Mase Is Big, But Not Necessarily Notorious

The young rapper with the chart-topping album tries to distance himself from B.I.G.

Hot new hip-hopper Mase won't be filling the considerable shoes left empty

when the Notorious B.I.G. was slain by a still-unknown gunman in Los Angeles

on March 9 of this year.

Not because he can't, but because he doesn't want to.

"You get tired of hearing that," the 20-year-old rap star said on the phone

from his hotel room in Minneapolis, Minn. "I'm not trying to stand in

Biggie's shoes. I'm not trying to live anybody else's life. Biggie got

killed living that life, you know. If you think about it, why would I want

to?"

On his hit full-length debut Harlem World, Mase addresses these

charges right off the bat on

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"Do You Wanna Get $" (RealAudio excerpt), the album's first full-length

track. Toward the end of the song, the heavy beats mellow a bit as Mase lays it

all out in his best Biggie-esqe mush-mouth style: "The moral of the story is/ I'm

not here to replace Notorious/ I'm just a young cat trying to do his thing/ Harlem

World style/ Pursue my dream."

"Harlem World is all about me doing my thing," the former SUNY

Purchase point guard said. "People know me from the stuff I did with 112,

Biggie and Puffy [rapper, producer Puff Daddy], so I wanted to make sure that

my album represented who I was and where I was from."

Largely recorded at Daddy's House, Puff Daddy's Harlem-based recording

studio, the album allows Mase to branch out a bit by having tracks produced

by the hotter-than-hot Puffy as well as an assortment of Bad Boy producers and

the man he originally sought to guide him to the top, Jermaine Dupri. However,

Harlem World is unmistakably a Bad Boy product, with samples from

Isaac Hayes, Teena Marie and Kool and the Gang, among others, serving as a

back drop for Mase to display his lyrical skills.

"Everyone out there has their own style and Puffy has his," Mase said of

the producer's critics. "There are a lot of styles out there and, basically, people

make a choice."

Mase was also quick to point out that Puffy was performing a

public service of sorts. "Let's say you got someone from 1980 who ain't had a hit

in a long time. You take their track, you do something with it and the next thing

you know, they're millionaires! Is that wrong? How is that bad?"

While Mase takes pride in the entire album, he does have a few favorite tracks.

In addition to "Lookin' At Me" and "Cheat On You," Mase took a moment to

explain how the philosophical "24 Hours To Live" stood out from the rest. "It's

the most creative song I've ever heard," he said of his collaboration with the

rappers Lox, Black Rob and DMX. "It's like, I could of done this on my own and

just showed you what I was thinking, but instead I've got some other guys in

there telling you what they would do as well. If I did it on my own," he continued,

"people would be at me again with the Biggie thing. 'He's trying to be like Biggie

'cos Biggie did Ready To Die.' And it ain't even like that."

While some rap fans would disagree with Mase's claims that he's not trying to

be the next Notorious B.I.G., Joshua Pugh, an 18-year-old hip-hop head and

student at Indiana University, supports the young rapper's point of view. "I do

not feel that Mase is trying to fill any position that may be 'vacant' due to the

death of the Notorious B.I.G.," he said. "He is just trying to show his stuff in the

rap industry and Bad Boy records, along with Puff Daddy as the producer, is the

best way for Mase to be exposed to the public."

In fact, Biggie's death in some ways made things a lot more complicated for him,

Mase said. "When Biggie passed on, I had to go back and change all my shit,"

he explained. "Everything had changed. Biggie was Bad Boy and Bad Boy was

all about Biggie."

According to Mase, a planned collaboration between the two rappers had to be

scrapped and lyrics were reworked to reflect the changes in the organization.

"It's like a family. Without him there, everything was different and Harlem

World had to reflect that," he said.

Currently on the Puff Daddy and the Family "No Way Out Tour," a tour which

also features such chart toppers as Jay-Z, The Firm and Lil' Kim, Mase indicated

that his days of guest rapping on other people's tracks were behind him. "I don't

have anything like that planned down the road," he said. "Right now, I'm just

grateful and thankful for what I've got." [Fri., Nov. 21,

1997, 9 a.m. PDT]