Apparently unaware that stars who retire before being drummed out by the listening public usually come crawling back, Ma$e has declared that Double Up, his second album, will also be his last. He’s said that he wants to leave the back-stabbing world of the music industry in order to follow God, go back to college and lead a simpler life. In the meantime, he leaves us with an 18-track album packed with signature Bad Boy hip-hop: a few samplecentric, radio-friendly songs padded by more hardcore songs for those who prefer mean muggin’ to dancin’. Between songs about popping bottles of champagne and worrying about who has whose back, Ma$e has been living on and rapping about a steady diet of nothing. Who could argue with his quest for more substance?
All the pop-rap numbers are fun enough and have grooves guaranteed to move, but none except “Get Ready” (featuring a nice Shalamar hook) and “No Matter What” (based on a tight electro-funk loop from Gary Numan’s Cars) are memorable beyond their running length. The lyrics in the songs about double-crossing and looking out for each other, meanwhile, are worded and delivered with surgical precision. Just one example of the change: Harlem World’s hardcore anthem “24 Hours To Live” gave four rappers a chance to ponder their last day on earth. Double Up’s similarly hardcore “From Scratch” provides four rappers’ perspectives on how they’d live their lives over again if they had the chance. Not half bad.