The Loneliness of the Long-Winded Rapper

Blackstreet and Funkmaster Flex guest.

Apparently unaware that stars who retire before being drummed out by the

listening public usually come crawling back, Ma$e has declared that

Double Up, his second album, will also be his last. He's said

that he wants to leave the back-stabbing world of the music industry in

order to follow God, go back to college and lead a simpler life.

In the meantime, he leaves us with an 18-track album packed with signature

Bad Boy hip-hop: a few samplecentric, radio-friendly songs padded by

more hardcore songs for those who prefer mean muggin' to dancin'. The

bouncy club-ready songs ("Get Ready," "No Matter What" and "Do It Again")

sit alongside roughneck anti-playa hater songs like ("Same Niggas,"

"Blood Is Thicker" and "Fuck Me, Fuck You").

The fact that the album is dominated by songs about violence and

hedonism might provide some clue as to why Ma$e has decided to move on

to holier pursuits. Between songs about popping bottles of champagne and

worrying about who has whose back, Ma$e has been living on and rapping

about a steady diet of nothing. Who could argue with his quest for more

substance?

All the pop-rap numbers are fun enough and have grooves guaranteed to

move, but none except "Get Ready" [RealAudio excerpt]

(featuring a nice Shalamar hook) and "No Matter What" (based on a tight electro-funk loop from Gary Numan's

"Cars") are memorable beyond their running length. The lyrics in the

songs about double-crossing and looking out for each other, meanwhile,

are worded and delivered with surgical precision. Just one of many

examples: On Harlem World's "Feel So Good," Ma$e bragged about

getting oral sex from women who once wouldn't have given him a second

glance. On "Same Niggas" (RealAudio excerpt),

he complains about the exact same thing. Exhibit B: Harlem World's

hardcore anthem "24 Hours To Live" gave four rappers a chance to ponder

their last day on earth. Double Up's similarly hardcore "From

Scratch" (RealAudio excerpt)

provides four rappers' perspectives on how they'd live their lives over

again if they had the chance.

When Prince shelved The Black Album just before its release in

1988, he did so because he thought it was too sexual and mean-spirited

to be remembered by should it be his last album. This is Ma$e's Black

Album, and by releasing it, he seems to be hoping that people will

recognize the error of his ways and follow him down a path that's better

lit.

For what it's worth, The Black Album kicked ass. And so does

Double Up.