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Which Rapper Had the Best Last Day on “24 Hrs. to Live”?

Revisiting the choices of six MCs on Mase’s 1997 classic

Illustration of the rapper Mase on a school bus with children Arturo Torres

This is an article about the song “24 Hrs. to Live,” which is a song from Mase’s debut album Harlem World. In “24,” six different rappers—Mase, Jadakiss, Black Rob, Sheek Louch, Styles P, and DMX—offer up how they’d spend their final 24 hours if they, for whatever reason, found out they had only 24 hours left to be alive.

The whole point of this exercise is to look through all of the different things each rapper opted to do on their final day, then figure out which guy had the best final 24 hours.

Part of the reason we’re doing this is because Harlem World is approaching its 20th anniversary, and it was a great album so it should be talked about and celebrated whenever the occasion arises. Mostly, though, the idea just seemed like a fun thing to consider.

Black Rob Getty Images

The Sixth-Best Final 24 Hours: Black Rob

Rob’s last day includes: (1) avenging a decades-old robbery and a decades-old snitching incident; (2) a naked Spanish woman playing with his penis (he doesn’t say he’d have sex with her, he only says that she’d be “playin’ ’tween my legs,” which doesn’t sound all the way appealing, because what if she’s playing hopscotch or Monopoly or, oh no, what if she’s thumb-wrestling his penis?); (3) writing a note to his mother (he wouldn’t visit her because they weren’t very close, he says); (4) murdering his mother’s boyfriend by shooting him in the throat; (5) doing drugs; (6) urinating on a floor (this seems like a strange thing to just slide in there between doing drugs and murdering people); (7) taking a cold shower (presumably to help dull the effects of the drugs in his body); and then (8) spending a little bit of time with his children. He packs a lot in, but not much of seems like it’d be rooted in real joy or even closure. His is the final 24 hours I’d least enjoy trying to recreate if I found myself in the spot everyone else here is in.

Sheek Louch Getty Images

The Fifth-Best Final 24 Hours: Sheek Louch

The one part of Sheek’s day that I don’t understand is, OK, it starts with him robbing a drug connect and then killing him too (because, turns out, the drug connect had cheated him on multiple occasions). After that happens, he steals a Jaguar and then drives to the bank with the money he’s stolen, and that’s where it gets a little confusing. I’m assuming he goes there to deposit the money, but why would he do that? He mentions later that he has sex with one of the tellers in the bank vault and seems ambivalent about making a kid because he doesn’t want the kid to have to grow up without a dad like he did, and there’s no talk anywhere else of any other family, so what happens to the money?

Did he go there to set up a beneficiary of some sort? (Like, maybe he was going to give the money to a family member but that particular family member lived farther away than the bank so he just went there instead?) Did he have an appointment at the bank to do so? Did he make that call before he killed the drug connect or after? And if he didn’t have an appointment, then that means he’s going to be a walk-in, and in my experience walk-ins usually end up being at the bank for at least an hour, possibly two if the employees there are especially busy that particular day. I’m not sure. I just know spending the final hours of your life handling bank-related business is an odd choice (though not quite as odd as urinating on the floor, which is the only reason Sheek beats out Black Rob).

Styles P Getty Images

The Fourth-Best Final 24 Hours: Styles P

Styles P gets extra credit here because he says that if he were told he had only 24 hours to live, he’d go so hard that he’d probably be dead by the fifth hour (because that’s when he’d run into a police station and start shooting), at which point he would go to hell and then shoot Satan, too, which is certainly the most auspicious statement anyone makes on “24 Hrs. to Live.”

He says if he happens to make it out of the police station alive, though, then he’d just go around robbing and killing people that he hates so he can give money to his mother, which, if you squint, I suppose you can call admirable. He ends the day by telling his younger brother to “learn to the tell the future,” which is very cryptic, and he also tells him, “Fuck being violent, get stocks and bonds,” which is far less cryptic and also the most practical advice offered by anyone in the song. So that plus the killing the devil thing is enough to get him into fourth place.

(It’s fun to think about Styles P in hell with Sheek Louch and they’re discussing how they spent their final moments and Styles is like, “Well, I killed the devil. How about you?” and Sheek is like, “Oh, man. I had a really lousy time at Bank of America.”)

Illustration of DMX holding a machine gun Arturo Torres

The Third-Best Final 24 Hours: DMX

DMX is heartbreaking. He’s the only one of the six who talks very pointedly about how he has been living under the weight of mental anguish and stress and that if you told him he had only 24 hours to live, that would be good news for him because it means he won’t have to live his cursed life anymore.

He also talks about reconciling with his mother (who was depicted in his autobiography as physically and emotionally abusive), explaining to his son why his dad won’t be around anymore, and making sure his girl knows that he loves her. And those are all sweet things but also crushing things, particularly when you consider that he’s balancing all of those moments of tenderness and vulnerability by murdering dozens and dozens of people (“I’m gonna waste a lot of lives”; “C-4 up under the coat, snatch up my dog / Turn like three buildings on Wall Street into a fog”).

Mase Getty Images

The Second-Best Final 24 Hours: Mase

This is Mase’s entire verse, which I am transcribing because it is beautiful:

Yo, I’d turn out all the hoes that’s heterosexual / Smack conceited niggas right off the pedestal / I’d even look for my dad that I never knew / And show him how I look in my Beretta, too / I’d do good shit like take kids from the ghetto / Show them what they could have if they never settle / Take every white kid from high class level / Show ’em what Christmas like growin’ up in the ghetto / Teach niggas how to spend, stack the rest / Give blunts to the niggas under massive stress / Give every bum on the street cash to invest / And hope Harlem World blow up be my last request

This is a super-solid final 24 hours. Six things that should be highlighted:

  1. Mase spends a far larger percentage of his time performing community service than I would have anticipated. (And certainly far more time performing community service than I would have, which would have been somewhere close to zero hours.)
  2. I don’t know why it’s so odd to me that Mase points out that he’s going to have sex with “heterosexual” women. I’m not sure if that’s a very advanced move (like the time he rapped, “Yo, I can’t get mad cuz you look at me / Cuz on the real, look at me” on a song called “Lookin’ at Me”) or a very unadvanced move.
  3. The thing about him taking kids from the ghetto and showing them a different world is a cool thing. Lots of times, kids in those situations don’t know that all of the other stuff out there is even out there. Just letting them see it can be a very empowering thing, and that’s multiplied further if they get to see someone who looks like them in that spot. I remember back when I very first started teaching, we had this “Career Day” at school where people from different professions would come to our campus and go from class to class talking about their jobs. One of the people that came was Joey Guerra, the music critic for Houston Chronicle, the daily newspaper in Houston. He spent all of his time talking about how his job was to listen to music and interview musicians and go to concerts and then write about it. My students were mesmerized. After he left, they talked about how they didn’t even know that was a job someone could have. I was like, “Shit, man, neither did I.”
  4. The thing about him taking affluent white kids on a tour of the ghetto is funny, but only if you picture it like he’s driving them on a school bus and it’s a field trip. (Also, did Mase actually accidentally invent those “ghetto tours” here?)
  5. It’s very sad that Mase would have to spend a portion of his final day on earth trying to hunt down his father.
  6. It seems like Mase wanting to teach his friends how to spend their money wisely is at odds with Mase handing out stacks of cash to homeless people, because that seems like probably the worst investment plan I have ever heard. I might be wrong, though. This might be another instance of Mase being very advanced.
Jadakiss Getty Images

The Best Final 24 Hours: Jadakiss

Of all of the final 24 hours on “24 Hrs. to Live,” it’s Jadakiss’s that is the most balanced and well-rounded and fulfilling. He starts out by eating some food he likes and drinking a drink he likes (“I’d probably eat some fried chicken and drink a Nantucket”). Then he stops off for some potent weed (“Then go get a jar from Branson”). Then he makes sure that his kid is going to be cared for after his death (“And make sure I leave my mother the money to take care of grandson”). Let me say that Jada deciding to eat and dabble in his vices before getting around to taking care of his child is the most relatable thing I have ever heard in a rap song.

Then he serves some comeuppance for a long-held grudge, gets a haircut (he’s the only one who mentions getting a haircut, and getting a good haircut is probably one of the four best feelings a guy can have, so that’s how I know that Jadakiss is more insightful than most people), makes some phone calls, does some shopping, takes a couple of shots on a basketball court (an absolute must), has sex, and then, just because it’s funny, buys a lottery ticket. He touches on literally all the best parts of being alive.

Jada’s final 24 hours is the best final 24 hours.