BK Nation: You both are stars in your respective fields. What does that feel like? How do people react to you, when they realize the father-son connection?
Tre Mason: It’s pretty crazy. I don’t go around telling people who my dad is. When they find out they trip out. One of my new teammates found out. When I was real little I had no idea who my dad was. I would hear music blasting in our basement, but I had no clue. When I got older and went on the road with my dad I realized it was big, who he was. But it did not really hit me until these past few years in college, meeting my football fans who were also De La Soul hip hop fans.
Maseo: I have to agree with Tre. It is very surreal. My own son? This doesn’t happen every day. For it to happen to me I am still pinching myself. I am very excited and very, very happy. I would come up to Tre’s high school in Florida and parents would not know who I was. Majority thought I drove a truck for a living. Everyone assumes your situation. Just based on how I dressed for the games: jeans, tee shirt, fitted baseball cap. I kept it really low for a long time. Until the HIP HOP HONORS happened in New York and De La Soul was one of the awardees. I needed my family there to support me. Tre had an important game the next day. I went to the school to say I needed Tre with me in New York City. Even Tre wanted to stay because he had a football game the next day. Luckily we found out Tre could play if he got back by a certain time. So Tre flew up for the awards and came right back the next morning for the game. That is when the cat was completely out of the bag. Here he was becoming a frenzy in his high school years, but now the school also suddenly knew who I was too.
BKN: Maseo, you are obviously a hip hop legend and pioneer. What did hip hop and music teach you about fatherhood? And what did you learn about fatherhood from your own life growing up? Was your dad there for you?
M: To be honest, nothing in hip hop taught me how to be a good father. What has helped me was not having a father in my life. There are two surrogate fathers I had: my cousin Junior and my cousin Al. Al passed away two years ago. They were my fathers throughout my life, because they were the two guys I could go to and open up to. Junior I could talk with, and the way Al ran his family I admired. Al was actually a stepfather to my cousins. Just admirable that he helped to raise my blood cousins even though they were not his biological children. He ran a strict household, making sure the kids were handling their responsibilities. They were punished accordingly and they were rewarded accordingly. Al was everything to me. Al was the one who kicked my ass when I got into trouble (laughs hard). The ass-kicking was out of love. (more laughter)
BKN: Tre, how did you view your father growing up, and how do you view him now as a grown man about to start a career in the NFL?
TM: I still view my dad the same—as my dad. I never got caught up in anything else. My dad made me who I am today. Nothing was ever given to us on a silver platter. We had to work for everything we wanted. The one message he told me—not sure if I ever told him: It would be great to be paid doing what you love to do. I am going to pass that on to my kids.
M: What is the motto Tre? Go hard or what?
TM: Or go home. No matter what you are doing. Playing ball, I am going hard.
BKN: Many out there are not fortunate to have fathers, or father-son relationships. What advice do you give to those who do not have dads actively engaged in their lives?
M: Coming from me who did not have their father all I can honestly say is pay attention to the ones who do care. We call them surrogate fathers, like I said before. If an older man expresses concern about you, a lot of young men will take the attitude of ‘you are not my dad.’ But these men do care if they are talking with you, so be more open to an elder statesman, because they can see a potential in you that you may not see in yourself. This is coming from someone who has been there and done that.
BKN: And what advice do you give to dads who have not always been there for their children?
TM: You should not think about quitting on them or quitting on anything you do. Think about who is watching you. That affects them a lot more. Do not quit on them, because your kids are watching you. If they have kids later on it will be in their minds not to be there either.
M: It could go either way. They could emulate a behavior they saw previously from their dads. I think I am a part of the small percentage that go the other route, and are there for our kids. You have those cats who go ‘I ain’t shit because my daddy ain’t shit.’ That is prevalent and that mindset needs to change. To break that cycle men do need to be in their children’s lives. Never too late. It only becomes too late when someone actually dies. Everybody yearns to have not just their dads, but their parents, in their lives. Look at Jim Jones. I have watched his reality show with his lady and his moms. A lot of dysfunction, but also there is love. Jim Jones genuinely loves his moms against all odds and you can see his yearning for his mother.
TM: What I learned a lot is my dad is my role model. He taught me a lot about how I want to be remembered. He has helped me to know what to do financially. He has been through fame and fortune, now it’s my turn. He coaches me up with my character, with my money. What is my legacy going to be? My father told me all a man has is his name and his word.
M: I just found out who my father was last year. The week he died was the week we did a DNA test and it came out 99 percent that he is my dad. I still feel weird about it. One chapter over and a new one started. So very tricky words to me, role model. I think we are forced to take on roles. At the end of the day everyone is a role model. Just depends on what role you choose to play. I do not look to be positive, I look to be honest. I will be perfectly honest with you: My kids know I smoke weed, but Tre knows as an athlete that is something he cannot do. So he has to make choices for the life he wants to lead. As a ballplayer that is something he cannot do. I am not the hypocrite to say, ‘I do, but you do not do it.’ I say, understand the consequences. Who am I to tell my kids not to have fun when I was their age I had all the fun in the world? When you love your family you never stop giving advice. And you never stop telling the truth. That is what a real father is to me.