This is a story of different journeys of two artists from two different eras but how there are still similarities between them.
One is a story of false starts and unmet potential and the other is of a bonafide superstar.
Before gangster rap there was party rap and the king of that sound was MC Hammer.
Though criticized Hammer was a rapper when an immense dancing ability and thrived fully.
Starting independently he hustled from selling 60,000 records out the trunk to a deal with Capitol.
Hammer has been successful since his first major release.
Similarly to Jesus Walks Hammer’s biggest hit was a religious record.
Sampling Prince’s When Doves Cry Hammer released Pray.
Unlike his most popular song U Can’t Touch This, Pray was a single hitting #2 on Billboard Hot 100.
Hammer was so popular he had his own cartoon Hammertime and opened the door for crossover with endorsements with national brands like KFC and Pepsi.
While he hails from Oakland Hammer has been friends with Suge Knight since 1988.
When his career slowed down he aligned with Death Row but he released his fourth release under Giant Records.
The Funky Headhunter saw a shift in sound.
This was a Hammer that was vengeful, he embraced the popular sound of G-funk and went on to diss everyone from newcomers like 3rd Base to legends like Run DMC.
In 1995 Hammer was officially signed to the controversial Death Row.
In response to the shock and hate MC Hammer reminded the public of their ten year friendship while Suge Knight focused on the unity of California.
During this time he became close to superstar rapper and actor Tupac Shakur who ended up featuring and writing for Hammer’s planned release Too Tight.
But after the death of Tupac Hammer left the game to become ordained as a minister.
After the death of Tupac there was heartbreak from the rap game and a focus on a new sound.
Bad Boy reascended to the top of the rap field with Biggie prepping for his second album, Life After Death.
At this time Mason Betha was a member of a Harlem rap group, Children of the Corn with Cam’ron and Big L.
After being convinced by Puff Daddy to sign to with Bad Boy instead of Jermaine Dupri Puff decided to introduce Ma$e with a softer image.
Speaking on this time where he transitioned from a hardcore rapper Mase rapped “I was Murda,
P. Diddy made me pretty”
Ma$e boasted on the Honey Remix that he made his label their money back and he didn’t even drop his first album yet.
The line could be seen as just stunting but the claim could be seen as believable.
From his first feature on 112’s remix to Only You he was on a tear being not only featured on Biggie’s instant classic Life After Death but also on Puff Daddy’s No Way Out each become multi platinum classics.
Mo Money Mo Problems & Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down both hitting #1 on Hot 100 and was nominated at the Grammys in 1998.
When Ma$e finally dropped his debut album Harlem World was a smash from the beginning.
Going on to sell four million copies this album was universally loved.
It went on to be nominated for Best Rap Album at the 1999 and his single Feel So Good was nominated for Best Video at VMA that year.
He was on top of the world in the his rap category and similarly to MC Hammer he began to make his way to mainstream.
He signed to Magic Johnson Management and was mentioned on Moesha while dating Brandy.
He was featured on the Rugrats soundtrack with his brother & All Out member Blinky Blink.
While he was at the pinnacle of his career Mase left the rap game to become a minister.
In his book Mase talks about going to the altar and seeing that he was leading people to hell through his music and was mentored by Creflo Dollar even preaching at the World Changers Church.
The heart change affected Mase and instead of finding a happy median in his new faith and his career he sacrificed the sells of his second album.
With him unwilling to properly doing promotion and even turning down lucrative tour dates Double Up sold a disappointing amount of records only being certified Gold, a huge drop from his multi platinum debut.
The similarities are two urban rappers surpassing their circumstances and each went into minister at different times.
But the differences are more fascinating to me and not just the individual success of each rapper but their progress of careers.
While Hammer joined Death Row on a downturn when he joined he was coming off a Platinum release when Mase returned after a 5 year hiatus during which he was a minister in Atlanta.
After releasing a comeback album on Bad Boy Mase began aligning with G-Unit leader 50 Cent.
Most famous for getting shot nine times then selling 10 million albums.
The alliance was seen as highly unusual as Mase went from telling women to keep their clothes on and that he was done with groupies as he was in a faithful marriage to going back to his Murda Mase persona.
He was sounding like he did before he signed to Bad Boy and 50 Cent envision this as a way to bring Mase back from only selling Gold with Welcome Back to reaching Platinum status like he did with Harlem World.
This was faced with backlash as fans were confused about Mase, who was still a pastor at the time, and his motivations.
He showed his loyalty to G-Unit by appearing on mixtapes, magazine covers and donning the medallion giving to G-Unit soldiers.
During this time he allegedly told Young Buck he wanted to stab Fat Joe, who was a rival to 50 Cent.
Neither MC Hammer or Mase released albums under their new alliances.
Though Mase was never officially signed to G-Unit he appeared on the Get Rich or Die Trying Soundtrack and released a G-Unit mixtape.
MC Hammer was featured on a number tracks with Tupac and fans could find the unreleased tracks on YouTube.
Each man’s legacy is readily solidified in the rap game.
MC Hammer’s lyrical references are mainly refereed to his loss of 30 million but also Fifth Harmony recently his Pumps and a Bump record.
Though criticized for his endorsements as selling out Hammer opened the door for rappers to see money promoting brands.
Hardcore reality rappers Ice Cube, Biggie and Tupac all benefited in turn endorsing St. Ides and even more with Sprite targeting rappers like Nas and Grand Puma for their Obey Your Thirst campaign.
Kanye West and Mase in 2004. Kanye produced Welcome Back Remix for Mase during his comeback with Bad Boy Records. Kanye previously produced for Harlem World’s All Out album
Mase’s legacy is lyrical references to him being a rapper turned pastor.
Though he introduced Cam’ron to Biggie and taught Jim Jones how to rap his biggest impact was him inspiring artists.
Harlem’s own A$AP Mob from Rocky to Ferg has credited Mase as an influence and French Montana went as far as announcing Mase would executive produce his debut album.
He was recruited to MMG by Rick Ross and was featured on Wale’s Slight Work remix.
Drake and even his old rival Jay-Z has quoted his memorable lyrics from his guest verses.
Kanye produced three track off of Harlem World’s The Movement album which also featured production by The Neptunes and another up-and-comer engineer turned producer Just Blaze.
Kanye has repeatedly said Mase was his favorite rapper and even produced the remix to Welcome Back and featured Mase on GOOD Music’s Cruel Summer album.