— Almost 2 decades ago, DJ Clue? made his leap from the streets to the record label with the release of his star-studded debut album, The Professional.

Many of us can still remember a time when music wasn’t so accessible and musical products themselves were much more tangible. While today you can instantly stream or download just about any music that you want, things weren’t always like this. Artists found themselves creating projects on an incredibly tight budget, often over the course of months. Crews hit the corners to distribute mixtapes like the Sunday newspaper. And, Hip-Hop connoisseurs were in the streets sniffing out the hottest new product like shameless dope fiends. So, during the ‘90s, when Hip-Hop was receiving more admiration that it ever had before, DJ Clue? mastered a formula that made him one of the first and few DJs to take his talents to the record label.

DJ Clue Presents ‘The Professional’

On December 15, 1998, DJ Clue? released The Professional through his newly founded label, Desert Storm Records (a subsidiary of Roc-a-Fella and Def Jam). Prior to this release, DJ Clue? had become one of NYC’s top DJs due to his prominent street-level mixtapes featuring exclusive tracks from Hip-Hop’s biggest names like Mobb Deep and even Notorious B.I.G. However, once given the opportunity to deliver a studio album, DJ Clue? significantly stepped his game up while still providing quality exclusives that folks on the block can appreciate.

The list of featured acts on The Professional is absolutely insane. In some cases, you get hit with excessive firepower on tracks like “Fantastic 4” featuring Cam’ron, N.O.R.E, Big Pun, and Canibus. A young Fabolous continues making a name for himself on “That’s the Way” and “If They Want It”. Missy Elliot, Nicole Wray, and Mocha set things off with “I Like Control”. Jay Z and Ja Rule join forces for the smooth cut “Gangsta Shit”. Mariah Carey even got a skit. The remaining roster includes DMX, Drag-On, Eve, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Jadakiss, Styles P, Nas, Nature, Boot Camp Clik, M.O.P, Memphis Bleek, EPMD, Lord Tariq, Made Men, Redman, Flipmode Squad, Foxy Brown, Mase, Keith Murray, Raekwon, Big Noyd, and Mobb Deep.

As of 2001, The Professional has been certified platinum by the RIAA with over 1,000,000 records sold in the United States. Still, those numbers alone can’t sum up this project. This album is a piece of history – as all albums are. However, this is one where you can see where so many different artists were at a particular time in history as well as their chemistry with each other – all in one place.

Check out the full project above.

Written by DJ Robinson

– After the passing of Notorious B.I.G, Bad Boy Records had big shoes to fill. However, the release of Harlem World back in 1997 showed that Mase was the right man for the job.

Mase originally rose to fame as a member of the Harlem hip-hop group, Children of the Corn alongside Cam’ron and Big L. However, following the death of 2 group members, including its founder, Big L, Mase signed to Bad Boy Entertainment. Soon after, Mase received widespread attention from his appearance on Notorious B.I.G’s hit single,“Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” and the rest was history. Mase soon became Puff Daddy’s new protégé as he began to promote Mase as Bad Boy’s main attraction.

On October 28, 1997, Harlem World was released and was an immediate success. The project was #1 on the Billboard Pop and R&B LP charts while also selling 270,000 copies in the U.S during its first week. Harlem World also included quite a few hits such as “Feel So Good” (U.S. #5), “What You Want” (U.S. #6), and “Lookin’ at Me” (U.S. #8).

While it’s clear to every hip-hop fan that Notorious B.I.G was an irreplaceable talent, it is also easy to understand how Mase became Bad Boy’s next leading artist. His smooth and laid back delivery joined with his clever and eloquent lyricism was reminiscent of B.I.G himself – not to mention, Mase’s flow matched perfectly with the R&B-esque production style of Puff Daddy and his production team, The Hitmen. Besides Puff, other Hitmen Producers who worked on Harlem World included Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie, Carl “Chucky” Thompson, Nashiem Myrick, Carlos “6 July” Broady, and Stevie J. Dame Grease, Jermaine Dupri, and the then unknown Neptunes also contributed to the album’s production.

If Mase’s own lyrical ability and the all-star production lineup wasn’t enough to make Harlem World an instant classic, the list of featuring artists definitely did the trick. That list includes Jay Z, Monifah, DMX, The Lox, Kelis, 112, Total, Black Rob, Lil Kim, Busta Rhymes, Kelly Price, and even 8Ball & MJG — just to name a few.

Although Mase’s initial exit from hip-hop was unexpected and his following releases became more sporadic, he has still managed to put his own stamp on the game. Mase is among the few rappers who have been able to collaborate with as many other legendary artists as he has. As a hip-hop fan, there’s simply no way to escape Mase’s entire catalogue of music despite how small it may be. Then again, why would you ever want to?

Check out the full album and “Feel So Good” music video above!

Written by DJ Robinson