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Former rapper preaches to Jamaica congregation

“Reach the heart and save the soul.” Rom. 10:9

That quote from the Bible is written on the rostrum at the Tabernacle of Prayer in Jamaica, from which the former rapper known worldwide as Murder Mase delivered a stirring sermon on the superficial offerings of worldly lives, and on his conversion to Christianity.

Pastor Mason Betha, as he is now known, presented his new persona to an overwhelmed audience on April 11, more than two years since walking away from the glamorous world of rap music to the “contentment” of Christianity. Preaching to a standing-room-only audience, the two-tiered building was rocked with applause, shouts, and constant spiritual outbursts from the congregation. Betha delved into his past making known that he is a changed man.

Like the Rev. Run before him, of the hip-hop pioneer group Run DMC from Hollis, Mase has moved on to the church.

“That was Mase,” he said, the name he used while ruling the stage of hip-hop. The new person he said, is no longer interested in the life of sex, women, and drugs. “I am a happy man, I feel joy knowing that I have laid those ways to rest,” the audience lapping up every word. But the spoken word is not strange to the former Bad Boy label recording artist.

Discovered in 1996 at a music conference in Atlanta by rap mogul Sean “Puffy” Combs, Betha shot to hip-hop prominence, and to the top of the popular American music charts, with his debut album, “Harlem World.” The album spawned such hits as “Been Around the World,” “Can’t Nobody Hold me Down,” and the popular “Mo money, mo problems.”

He followed up a couple years later with his sophomore recording, “Double Up.” The album coughed up a number of mediocre releases, among them, “Oh Daddy.” The song had lines like, “According to mother/if you wanna know if your girl loves you/all you gotta do is make her suffer.”

Not as potent as its predecessor, it also ignited rumors that the triple platinum rapper was parting ways with the enigmatic Combs. It was also during this period that he made mention of his plans to serve the Lord. According to reports, after one of his sexual escapades, the following morning he decided church would play an important role part in his life.

Betha, 24, is now doing what he feels is right. He runs his Atlanta-based Saving a Nation Endangered (SaNE) Ministries. “I gave up all the cars, jewelry, women and anything that reminded me of my past,” arousing yells of agreement from the mostly African-American audience. He criticized the young men for wearing their pants below their waist line, and the pride they take in wearing earrings, and doo-rags.

Speaking in his typical no-hurry slow-flow retarded rap style, he touched on social ills that are absorbed by the young people in today’s America. His message was clear: Repentance. “You need to change your sinful ways, and turn your over life to the Lord,” he admonished youngsters who are still looking in the wrong places for a substantial life.

And the step from the mainstream of popular culture to Christendom is nothing new to entertainers. Al Green, Dionne Warwick, Little Richard and MC Hammer are among the celebrities who have undergone a religious transformation.

Betha, who is married, lives with his wife Twyla, in New Jersey, and Atlanta.

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