"There's nothing in this world that can separate me from what I believe / From what I've achieved / All of this is because of Him / and I'm telling you now / As much as y'all don't want to hear this / I can do nothing of myself / It's all through Him, all through Him / So all around the world, you don't need to know success until you know Him / and Him is Jesus"
—from "Gotta Survive."

When rapper Mason "Mase" Betha hung up his microphone and headed for the pulpit back in 1999, nobody believed he was for real. Who would have? The emcee had sold more than four million copies of his 1997 debut, Harlem's World, and almost every single he touched with his suave rhyming finesse immediately turned to gold. He was the Prince Charming of hip–hop, whether he was dropping thugged–out club anthems alongside benefactor Sean "Puffy" Combs or flowing smoothly atop R&B jams with tons of for–the–ladies appeal.

This resilience plus his status as hip–hop A–lister made it harder to believe that God had chosen to knock him off his horse and put him on the road to Damascus—one that took him to seminary, eventually earning him the title of honorary Doctor of Theology. For a while, Betha took a hiatus from the musical spotlight, opting to focus on his spiritual growth. For a time he even stopped going by "Mase," saying it reminded him of his sinful past. He went on to lead a nondenominational congregation called S.A.N.E. Church in Atlanta, where he's currently head pastor.

So what prompted Betha to return to hip–hop? "When I left, it was because of God. And when I came back, it was because of God," he told Vibe recently. "If I want to tell somebody something, I don't print it in a newspaper they ...

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