This 1998 Ma$e & Guru Freestyle Brings 2 Different Sides Of Hip-Hop Together (Audio)

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Six months from each other Ma$e and Gang Starr moved the Hip-Hop needle in 1997-1998. To some, that needle went in two directions. Released on October 28, 1997, Ma$e’s Grammy-nominated, quadruple-platinum debut Harlem World certified the newest Bad Boy Records superstar. On March 31, 1991, Gang Starr released its first album in four years courtesy of the gold-certified Moment Of Truth. For Heads watching the music videos, reading the ‘zines, or talking about the politics of the Rap industry, these two entities could not have seemed more apart, musically or stylistically.

Ma$e represented Harlem, just a handful of miles from Guru and DJ Premier’s D&D Studios camp-out (on the same island of Manhattan). Murda Ma$e was a poster-child for what was called “shiny suit Rap”—thanks to the Hype Williams-directed videos for Puff Daddy, Lil’ Kim, Ma$e, and others associated with the movement. Gang Starr, however, was hardcore. Songs like “The Militia” were upper-cuts of braggarts and two-steppers, as “Above The Clouds” went celestial in search of the realness. That’s how it may have seemed, anyway.

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Today (July 28), Tim Westwood shares a rare freestyle from 1998 that shows Guru and Ma$e sharing mics and rhymes, care of a freestyle cypher. Clocking in at nine minutes, Westwood shares this moment digitally for the first time. Blinky Blink (of the So So Def Records group Harlem World) also participates. Guru kicks some off-the-dome rhymes at first. Later, he hits some bars that would later appear on “The Militia II.” Ma$e follows suit, dropping bars later purposed for Harlem World’s “I Really Like It.”

At 5:00, the beats switches. Here, Ma$e rocks the “Crew Of The Year” verse, after Blinky drops his. The ad-libs get all the way out of control as the song rides out. Guru can still be heard in the background, enjoying himself with an artist who was in the spotlight.

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While Ma$e and Guru may seem distant at the time, Gang Starr retained strong ties to Bad Boy, and Jermaine Dupri (who signed Blinky Blink care of Harlem World). G-Dep, who was still unknown, would also appear on Moment Of Truth. Both of these MCs had strong personal and music ties to Big L—who, when this was taped, was alive and working on some incredible music.

As a note, it is less than a month until Puff Daddy, Ma$e, Kim, and the rest of the Fam’ hit the road on US tour dates.