If you’re an avid fan of the Dirty South, chances are you’ve followed the rise of Master P. The 43-year-old rapper, basketball player and entrepreneur had an incredible run with No Limit Records, building his empire on the West Coast before relocating to New Orleans where things really took off. During the early 1990s, P gained notoriety with his group TRU—which consisted of his brothers Silkk The Shocker and C-Murder—and blew up even more when “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” had the rap game on lock. Local stars like Mystikal, Kane & Abel and Mia X—as well as Snoop Dogg, who became No Limit’s marquee artist—supported his reign in the late 1990s. From the 2000s until its disbandment, the label produced over 50 albums with classics like Ghetto D and Only God Can Judge Me and showed P’s grind never stops.

No Limit’s successful years changed hip-hop in many ways. The fan's loyalty to the brand played a big part, especially because they did little to market or promote their product. P believed in quantity and large numbers, which resulted in a cult following for their catalogue. The military theme with their patented Golden Tank, NBA analogies and Master P's handiwork was all they needed to thrive.

Nearly 14 years later, The Last Don is still in hustle mode. Backed by a new army with rising talents like Alley Boy and Miss Chee, P plans on making the return of the Ice Cream Man a huge moment in 2014 we’ll never forget. To celebrate his impact in hip-hop, we asked P to share the stories behind 10 of his best songs. No Limit forever. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)

“I’m Bout’ It, Bout’ It”
Album: True (1995)

Master P: When you in a ghetto—that’s me. When you hear “Bout’ It, Bout’ It,” I have something to prove to the world. I lost so many homies to the streets, so once I put the music on, that record just came out. I’m in the middle of the projects in New Orleans. I got a chance to put what I am doing on record and that’s what came out. That energy. I wanted to represent where I am from. Who I am. My homies, my hood, and also the world. That record at that time—people wasn’t into the South like that. You had to be from the West or the East Coast to get that type of a fanbase. That record caught on on the East Coast. Caught on in the West. Caught on in the Midwest. It got people up out of they seats because people wanted to represent where they was from. I think that’s what that record did for the world.

I was born in New Orleans, but I grew up in Richmond, Calif. I had the best of both worlds. I learned that Bay Area hustle life. Independent life. And I learned the street life that I was able to take from New Orleans growing up. I went from one project to another. You know what I'm saying? I just put it all in my music, man, and represented. I represent both sides. I was able to market myself on the West Coast and the South, which was incredible for me as an artist.

I couldn’t put everybody on that I wanted to put on there, so "Part Two" I was able to put more people on there. More cities [and] more places that represented the brand No Limit. We took it [from] a street label to a national brand. I thought doing "Part Two," I was able to show more love to more homies and more people and more states and cities that represent my brand.

“When They Gone”
Album: 99 Ways To Die (1995)

Master P: To be honest with you, that record, I had lost so many homies. You don’t really trip until you lose something or somebody gone. And then you realizing—you miss him. You know, it’s hard. How could you get through it? Just those questions that you start asking yourself when you lose somebody, especially to the streets. It’s just one of those records that just was real.

That’s the difference, I think, in this generation. That’s why people really like us and respect us. They know that we overcame the madness and they can make it. Hopefully, my life is about showing the next generation that everything that we’ve been through—if y’all put all y’all focus and your hustle on something else positive—that you could actually live through this stuff and make it out if you want to. People don’t realize, for us, it's like the movie Scarface. Al Pacino, after the movie over, he could go chill up on the beach. He don’t have to be Tony Montana. You know what I am saying?

Like with us through the music, we actually live this shit. To be able to put this in music, it makes me feel like this is our Scarface movie like Al Pacino. We could go to the beach and chill. Get the nice house. We trying to teach this generation, you don’t really want to live like this, 'cause the people that really live like this, they don’t want that life. You’ll be foolish to make it past this and have to go back to that life. If you really lived that.

I put it all in the music. Everytime I was able to get an opportunity to go in the studio, I was putting out records every other week 'cause I know I'm thanking the man up above that I’m free. I’m living. And now, I am just going to put this in the music. I’ma tell my story. That’s what life is about. That’s what keeping it real is about. This generation don’t really try to keep it real. They be the toughest guy in the world. It’s about respecting and getting that respect. When you get respect, you getting it.

“Playaz From The South” Featuring Silkk The Shocker & UGK
Album: Down South Hustlers: Bouncin’ And Swingin’ (1995)

Master P: Being able to put the South on the map. Talk about what we do. Playas from the South. Gs. We actually getting money. We ain’t sitting around. We the upfront in this business now. You look at all the East Coast artists from Jay Z to whoever. They was behind us. They was trying to get verses from us because they know we had it on fire. It’s funny that everybody get their time, man. At that particular time, I had the South on the map. People wanted to be like us. People wanted to do music with us. 'Cause we overcame that adversity to where rappers from the South don’t make money. They rap a little bit and get a little hook, but they aren’t making no money. We changed the game by showing the world that, “Man, we getting money.” We can buy what we want, we can do what we want. That was a long time waiting.

We was country, let’s be real. They thought we was just country. They didn’t worry about [us] getting money. We exposed that to the world. Country might be gold teeth. Whatever y’all wanna say, but we getting money. We getting more money than any other artist, any other company out there in the business. Cause of the bad deals they had. They had them 10 percent, 14 percent deals. We had an 80-20 deal that was unheard of. We getting money. Y’all gotta look at us different cause we getting money.

“Mr. Ice Cream Man”
Album: Mr. Ice Cream Man (1996)

Master P: That record is about getting your hustle on. Turning nothing into something. Taking 15 cents and turning it into a dollar. We talk about the whole Ice Cream Man era. It’s just that hustle man mentality. You know, the Ice Cream Man always came in my neighborhood. He had ice cream. He made his little money and everyone loved him. I kind of patterned that song after that. Being able to be a hustler but also being able to be loved by the people in the community that’s buying your product.

My thing was to always give back at the same time. That’s what that mentality was. To be able to get my hustle on and still be able to give back to the kids and do my part in the ghetto. I used my music to do that. That’s what “Ice Cream Man” came at. Even the Ice Cream Man. He flossy. He has the nice cars. He got the women. When they see that white, they know. Okay, it’s [the] Ice Cream Man in town.

I liked what Silkk [The Shocker] did to the record too. To me, music is like a feeling. People don’t realize with me. I gotta feel a beat. Once I feel a beat, during that era and that time, I feel nobody had the sound that we had. That’s what made the music, 'cause if you look at it, a lot of South rappers were making slow music. East Coast, they was making they sound. The West Coast, they was making they sound. I thought that in our time we made music that it was fun. You could dance to it. You could go and get buck to it. You could get rowdy. I wanted to make that kind of music that give you that type of reaction that, whatever mood you feeling, you can still get down with the music. Even though it was street, it crossed over. It went from urban to Whites to Chinese to Latinos. No barriers. I think when you make a big record that’s what it does.

I think [the song] definitely got a double meaning to it. I think that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted people on the streets to want to relate to it. I want people that were in Corporate America that can relate to it. People in school. You know, anybody trying to double up or feel like they got that flavor to take their game to the next level. Everything that I do have a double meaning. They got a street appeal to it, but it’s still a regular person that is living life that can relate to it, too.

“Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” featuring Fiend, Silkk The Shocker, Mia X and Mystikal
Album: Ghetto D (1997)

Master P: It did for me just what I needed to do for right now. That record is still relevant. That’s why we calling the energy drink company Make ‘Em Say Uhh! energy drink because we able to tap into that market to where that record was just so much energy. From beginning to end, that what it was about. I started this whole soldier, military-minded type of music. When people see No Limit, they see the camouflage. They knew that’s us—even today. If somebody wear camouflage, they gonna automatic relate it to No Limit. That’s so they know that’s where that brand comes from. When you in the military, I kind of pattern that song to a drill sergeant, waking everybody up. Even to this day, it hits Whites, Blacks, Chinese, Asians, Latinos. This record just hit everybody. When it came on the radio, people got up. They ready to dance. It was phenomenal for what it did. That record keeps me going right now. I could go anywhere. Any kid, they parent, whoever. They gonna sing that record cause it is timeless. That record did what it need to do, like I say, to this day. We able to brand the energy drink company, Make ‘Em Say Uhh!, behind that record. It’s incredible.

“Ghetto D” featuring Silkk The Shocker, C-Murder
Album: Ghetto D (1997)

Master P: It was real because at the same time, this was the stuff that was getting hustlers caught up on the streets. They think they know where they going, but this the stuff that they trying to figure out. Why he go to jail? Oh, he talking on the phone. You doing this by your baby momma. They gonna come check her. I kind of looked at all the mistakes I made, what I’ve been through and kind of givin' them the game. And if you do make it, clean your dirty money into good money if you really want to get out. This ain’t gonna survive. You not gonna survive doing this. This like a temporary thing. Even though you out there hustling and you making this Ghetto D and all this stuff. But, you gotta realize, if you don’t change your mentality, this gonna be the end for you. That’s what I wanted to give off in that record.

“How Ya Do Dat” featuring Young Bleed, C-Loc
Album: I’m Bout It (1997)

Master P: When you are at that level of life and you are enjoying life, you know, how you do that there? You know what I am saying? It was just one of those records. A classic. Me and Bleed just went crazy on that record. That record another timeless record. The youngster did that record over again for 2013. Problem. People didn’t even know. They thought it was a new record. This generation. That just goes to show you, when you are making timeless music and it is party music, it’s street music, it’s crossover. That’s what makes it timeless. I mean, Bleed did his thing on that record. Me and C-Loc went in on the record. It’s a classic. It’s about enjoying life. That’s what we gave in the video. We gave it in the music. It’s a classic.

“Da Last Don”
Album: MP Da Last Don (1998)

Master P: That record you can see that I’ve been in the game. A little more growth, even though I was still in the streets. Doing my thing. Now, you can see a little more growth. Me taking over. Right there is who I am now. Being the Godfather of this. I am not trying to be what these youngsters is, but I can still do my thing with them. My big picture is being the Don of the music industry at that time. Saying right now, being a Godfather. Not bowing down to they level, but doing what I need to do as a boss of all bosses. I think that’s what I was getting into. You know, it’s time to get out here. I’ma do my thing, but its a bigger thing for me if I am going to make it to 2014. I’m going to make it into the 21st century what I am doing now. I had to start getting off in the other things. I had to start exploring.

People don’t realize, music has a timing thing. I feel like, right now, like a basketball player that got hurt. That went to rehab. I was able to preserve my legs and now I am about to come back and get at ‘em again. I ain’t gotta dunk no more, but I know I can shoot threes. I might as well stay out there and shoot me a couple of threes. I’m good. I could get 40 points a night just by shooting threes. You know what I am saying? I ain’t have to hurt my body as much because I know the game. That’s what being a Don and being the Godfather, the boss of all bosses right now. That’s why I know that I can add that value back into the game. Sometimes, you gotta take a time out to find yourself. To clear your head, clear your mind. With this generation now, you got so much technology to where somebody gon’ hate. “Man, why you doing this? Man, you shouldn’t be doing that.” It don’t matter. If you doing something you love and you could make money from doing it, if it is legit and it is positive, why not do it?

504 Boyz, “Wobble Wobble”
Album: Goodfellas (2000)

Master P: Let me tell you something—504 Boyz, crazy. Went in. We were like, “Man, look.” We all got together. When we came up with that record, we already knew. When me, Silkk, Krazy, all those guys got together on the record, it just came together representing New Orleans. The Ward. That’s what we wanted to do. Let the world know who we are. Where we come from. The Mardi Gras, we can put on that record. The lifestyle. That record was one of those records that made women get up and shake. That just takes the whole club era to a whole ‘nother level where the women got involved into the music seriously when that record came out.

“Two Three” featuring Rick Ross
Album: The Gift (2013)

To be honest with you, I think the world feels like [Michael Jordan] ‘cause of what I was able to do. How many people able to be relevant right now and to start all over from nothing? I just started back over just making mixtapes. I had to go back over, hitting DJs. I want people to know besides Soulja Slim. I want people to know me. Not just what Master P did 15 years ago. But I’m still relevant. I still get up in there and go hard. My swag go on. I am able to sell 75 million records and still be able to compete with this generation with the swagger. I done made over 100 and something records already this year. Just messing with the mixtapes. I’m putting in work. I really could be XXL Freshman of the Year as Master P. You know what I am saying? If I really wanted to be.

“Two-Three” is about me putting in the hard work and letting the fans know, you know, I am working. This ain’t no industry thing. You know what? This man in the gym like Jordan. Getting it up. Putting up them jumpshots. Getting it to the basket. I’m in the studio 24-7. That’s what made Jordan; he had to outwork these youngsters. That’s where I am at right now. If they working 10 hours a day, I’m working 22 hours. You know what I am saying? I’m working 22 hours. I want to know who in the studio. What they doing? What Drake doing? What Future doing? How long they in the studio? When they take they time out, they drink sessions and all that shit. I’m working. That’s how I am going to outdo it right now.

I'ma win the fans over 'cause I ain’t worried about the industry. I’m not in no industry circle or none of that shit. I’m doing this on me. I’m a loner, man. I’m a person that get out here and handle my business. ‘Cause I ain’t trying to create no negativity, no enemies. You know what? Let me get out here and put my grind on. If the radio people can’t respect that, if the club DJs can’t respect that, then fuck it. I'ma go straight to the Internet anyway. The times had changed. I’m getting 25 million downloads in that shit now 'cause I am hitting the people. I go out and do concerts and they singing records word for word. The song that I got on my new album Return of The Mr. Ice Cream Man I feel a hell of a record with me and Rome. “Real Since Day One.” We’ve been real. Me, Rome, C, Silkk. That’s what we putting it out there. We got this No Limit shit. We got this TRU shit. We gon’ hold us down. This on us to do this.

That’s what people gonna respect. How hard he work? What he doing now? Yeah, we appreciate what he did, but you gotta realize this generation of music and music buyers, they get shit like that. It’s disposable to them. They want it right now. They forget that they got so much shit right now in the library that they can’t even remember. You gotta be on your shit if they can really remember you.