"I'm not sure what kind of decisions he's going to make, [but] I would love to see him in my camp," French Montana says.
On April 17, SpiffTV Films-the production company that shoots most of the videos for Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group releases- tweeted a photo of rappers Ma$e, Rick Ross and French Montana, as well as singer Omarion and producer Rico Love, together in the studio. The picture immediately caused a frenzy online, sparking speculation that Ma$e might be making his third return to music since he announced he was retiring to become a pastor in April 1999.
A week after the photo appeared, DJ Funkmaster Flex debuted a remix of Wale's "Slight Work" on his WQHT (Hot 97) New York radio show. The remix, of Wale's fourth charting single from sophomore album "Ambition," features Maybach rapper Meek Mill, Bad Boy CEO Sean " Diddy" Combs," new Bad Boy signee French Montana and Ma$e, marking the first appearance of the Harlem rapper born Mason Betha on record since 2009. Speaking to Flex during an on-air call following the remix's debut, Ma$e didn't address rumors about him possibly signing with Warner Bros. imprint Maybach.
Ma$e has released three solo albums: his 1997 debut, "Harlem World;" sophomore effort "Double Up" (1999); and post-retirement set "Welcome Back" (2004). All three appeared on Bad Boy and have sold a cumulative 4.3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. He sent his first 10 entries on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart into the top 10.
But Ma$e's recording career has been rocky since he announced his retirement 13 years ago to pursue "a calling from God." Though "Welcome Back" delivered two top 40 hits-the title track and "Breathe, Stretch, Shake," featuring Combs-the album failed to court his once passionate fan base, selling 561,000 copies. In 2005, Ma$e surprised the industry when he joined with 50 Cent's G-Unit and appeared in the video for 50's top 20 single "Window Shopper." Despite talk of a deal with G-Unit, nothing materialized, reportedly due to Ma$e's obligations to Bad Boy.
In 2009, Ma$e confronted Combs during an on-air interview at WVEE Atlanta and asked the mogul to release him from Bad Boy, a request that Combs denied. Today, according to Bad Boy, he's no longer signed to the label. During his appearance on Hot 97, Ma$e told Flex, "I don't have no issues with [Combs]. We just get put on the other side of each other just because of history. We're probably cooler than I thought." When contacted by Billboard, Ma$e's camp deflected questions about his future plans. Reps from Maybach didn't return calls for comment.
According to Montana, Ma$e is serving as an A&R representative on Montana's forthcoming Bad Boy debut, "Excuse My French," as well as appearing on the remix of Montana's "Everything's a Go." "I'm not sure what kind of decisions he's going to make," Montana says, "[but] I would love to see him in my camp."