Mase was born Mason Durell Betha in Jacksonville, Florida on August 27, 1977. Growing up, he did not know his father. Fleeing her abusive husband, Mason’s mother moved her children to Harlem, New York, when Mason was three years old. He spent his early teen years gambling, cutting class, chasing after girls and running the streets of 139th and Lenox; however, he returned to Florida when he was 13 due to concerns he was associating himself with the wrong crowds. Mase returned to New York at age 15. Basketball was his first love. He was a star player for Manhattan Center High School—along with his close friend Cam’ron. As teens, the two dabbled in rap as a hobby, briefly forming a group called Children of the Corn (“corn” stood for “corner”). Damon Dash, a fellow Manhattan Center student, was their manager for a while before leaving to pursue another rap associate Big L. After graduating high school in 1994, Mason went to the State University of New York at Purchase in Westchester, New York on a basketball scholarship. He returned to Harlem after only a couple of semesters, intent on pursuing a career in rap. His sister Stason hooked him up with Cudda Love, a road manager for burgeoning rap legend Biggie Smalls. In 1996 Cudda took Mason down to Atlanta, where the likes of Jermaine Dupri and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs were gathering for a rap convention. Shortly after meeting and rapping for Combs at the Hard Rock Café, Ma$e signed a $250,000 deal with Bad Boy Entertainment and joined labelmate Notorious B.I.G. in building a pop culture dynasty. Within a week Mase was featured on and also was in the video for 112’s “Only You” with Biggie.
Mase released his first solo LP, Harlem World, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Pop and R&B LP charts, selling over 270,000 copies in the U.S. its first week of release; it has since gone 4x Platinum in the United States. Mase told MTV about his first solo effort: “Well, basically what I’m trying to establish is a strong identity and foundation for Mase so a lot of people could know that Mase is his own person and Mase can do other things besides rap and music and things in that nature.” Entertainment Weekly said of the album: “…creatively refreshing, well-crafted lyrics… rap’s newest bad boy more than holds his own on his solo debut… his distinctive marble-mouthed drawl… creates a regular-guy persona all too rare in hip-hop.”
Mase’s second effort, Double Up, was released in 1999 on Bad Boy Records and sold 107,000 copies in its first week, debuting at #11 on the US Top 200 chart. It ultimately reached #5. Double Up also featured more aggressive material. Perhaps no other sign was as clear as a line in the last song of the album, “From Scratch”: “If I could do it all again, I’d do it all for Christ.”
On April 20, 1999, during an interview with Funkmaster Flex on New York radio station Hot 97, Mase announced his retirement from music to pursue a calling from God. He felt he was leading people, friends, kids and others down a path to hell, stating that he left to find God in his heart and follow Him. He declared it was time for him to serve God in his way, saying rap was not real, and that he wanted to deal with reality and that he had become unhappy with what he did, no matter how much it paid. The same year, Mase enrolled as a freshman at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college, and had been taking classes at CAU since August 19 of that year. But unlike other freshmen, Mase was permitted to live off campus and commute, although he is said to downplay his past as a musical performer.
And so Mase became a pastor, and started his own church, El Elyon International Church, whose about us page states El Elyon International welcomes you with unconditional love, grace and acceptance. We are a multi-cultural and non-denominational church, presenting Bible-based teachings in relevant ways, making it practical and easy to apply. Join us as we show this generation how to achieve real success through Christ Jesus. We count it as an honor and privilege to have you as our very special guest.
After a five-year hiatus from the music industry, Mase made a comeback with “Welcome Back” during the summer of 2004. Prior to the album’s release, the rapper was featured on Nelly’s “In My Life,” as well as the remix to Fat Joe’s “Lean Back”.
Mase’s third album, Welcome Back, released after a five-year break from the rap scene, was a product of Mase’s newly developed Christian persona. Portraying a “cleaner” image during this short-lived return to the industry, Mase dubbed himself “a Bad Boy gone clean,” on the lead single, also titled “Welcome Back”. This new approach to rap was received with mixed reviews.
Mase has lined himself up for a second comeback, following the formula that worked for him 13 years ago, Mase began to appear on popular R&B artists’ remixes. In early June 2009, he was featured on the last verse of “Uptown Boy” by Harry O, which also features Ron Browz. Weeks later, Mase appeared on a street remix for Drake’s “Best I Ever Had”. Mase stated that since the death of Michael Jackson, it has lit the fire inside him and he is ready to come back.