It's obvious that Ma$e felt at home on the "RapFix Live" couch during Wednesday's "Big & Best of 2012" edition of the show, because when the rapper-turned-pastor sat down, he told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it came to his laborious dealings with Bad Boy Records.
After revealing that he was finally released from his stymieing 16-year contract with the label that Diddy built, Ma$e shared the story of how his demo became the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy's platinum debut album, No Way Out.
"We just put our heads together and Puff said he was gonna be the artist," Ma$e explained to Sway. "I stayed in the studio, helped write and he came up with the records. He wanted to do the records that I wrote and he just started rapping on 'em and then he said 'I'ma put you on the record with me,' so that's how it happened.
"Everything I had for myself that was like my demo, that became his album," he continued. "Then I was thinking, well, 'how can I do it again?' He worked with me to become the artist that I became, doing Harlem World, so it was just a collective effort."
The rapper, born Mason Betha, rode shotgun while Sean Combs successfully made the switch from producer to rapper on his Billboard chart-topping opus. One of the most commercially viable singles on the album, "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," became Ma$e's coming out party. It was the song that took the Murda out of Murda Ma$e.
"Before I got signed to Bad Boy, I grew up listening to Snoop and Tupac and my hood was all Tupac driven," Ma$e said. "I was such a hardcore rapper and then when I got with Puff, he was like, 'I already got Jadakiss, I already got the Lox, I already got Biggie. I don't need any more hardcore rappers.' So I was like, so what am I gonna do? They call me Murda Ma$e. He was like, 'we gon' lose the Murda, we gon' clean you up, we gon' get your hair cut, we gon' take that hoodie off and I was thinking, what would that look like?"
After the song became a homerun hit on radio, it was time for the visuals. The clip, directed by veteran auteur Paul Hunter, showcased Ma$e as an MC that was more likely to dance around in shiny suits and rock presidential Rolexes than spit hardcore rhymes in a hoodie. But according to the "Feel So Good" MC, doing the jig was all Puff's idea.
"We got in the first video and he started dancing and everybody was just standing there thinking, what are we doing? Like no, what are you doing? He was dancing around me and everything," Ma$e said. "This was 'Can't Nobody Hold Me Down,' so they was blowing smoke and we got on all white. I made a mistake and cut too much of my hair off, so I was having a real bad day and then he just kept dancing and I remember Groovy Lou came in and said, 'Man, hit this, you need to loosen up.'
"I was sitting there thinking, man, he's really dancing on this," he continued. "He was really going, so I was like, man, I can't let this dude show me out. I know how to dance. That's how it all started. And then it worked so well, that I was like, wow, I know a few more moves than that. So then we started dancing in the videos and before I knew it, we were falling out the sky and flying."
The Harlem spitter went on to drop his debut, the multiplatinum Harlem World, that same year (1997). Two years later, Ma$e released his sophomore LP Double Up, but right before the album dropped, he announced his retirement from rap. He later returned to the mic in 2004 with his Welcome Back LP, but his comeback was short-lived as his contractual obligation to Bad Boy prevented him from pursuing other deals, like the one presented to him by G-Unit CEO 50 Cent.