Most music junkies can remember the first time they were hoodwinked into purchasing a wack album. The jig can come in the form of a hit single, a powerful co-sign, or the lure of high profile guest appearances and producers. I would like to think I have good taste in music, but everyone has that small list of albums we’re ashamed we ever gave the time of day. In my case, the first entry on that list came in the form of the 1999 debacle which was Ma$e’s Harlem World collective’s one and only album The Movement.
The project was released on Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label on March 9th, 1999. Spring was right around the corner and their feel good single, “I Like It” was the perfect song play while basking in the first days of warm weather. The accompanying video was a little cheesy and over the top, but what late ’90s visual wasn’t?
At the time, I was an 11-year-old musical sponge, gravitating to any and everything that was considered dope. Being caught up in the Puffy and Ma$e shiny suit vortex like many other impressionable youths (and adults for that matter) at the time, I was all for the catchy sing-along single and intrigued by the possibilities that a Ma$e-related project could bring. So I ate it up, copped the tape (yes, I said tape) and fell for the biggest musical ponzi scheme this side of Milli Vanilli.
To put it kindly, the album sucked monkey balls.
Ma$e may have been a certified hitmaker for himself and various R&B artists, but his eye for talent was definitely impaired. Featuring Harlem upstarts Loon, Cardan, Meeno, Blinky Blink, Huddy Combs, Cardan, and Ma$e’s twin sister, creatively named Baby Sta$e, the crew couldn’t seem to make a rewind-worthy track if their lives depended on it.
The wack juice even trickled down onto the boardsmen involved with the project. The production lineup included then up and coming producers Kanye West and Just Blaze (both of whom would eventually join Ma$e rival Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records and alter the sound of rap), and established names like The Trackmasters and The Neptunes. Unfortunately, the aforementioned first ballot MPC Hall Of Fame inductees all provided tracks that stand out as low-lights on their respective resumes. Everyone seemed to mail it in with cliche sounds pandering for radio airplay*.
While Loon (who was the Carmelo of this Knicks-like stinker), Meeno, and Cardan provided an occasional standout verse, the album consisted of one forgettable track after another. The album had a two listen lifespan at best, and the second listen was only out of disbelief that Ma$e and company could drop the ball so badly . With Betha allegedly finding the passion of Christ, and no one clamoring for an encore from the mediocre ensemble, Mason’s Harlem World “movement” was nothing but a distant memory by the year’s end**.
The future was also unkind to the crew. After a failed stint at Bad Boy, Loon, whose parents were associated with Nicky Barnes, fell back into the family business and is currently serving a 14-year-prison bid on drug trafficking charges. Meeno managed to cook up a minor hit after linking up with Dame Grease’s Vacant Lot team, but the former human cannonball’s career was swiftly deaded at the hands of Hov during his classic verse on Memphis Bleek’s “Mind Right.” Cardan resurfaced on the mixtape scene, but languished in obscurity for years.
The sad thing is that with a little more fine tuning and a more focused approach, Harlem World could have turned into something viable. Each member (besides Baby Sta$e) has etched their names in Hip-Hop history, for better or worse, so it’s possible they could’ve had more to offer if giving the chance.
But the rap game is a cold one, and second chances are far and few between, So, you won’t see this disgruntled listener feeling too sorry for them. At least I opted to cop the bootleg first, so I was saved from the empty feeling of shelling out 18.99 for an all-in-one weed plate/makeshift frisbee. Pro tips, people. Pro tips.
* — We won’t put this all on the producers, as rappers have been known to pass up on otherwise monster beats in hopes of duplicating the current sound on radio, usually with cheesy results.
** — Despite lackluster reviews, the album was actually a success commercially, peaking at #11 on the the album charts and achieving Gold certification in little over a month (a majority of which we’re likely fans that were duped like me).