fans. I love the variation, the tempo and the way Mase adjusts to match it is dope.

I'm about to skip a few tracks and get to my favorite but before I do, "White Girl Interlude" is noteworthy. I laugh every time I hear this because it's timeless. We've got "Julie" and "Becky" as the white girls and Mase and his buddy trying to get at them. This is just the perfect execution of the most typical dynamic. If you haven't heard it, please do and if you can't remember, refresh your memory. This is definitely funny.

Now to skip over a couple tracks, but first let me mention that he features Busta on one and 8Ball and MJG. Both these tracks are great to be honest and these are the ones where the featured MC's outshine Mase. He sounds like the guest rather than the other way around. The songs are bangers, equipped with high energy beats, old school scratching and a whole lot of bounce.

At the number 12, we have the song that took over the year and was guaranteed to be played at least twice in every club, each night. "Feels So Good" is the banger that defined the word. Super high energy, hilarious lyrics and beat production sounds like a tornado of epic proportions. From Mase's scream at the beginning to Kelly Price's vocals everything comes together perfectly. Once again, Mase is incredibly witty with lyrics, but this time instead of being the "hardcore thug", he's true to form and is a laid back, partying, good time having guy. These lines have always been my favorites:

"Buy the E, get a key, to the Lex to hold/
East, West, every state, come on, bury the hate/
Millions, the only thing we in a hurry to make/"

"So while you daydream my Mercedes gleam/
And I deal with hoes that pose in Maybeline/"

Mase definitely had fun with this song and made all the listeners have fun with it too. Conceptually it's simple and in its simplicity, he created a dope track.

"What You Want" featuring Total is my absolute favourite track on this entire album. This to me is  perfect in every way. Total was an exceptional choice for vocals and Mase's flow and delivery is great. The lyrics are interesting, they're so superficial, but he's so smooth with what he's saying its perfect for his female audience. When he says:

"In a year or two, girl, I could see you with my kids/
Girl, you make a thug want to get a legal gig/"

And...

"Everybody love you girl, not just me/
And I know that you really care a lot for me/
Wanna to see you happy even if it's not with me/"

He makes my heart melt...I don't even think about the other shenanigans he's said. This is such a great track that it has transcended time and has a whole lot of replay value.


"The Phone Conversation Interlude" that comes up next is the epitome of perfect placement. It's basically Mase talking to one girl and another girl calls on the other line, he doesn't flash over at one point, doesn't realize who he's talking to and basically gets "caught" in this web of deceit. This is the best way to lead up to my second favorite track "Cheat On You" with Lil Cease, Jay-Z and 112. As much as I hate cheating, these guys bring a whole lot of insight to the matter and I appreciate that.

Once again, Mase gets outshined. Both Jay and Cease have incredible verses and drop lyrical gems all over the place. If I could I would quote the entire song, but since I can't I'll give you a couple:

(Mase)
"And all these girls is quite the same/
So it ain't your pencil, it's how you write your name/"

(Cease)
"If you know that she cheap why you live with the girl/
Half you cats couldn't live in my world/"

(Jay)
"And I fools ya'll fake players every time/
Cuz you only hit chicks that you think is mine/"

It was a brilliant choice to have Jermaine Dupri on production on this track because he killed it on the beats. It complimented the dynamic of the three of them and gave us another track with a ton of replay value!


As we approach the end, Mase hits us with "24 Hours To Live" I thoroughly appreciate a couple things on this track. First, The Lox, DMX and Black Rob as guests were great because that tells me it's going to be packed with lyrical gems. Then, I love the title and the concept. On the production side, the beats, tempo and "New York" style is very fitting and very suited to the guest features. Conceptually, this is brilliant and serves as the miniscule amount of depth this album has, as each rapper spits a verse on what they would do if they had 24 hours to live. These guys have fun with it and as a result the listeners do too. Take Jadakiss' line for example:

"If I had twenty four hours to kick the bucket/ fuck it/
I'd probably eat some fried chicken and drink a Nantucket/"

And Black Rob's:

"Bust the four/
Fours, pull out my dick and take a piss on the floor/
Jump in the whip/
Get them cats I wanted to get/"

And then Sheek and DMX actually give us some depth. Check it out:

Sheek:
"If I had twenty four hours to live, I'd probably die on the fifth/
Run in the station squeezing the inf'/
I'll be waitin'/
To get to hell and bust down Satan/"

DMX:
"Twenty four left until my death/
So I'm gonna waste a lot of lives, but I'll cherish every breath/
I know exactly where I'm goin', but I'mma send you there first"

I appreciate the humor and I also appreciate the depth and insight. Clearly Mase didn't stand a chance with these guys. One, there are so many of them and two, they are just more solid lyricists. And they delivered. This is a fantastic track nevertheless.

Let's skip "I Need Be" with Monifah and a couple other ones that are the proceeding tracks and get to the very last one. "Jealous Guy" feat 112. This is easily the weakest track on the entire album. I'm not sure what Mase was thinking...maybe seeing if he could pursue a career as an R&B singer?? Whatever the case I wish I could delete it off the tracklist. It's terrible. The "Woo woo woooooo" at the beginning is awkward and I feel like he's a combination of high and drunk. It's the only explanation I have for this almost SIX MINUTE song where he just goes on and on and on about stealing some guy's girl. Truly terrible, painful to listen to and incredibly unfortunate to end the album on.

Although the tracklist is exhaustive and has one track I'm sure we all wish we could forget, Mase gave us a pretty well put together album packed with high energy vibes and the greatest array of featured MC's. He definitely left himself open to extensive criticism as a result, but it's clear he was a crowd pleaser. Each track gave us incredible variation, high energy beats, but remained cohesive and fun. Bangers is what Mase was known for and he always delivered! That coupled with his wit and unique flow made sure the 90's was definitely better with his debut.

-Porsha 

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