Cam’ron and Mase: how two rap legends became US sports’ unlikely hit

The Harlem rap vets behind It Is What It Is are breathing fresh life into a hoary format with their chemistry, editorial freedom and unpredictability

TV sports talk in America is a broken record. Every day brings the same warmed-over topics (Dallas Cowboys), the same personal triggers (LeBron James), the same stale mix of sportswriters (Skip Bayless) and ex-jocks (Michael Irvin) shouting over each other across the basic cable divide. Only one show manages to cut through the noise without really raising its voice.

In late February an online-only production called It Is What It Is premiered on YouTube to little fanfare – a jarring setup for two hosts who are so far from understated. On one side of the dais, there’s Mase (government name: Mason Betha), the shiny suit-wearing star who hijacked the pop charts in the mid-90s with the Notorious BIG. On the other there’s Cam’ron (Cameron Giles), the neon-palette style icon who went platinum with Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella team. The notion that two rap legends from Harlem could settle into fresh careers as hot-take artists is a twist few would’ve seen coming in 50 years of hip-hop.

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