Dear Mason Betha aka Murder Ma$e aka S.A.N.E. Minister Mason Betha aka Pastor Betha of El Elyon International Church,
I’m trying so hard not to judge you right now, but what is you doin’ man? (I’m sayin’ this Atlanta style since that is where you have lived since 1999.) I just read on TMZ that you, the pastor of El Elyon International Church, up and dipped on your congregation and returned to the “rap game full time.” Where they do that at? I knew something was up when, while flipping through television channels last week, I saw you rappin’ on some video and cheesin’ it up with your infectious smile like you did before you left Bad Boy for the ministry back in the day. And I wasn’t the only one that was confused. In a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, rapper Ja Rule—who seems to be finding his own way to faith–was asked about your return to the rap industry. According to a Madame Noire post of that interview he said, “I’m very confused by what Mase is doing. I don’t know if that’s cool or not. I wouldn’t play with the Lord like that.” Say that!
You may not care what I’m sayin’ since we’ve never met, but I want you to know I’ve been a fan of yours since “Feel So Good” was released in 1998. I still love that video! You and Puff Daddy–as he was known back then–made living in the lap of luxury look so doggone cool with your shiny silver suits, stacks of flying money and that Bad Boy braggadocio. Not to mention Kelly Price singing the hook which was obviously a sample of Kool & the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging.” But I digress.
Let me start at the beginning of the story. My fascination with you happened because of my love for Bad Boy. Puff’s “rag to riches” story still goes down as one of the best of all time. From college dropout to creating a record label in 1994 that provided a soundtrack for the ‘90s from The Notorious B.I.G. to Mary J. Blige to Faith Evans to Atlanta’s own 112 and more. It was obvious why Puff was always saying “Take that, take that.” He was servin’ up hits like he was a chef. So when I graduated from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree in 1996, I was ready to jump in and chronicle the urban music industry explosion as an entertainment journalist. Back then, everyone from Bad Boy was always in the A. I guess that’s one reason why Puffy opened up the now defunct restaurant Justin’s back in 1998. I remember clubbin’ with Puffy, Faith, and 112 pretending that I was poppin’ bottles and tryin’ to look like a model. At the time LaFace Records, which was headquartered in Atlanta, was also blowin’ up so I didn’t even have to leave my hometown. In fact, anyone who was anyone seemed to be moving here, it was like entertainment heaven!
And then I found God.
I didn’t mean to even though my father is a pastor. Actually, He found me and my lifestyle had to change. One of the drastic changes I made was transferring my love for secular urban music to the Christian hip-hop game—which is a whole other story in itself, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was still checkin’ for what was going on in secular urban music.
So when I heard that you, one of the latter artists to bask in the Bad Boy light, was jumping ship for Christian ministry, I was initially skeptical and then encouraged. It was difficult for me to turn my back on secular urban music at the time, but for you it must have been a seismic shift! So when I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution article “From Hip-Hop to God” in which Sonia Murray interviewed you in 2000, I saved it. (I still have it, it’s right beside me on my desk as I write.) In the article, you explained why you left Bad Boy and the rap industry in 1999 and moved to Atlanta.
“I mean, I was corrupting young people’s minds to get that money. I was telling guys things like, ‘If you don’t have sex with at least five women a day, you’re nobody.’ Leading millions of people astray. Imagine how much more I can have doing the right thing, and serving God.”
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Jacqueline J. Holness