For those who had assumed that Mason Betha’s return to the
rap game after a self-imposed six-year exile meant he had rejected
his pursuit of religion and was now ready to embrace all of
hip-hop’s hedonism with open arms and an album full of
church-bashing club bangers, you’re in for a disappointment.
Ma$e, who rose to the top of the pop-rap charts as Diddy’s
wingman on hits like “Mo’ Money, Mo’
Problems” and on his own with “Feel So Good”
during the late ’90s, is indeed back in the game with his
third album, Welcome Back.

Music Reviews
If only prayer brought talent …

Unfortunately, his time spent away from the mic has only served
a purpose few thought was possible; the man is now lamer than ever.
Imbued with a new sense of purpose and the word of the gospel, Ma$e
is intent on slipping his after-school-special level message into
his stale party songs. See, we too can be “living the vida
without the loca” — dude, a Ricky Martin reference?

Back when Puff and Ma$e were rocking shiny silver suits and
walking away from explosions in slow motion, Ma$e’s appeal
and popularity were very specific. His slow drawl, omnipresent
toothy smile, clunky, mush-mouthed rhymes; they all contributed to
his overall court jester of hip-hop personality. He made easily
dismissible, borderline-enjoyable rap. He threw stacks of money
into the camera, popped bottles of Cris’ and incessantly
repped his beloved Harlem. In short, he had the hip-hop handbook
and was carefully following instructions.

In that sense, Ma$e was difficult to criticize. Yet, in his new
incarnation, Ma$e effectively dismisses any trace of charm left in
his persona with his heavy handed sloganeering. Few people want to
be preached at; almost no one wants that preaching to come from
someone whose records are all bound for the cut-out bin at your
local music store. “Keep It On” is the most heinous
example of said offense; while Ma$e is dropping “uh huh,
yeahs” over the beat, the cheesy, R&B hook is telling us
that “We don’t have to take our clothes off to have a
good time, oh no / We can just chill and kick it all night.”
That’s just straight up awful.

The only value to be culled from this unbelievably unoriginal
record is the lead single “Welcome Back.” Over a breezy
bass line and the theme song from “Welcome Back
Kotter,” Ma$e retains some of his past bravado as he makes
sure the whole world knows he’s, like, totally back.
Otherwise, this album is difficult to listen to; weak rhymes about
staying sober over the most bland, done-to-death beats is simply
not a compelling combination. Ma$e puts it best himself when, on
“Gotta Survive”, he tells us, “As much as
ya’ll don’t want to hear this, I can’t do
nuthin’ by myself … It’s all through Him.”
You’re right, man, we don’t want to hear this.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.

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