In the latter half of the ’90s, Harlem’s Ma$e could do no wrong. He signed with Diddy and murdered just about every track he made an appearance on, causing little debate as to who the game’s hottest rookie was, especially after his classic debut album, Harlem World, dropped. While fans ate it up (it went four-times platinum), according to urban lore one disgruntled listener was less than pleased and caused a world of trouble for the young Bad Boy emcee.
Baby Maine, a Uptown hustler (and also Max B’s cousin) from Harlem’s Lincoln Houses, befriended Ma$e during Ma$e’s rise. Maine served as a respected ally and allowed Ma$e the ability to roam the ‘hood with relative ease. But things turned sour after Ma$e, known for lyrics detailing his lady thievery, snatched a cookie from the wrong jar: Baby Maine’s.
On the track “Jealous Guys,” an ode to those envious fellas in his old ‘hood, he takes a jab at an unnamed dude, hilariously crooning:
“Now would you be mad if I gave back your girl
Or would it still be a problem with the entire Harlem World
At first you were singing that she was your ex
But you was ready to kill me when you found out we had sex
When I came and told you the deal
You wouldn’t admit how you feel
Now you know your girl love me
Why can’t you just let it be.”
To the general public those lines were just entertaining. But people in the know attributed it as a shot at Maine, whose baby’s mother allegedly had relations with the local rap star. Maine, who had a thirst for catching wreck, took it as disrespectful and let the ‘hood know that it was “open season” on Ma$e and his affiliates.
Soon after, Maine robbed a member of Ma$e’s All Out Crew for his chain during a basketball tournament, intending to terrorize the rapper. Ma$e attempted to squash the beef, but Maine, from Harlem’s east side, started beefing with Ma$e’s guys on the west side, deciding to make an example out of the star. That continued pressure allegedly caused Ma$e to flee to Atlanta out of fear.
As the beef with the other side continued for Maine (he was eventually murdered as a result), Ma$e began to have a change of heart about the rap game. He abruptly announced his retirement prior to the release of his second album, crediting a new-found spiritual purpose as the reason. Time has made those claims seem disingenuous at best*, but if he had consulted with God before alluding to philandering with a gangster’s wife in a song, maybe he could have kept spreading the Harlem World gospel.
* — It seems pretty convenient to continue a rap career now that the dude who scared you sh*t-less is out the picture.