Back in fall 1996 I remember watching a hip hop documentary that would be considered overlooked by many called Rhyme and Reason. The Film is more of a detailed look into hip hop and focused more on everything from the underground/mainstream rappers to the 5 elements to gangsta rap and the movement of the South. Even though his segment was brief, One of the rappers that caught my attention was Master P.
Percy Miller like many rappers around that time period had big dreams and a vision. He claimed in the movie Rhyme and Reason that No Limit will be the Worlds Number #1 Rap Label. Since the South was slow-moving around that time, P went out to Oakland and lived there for a few years soaking up the Independent game and trying to find his sound. He worked with Independent Tycoons E-40, JT tha Bigga Figga and soaked up the game like a sponge.
He started by taking 10,000 dollars from his own record store and starting an Indie label called what soon would be No Limit Records and started selling tapes and cds from the trunk of his car. P gained notoriety with the releases of Mama’s Bad Boy, 99 Ways to Die and The Ghetto Tryin to Kill me which went “ghetto gold” and him keeping most of the profits.
Continuing to expand, He started to network with other West Coast artists and he would put together compilations paying homage to the West Coast titled West Coast Bad Boyz Volumes 1 and II showing his respect for the West Coast game. But it wasn’t until when Bout it Bout It started to hit the airwaves.
Bout it Bout it
Bout it Bout was a smash record in the streets and it gave P and No Limit a major boost. The strength of Bout it Bout it pushed T.R.U.’s(The group he formed with his brother’s Silk and C-Murder) album past Gold which further built momentum for his Gold selling 1996 album The Ice Cream Man. Even though the album title itself pissed off a lot of rappers(Mainly the Luniz, Dru Down, and his camp because they felt that P copied their Ice Cream man gimmick and ran with it) It did little to stop P’s Momentum. Debut albums from Kane N Able, Mia X, and the West Coast compilation went gold.
1997 Would only get better for P and No Limit. He moved back to New Orleans and really started signing new acts to his label. He went all over New Orleans and acquired the rights to artists such as Mystikal, Mac, Big Ed, Soulja Slim, Young Bleed, Mia X, Kane N Able, Mo B.Dick and many others. Since P moved back, He decided to change his whole sound, style, and added his trademark sound(Ugggh!) so he wouldn’t look like a West Coast biter. Beats by the Pound deserves all the recognition in the world for adjusting from the West Coast Mobb style beats to the Southern fried production on TRU 2 Da Game and Ghetto D(Which both went platinum). P wasn’t the best rapper in the world but he made up for it by sticking to the gangsta topics mixed with social commentary which pleased gangsta rap fans after Death Row faded out.
1997 was a great year for P and 1998 would only get better for No Limit. 1998 would mark the year that No Limit would officially peak. Master P’s Ghetto D hit platinum with his mega selling single Make Em Say ugh, Albums such as Mystikal’s Unpredictable, Silk Da Shockers Charge it 2 the Game, C-Murder’s Life or Death, Mia X’s Unlady like, along with efforts from Magic, Soulja Slim, Young Bleed, and Mac went Platinum or Gold. P used alot of his industry muscle and shockingly signed Snoop Dogg to No Limit after he was held in contractual slavery to Death Row.
P was smart enough to strike while the iron was hot. He started his own clothing line, Sporting agencies where he temporary managed Ricky Williams, No Limit Communications and formed his own movie company. The results were P ranking 10th on the Forbes list of America’s earned Entertainers of 1998.
P would release what would be his final album before retiring(Which was a farce) titled the MP Da Last Don which would be the highest selling album of his rap career. The album while did monster numbers and was the perfect icing on the cake for P’s success wasn’t as good as its proceeders. The album showcased P at his most confused as a artist and you could easily tell he was running out of things to talk about . One minute he tried to emulate Scarface, then he tried to emulate Tupac on many songs and the results was a very unfocused effort on the musical side.
With No Limit taking off to the next level, Another New Orleans based label was starting to take off at its own. Baby and Slim’s Cash Money Record made major headlines by signing one of the biggest distribution deals in 1998 with Baby and Slim being able to keep about 85% of the profits. The label was making alot of noise on the streets while No Limit was taking off and made a huge splash with Juvenille’s Debut album titled 400 Degreez. What made people fall in love with Juvenille and Cash Money was the fact that their sound(thanks to Mannie Fresh) was fresh, creative(no samples) and it blended perfectly with the Hot Boy$.
Obviously feeling the pressure of Cash Money’s quick rise to the top. P felt that he had to prove that No Limit was still strong. He seemed to have gotten sidetracked doing movies, running businesses and even trying out for the NBA and the music in returned suffered. The albums released in 1999 from Silk, Mystikal, Mia X,s Fiends, C-Murders, and many others didn’t do as well as their previous releases. P feeling the pressure came from his “retirement” came back a year later and dropped his solo album Only God Can Judge me which was obviously a big mistake.
As Cash Money continued to blow up throughout 1999 going into 2000, No Limit seemed to have faded more into obscurity. One of the problems was that P was trying to cut back on paying Beats By the Pound which demanded more compensation and rightfully so considering that they produced EVERY No Limit album. Trying to cut costs of the budget, P tried to produce cuts on the albums his self and it ended up hurting their sound even more.
Aside from Snoop Dogg,(Who was on his way out) Silk, C-Murder, and a few others. Most of who was on No Limit either left for personal reasons(, Mia X, Mystikal), Got locked up(Kane N Able, Mac) financial reasons(Mr Magic, Beats by the Pound) and P was left with a few so he tried to do what many would do is start from scratch, New sound, new artists, and different styles.
The first release from the New No Limit would be the 504 Boyz album titled Goodfellas which while was WAY better than anything released from the Tank in 1999 aside from Da Tru Crime Family and Snoop’s Top Dogg album still got panned hard by critics due to the consistent copying of Cash Money’s trademark bouncing sounds. Its evident on songs such as Wobble and Where You at Whodi which sounds like P trying to create his own version of Juvi’s Back Dat Azz up.
Over the decade from 2000 to now, Master P may have put out some of the most embarrassing material in all of entertainment(Da Last Don Movie, Black Superman, Hot Boyz movie) along with some very TERRIBLE albums. Even though he managed to copy damn near every style even kid rappers(Having his son Romeo compete against Bow Wow) One thing you can’t take away from him is the impact that he left into the hip hop scene, How he took 10,000 and made himself one of the richest black men in the country or even how he opened up doors for the New Orleans hip hop scene and showed that you dont have to kiss ass or change who you are to make serious moves. People who want to get into the game need to study how he made it happen.