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Page 1

 Holier than thou? Mase's old friends think so ...

Page 2

 The Diplomats and Foxy Brown attack; Kanye, Lil' Kim and Jadakiss defend ...

Page 3

 "Leave your guns at home" ...

Page 4

 "I'm real cool, I think that's why people come from everywhere to hear me speak" ...

Mase Clears The Air About Diddy, DMX And Jay-Z

Mase: The Second Coming

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"It was never a problem on my behalf," Mase says a few weeks after the confrontation, sitting comfortably in the New York offices of Universal Records. "What I'm about now is so potent, so positive and so powerful, that I can't even indulge in negativity and ignorance. Ignorance doesn't mean a person is stupid; it means they don't know. Right now, I expect to be persecuted. But at the end, I'll win. Everything makes sense in the end. Even when I'm dealing with a situation such as that, I have to take the higher road and be the most positive and say the right thing."

Jones, who has coined the phrase "Would you rather [hear] the truth from a thug or lies from a preacher?," says Mase is saying all the wrong things.

"He's a lying preacher," Jones scoffs. "He's painting the wrong picture. He's been gone for a while and so he's coming back and wants people to look at him as somebody's savior. He needs to be put in a skirt and put in his place.

"It gets me confused, because he's on the 'Lean Back' remix talking about how he gotta 'merk' something,' " Jones continues. "Where I'm from, 'merk something' means kill a n---a. In the Bible, it says, 'Thou shalt not kill,' you smell me? That n---a's bugging."

The Diplomats aren't the first or the only ones to think Mase is bugging. In 1999, when he retired from rap at the height of his career to follow religion, everyone scratched their heads. Later, they wondered why he didn't make a comeback. But now that he is, some are confused, and some are even calling him a fraud for sticking with his old lyrical MO of flossing and partying, instead of preaching the gospel (Mase doesn't have any cursing or overtly sexual references in his music now, however).

  "Welcome Back"
Welcome Back
(Bad Boy/Fo Reel)
"I'm not really feeling it," Mase's old friend Foxy Brown says of his return. Before Mase retired, he almost had Foxy convinced that she should give up the mic and devote her life to religion.

"He used to come to my house and read the Bible with me," she remembers. "I remember he even told me rap was the devil — and now he's back in the videos, dancing."

"People don't wanna be judged, but all they've done to me since I've been back is judge me," Mase says of his detractors. "But the moment I turn around and say something, then they'll say, 'Don't judge me.' I don't say anything. I'm always gonna do what I believe I should do and not what they want me to do."

Even with all the damnation and demonizing from certain quarters, Mase's fans are speaking just as loud. His first album in five years, Welcome Back, debuted at #4 on the Billboard albums chart and remained in the top 10 a week later. When Fat Joe wanted to remix his hit "Lean Back," Mase was the first person he called to contribute 16 bars. Kanye West did the same for "Jesus Walks."

  Kanye West
"Jesus Walks"
College Dropout
"You know that's my favorite rapper, and when he hit that, 'Jesus, Jesus walks with me' — aw, come on, man!," an exuberant Kanye West says about working with Mase, before dropping several lines from various Welcome Back tracks: 'With a fist-tight flow/ With a wrist like, Whoa!/ What if this might blow?/ Ain't no if: I know.' That's what we listen to on tour: Mase. Aahhhh, Murder baby: back in effect."

"I pray for him every day," says Mase's friend Lil' Kim. "I just recently saw him and he hugged me for 20 minutes. I just feel that although we may have certain feelings about what he is doing, no one is to judge. Even if they feel he's doing something wrong, let [Mase] take that up with God. Right now, if you hear him on the radio and you don't want to listen to him, turn the station. But who's any one of us to say, 'You can't come back and do this'? Let his fans say that."

"The whole thing with Mase is that if you want to come back, come back," Jadakiss says. "There's gonna be some people that disagree and some people that agree. The music, it ain't really too hard. He ain't really contradicting [his religious beliefs] in his music."

NEXT: 'If you're used to seeing Batman and Robin, you can't do Batman and Aquaman. You need Robin right there' ...
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Photo: Jonathan Mannion

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