The first rapper to make $100 million, the first rap star to retain full ownership of his masters, Percy “Master P” Miller pioneered the artist-as-businessman prototype so prevalent in hip-hop today. After turning his Bay Area retail shop No Limit Records into an independent label in the early 1990s, P moved his operation to his native Louisiana and, with a distribution deal through Priority Records, established a gangsta-rap dynasty that had the whole world saying his trademark “Ugghhh!” In 1998, he earned an estimated $56.5 million, which landed him in the top 10 of Forbes magazines’ list of highest-paid entertainers of the year.
This past May, P announced he’d formed Take a Stand Records, a clean-rap label intended to shed a positive light on hip-hop. Coming on two decades in the game, the 38-year-old mogul tells us all ’bout it, ’bout it.
I always thought I was gon’ master whatever I do in life. That’s why I call myself Master P. And I always thought it was no limit to what I could do… I always thought of being unique, and I think that’s what really drew a mass amount of people to what I did. If a kid didn’t get nothing else from me, they could see that I started off in the project, and then every time they see me, I was tryna do some type of business or grow. I think a lotta kids could really look at the blueprint and say, wow! The kids seen the type of money that you could make off the sound that I created, which was more of a rowdy, jump around in the club. I kinda took the whole military thing from my grandfather. That’s what the “Ugghhh!” come from. It was street music, but it was also feel-good music. That’s why it crossed over to suburbs, to the hoods, to just anybody. With me making songs like “Swamp Music,” that made people understand that it’s cool to be country and you could be from the streets and tell your story.
I come from the projects, so my people was about working. They wasn’t about sitting around for a welfare check. So I just took that as a challenge: My parents are hard workers, but we still stuck in the ghetto. I just can’t get no regular job. And I was like, I’ma just start putting my story, everything I done been through, my family, my friends in this music… Being in the Bay Area half of my life—my mom lived in Richmond, Calif.; my dad lived in New Orleans—I was able to do like a South/West vibe. The Bay Area was big already from sellin’ records in they market—E-40, Too $hort—so it just put me up on my game. I didn’t know nothin’ else but: Make a couple CDs, go out and sell it on your own. Then I opened up a record store in Richmond, which was No Limit Records.
XXL Staff Picks for 1998
Songs of the Year:
“Déjà Vu (Uptown Baby),” Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz
“Get at Me Dog,” DMX
“Victory,” Puff Daddy and the Family featuring the Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymese
“Money, Power & Respect,” the Lox featuring DMX & Lil’ Kim
“Make Em Say Uhh!” Master P
“Money Ain’t A Thang,” Jay-Z featuring Jermaine Dupri
“Nann Nigga,” Trick Daddy
“I’m Not a Player,” Big Pun
Albums of the Year:
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill
It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, DMX
400 Degreez, Juvenile
Hard Knock Life: Vol. 2, Jay-Z