Album: Harlem World
Release Date: October 28, 1997
Thoughts: For Bad Boy Records, 1997 was a crazy year. The label’s flagship artist, The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in Los Angeles and they were still recovering from that. Puff Daddy had just released his solo album a few months earlier and it was questions about who was going to be the newest top act on the label. Well Puff had a new rapper on the label that hailed from Harlem, NY. We first heard his scene stealing verse on 112’s “Only You” (Remix). This rapper would be known to the world as Ma$e. If you were up in New York at the time, then you would have remembered Ma$se as Murder Mase from the group Children Of The Corn with Cam’ron and Big L. But my first time was hearing him on the “Only You” remix as well as other tracks throughout the year. So now that Biggie was gone, Ma$e was being given the keys to lead Bad Boy into 2008 and beyond. Did he knock it out the park with his debut album, Harlem World? Let’s take a it back to 1997 and revisit this album.
1. “Puff’s Intro“: Diddy’s introducing the world to his latest rapper and setting the mood for the album. Diddy stayed on those soul samples back then.
2. “Do You Wanna Get $?” feat. Puff Daddy“: “See, the moral of the story is/I’m not here to replace Notorious/I’m just a young cat tryin’ to do his thing” Mase is giving us his backstory as he raps about he was trying to get on but labels wasn’t trying to hear his records. The third verse, he states that he’s not here trying to take Biggie’s spot but he does want to do his thing in this business. I never knew that this was Kelis singing on the hook.
3. “Take What’s Yours” feat. DMX: This was one of the standout tracks and I remember hearing this in school all the time. Then you had a fairly new MC, DMX on the hook (“Niggas wanna shout, I’mma make noise/Niggas run they mouth, I’mma break jaws/Mase is comin’ out, we gon’ take yours/Harlem World uptown baby, we make wars“). Mase was talking his shit on this record if you thought it was all shiny suits and all (“The weatherman don’t even know the storm I’mma bring/But yo, I’m not the man with whom you interact/So before you grab gatts to jack, remember that/You take dough from Ma$e, you might as well send it back/I got thugs everywhere, where you gonna spend it at?“).
4. “Mad Rapper (Interlude)“: Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie’s rap alter ego still hating on Bad Boy success. The Madd Producer, however, isn’t as mad as it is revealed that he did a track on Ma$e’s album and that sends the Madd Rapper into a frenzy.
5. “Will They Die 4 U?” feat. Puff Daddy & Lil’ Kim: This track is interesting for two main reasons. First, Puff’s line in his verse where he said “Obviously, we all know you type of cats/Let they man get struck, never strike back” and folks were referencing Biggie’s murder. Second, Lil’ Kim using one of Biggie’s line’s in her verse (“You think I’m pussy?/I dare you to stick your dick in this“) Not one of my favorite tracks off the album.
6. “Lookin’ at Me” feat. Puff Daddy: The Neptunes had been around doing ghost production for a few years prior to this track. The instrumental was far ahead of it’s time as this would be the sound that made them household name’s in the 2000’s. Ma$e got off on this record (“I was Murda/P. Diddy made me pretty/Did it for the money, now can you get with me?/People wanna know who is he, he get busy/Spray so much izzy, girls get dizzy“)
7. “White Girl (Interlude)“: I hated this interlude. Next.
8. “Love U So” feat. Billy Lawrence: Armed with the “Square Biz” sample and Billy Lawrence (I thought she was definitely going to blow up) flipping Rose Royce’s “Ooh Boy“, Ma$e get flashy, flossy and talks trash on here (“Get my daily menage , Halle Berry massage/Different color Benz in every garage/Who would’ve thought? ’95, earth spinned twice/Mase be Billboard’s hot merchandise“).
9. “The Player Way” feat. 8Ball & MJG: I remember hearing about 8Ball & MJG and it was surprising that the were on this album. This track was dope.
10. “Hater (Interlude)“: Dude mad that Ma$e hasn’t put him on and doesn’t realize that the game is the game.
11. “Niggaz Wanna Act” feat. Busta Rhymes: Dame Grease gave Ma$e a heater (“Yo, I do this everyday, why brag about the glory?/Tell you the whole truth, never half the story/You wasn’t no hater, you’d probably be happy for me/Billboard first slot in every category“) and Busta Rhymes is on the hook (“If niggas wanna act we can act/If niggas wanna scrap, we could scrap/You niggas got gatts, we got gats/You niggas wanna style, we style/If you get foul, we get foul/You get wild, we get wild“).
12. “Feel So Good“: TO THIS DAY, I HATE THIS SONG!!!! I understand that Diddy was going for radio but “Feel So Good” was not the record that grabbed my attention as a consum
13. “What You Want” feat. Total: This record had the girls going. Ma$e was rapping relationship things in regards to his lady (“Girl, I can tell you was meant for me/I can tell by the way you was sent to me/While I’m on tour trying to make them centuries/And they ask who your man, you better mention me“) and Total provided the hook.
14. “Phone Conversation (Interlude)“: This nigga Ma$e getting caught up with the ladies. He made one date and called the second girl by the first girl’s name. (“You know I was sayin’ that shit to get you mad“)
15. “Cheat On You” feat. Lil’ Cease, Jay-Z and 112: I fucks with this song HEAVILY!!! Jermaine Dupri produced this record that featured 112 on the hook (“If she got with you when/She already had a man/Why wouldn’t she cheat on you/(Why wouldn’t she cheat on you)“), Lil’ Cease (“Girl talk slick but I see through the lies/You don’t got TV, whatcha mean who am I“) and Jay-Z, who just killed his verse (“They wanna ride wit me, stay fly wit me/Wanna help me get rid of my rivalries/Wanna be the ebony to my ivory/But I’m straight though, thanks ma, I only chase dough/We can lay for tonight but in the mornin’/I get Shirley Murdock, I hope your door slam lock, I’m gone“). Over the next few years, Ma$e and Jay-Z would take shots at each other on records.
16. “24 Hrs. to Live” feat. The LOX, Black Rob and DMX: POSSE CUT TIME!!!! The concept of this record was if they had 24 hours left to live what would they do? Everyone came correct on this record. Ma$e was up first (“I’d do good shit like take kids from the ghetto/Show them what they could have if they never settle/Take every white kid from high class level/Show ’em what Christmas like growin’ up in the ghetto“), Jadakiss (“Yo, yo if I had twenty four hours to kick the bucket, fuck it/I’d probably eat some fried chicken and drink a Nantucket/Then go get a jar from Branson/And make sure I leave my mother the money to take care of grandson“), Black Rob (“Jump in the whip, get them cats I wanted to get/Since the Tavern on the Green robbery in ’86/Went home took a shower in ice cold water/And spent my last hours with my son and my daughter“), Sheek (“And when I’m down to 23, I’mma be strapped with TNT/Run up in city hall and take the judges with me“), Styles (“Give the money to my moms and tell her that I’m gone/I would school my little brother that niggas mean him harm/He should learn to tell the future without readin’ palms“) and DMX (“C-4 up under the coat, snatch up my dog/Turn like three buildings on Wall Street, into a fog/Out with a bang, you will remember my name/I wanted to live forever, but this wasn’t fame“)
17. “I Need to Be” feat. Monifah: This song is still weird and very creepy twenty years later.
18. “Watch Your Back (Interlude)“: Some dude mad that Ma$e gave his girl his number. You can definitely tell this was 1997.
19. “Wanna Hurt Mase?“: Ma$e talking about getting money but he still keeps it street. (“From the M to the A nigga dollar sign E/Come around money if you ever tryin’ to find me/I was Murda for six years, seen no cream from it/Drop Murda off, Ma$e woke up at Teen Summit
20. “Jealous Guy” feat. 112 and Puff Daddy: Ma$e, Puffy and 112 flipping New Edition’s “Jealous Girl“. These niggas singing off off key and it’s hilarious.
Harlem World hit number 1 on Billboard Top 200 and capped off the year that Bad Boy Records. Harlem World‘s three singles all landed in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Top 100 so I’d say for that album debut, he did pretty good for himself. You would think that with this success here, he could have an established career. But… that narrative would change some years later.