Mase Welcome Back

[Bad Boy; 2004]

Styles: mainstream hip-hop
Others: Jadakiss, Kanye West, Fabolous, a buttload of other imitators

Mase may be the most lovable rapper ever. It is near-impossible to hate the man who once had a "Murder" tacked on his name. Everyone from hardcore rap fans, to indie music aficionados, to parents have a place in their heart for Mase. Perhaps it's his boyish looks and ever-present glowing smile that does it. Maybe it's his inventive dance moves and mumbling delivery that comes across like some coy pre-teen asking you a favor. Whatever the case may be, Mase can be enjoyed by all.

After retiring from the game some years back and following the sudden call of the Lord, like many artists throughout history have, Mase has decided to return and remind these young whippersnappers who the forefather of fun-loving, street-credible, slightly-comic hip-hop is. Mase's first single, "Welcome Back," basically says it all. It proves that a man such as Mase can rhyme over a sample from Welcome Back Kotter, dress up like Mister Rogers in the video, and have an 80-year old female back-up dancer, and still be taken seriously and appreciated.

Basically what it comes down to is nostalgia and a rekindling flame. Mase could've put out an album of sermons over beats with rap verses as interludes and people would still buy it -- not to mention like it. Fortunately, Mase does us one better by dusting the magnetic dust off the microphone and showing us that he can still hang with the rest of the industry. The style hasn't changed, the lyrics haven't suffered, and the charm and charisma is still clearly evident.

Mason Betha -- the man that gave us the "throw your rollies in the sky" dance move and made shiny suits and pyrotechnics the norm. You can't hate him for it though (save that for Puff). Positivity and songs for the kids has been proven to sell. Nas had a chart-topper last year with his blasphemous "I Can." Mase pulls optimism off much better though, leaving the consciousness and hunger steez to Nasir. It is time once again for all of humanity to embrace Mase. Gosh darnit, I love this guy.

1. Welcome Back
2. Keep Dreamin'
3. We Don't Have To
4. I Love Twyla
5. My Harlem Lullaby
6. Wasting My Time
7. Gotta Survive
8. The Love U Need
9. I Still Love You
10. Do U Remember
11. Into What U Say
12. I Owe