The ‘90s rap scene is often defined by the East-West Coast “beef” and untimely losses of rappers 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. While groups like Geto Boys and Outkast worked to establish respect for the South in the rap game, Master P and his label No Limit Records created a blueprint that forever changed the business aspect of the hip-hop industry.
Master P is the definition of ‘seizing the opportunity’, investing a $10,000 malpractice settlement check into what would eventually become one of the most iconic record labels and movements in music.
After moving to Richmond, California to escape the rigors of New Orleans’ Calliope Projects, Master P opened the ‘No Limit Record Shop.’ Master P established a local following by supporting local Bay area artists’ before selling his own music out of the store.
From there the No Limit Records label was born, as Master P sold records out of his store, introducing the world to his brothers (Silkk The Shocker & C-Murder) along with a plethora of Bay Area artists.
Upon moving back to New Orleans, Master P revamped the No Limit brand and sound, bringing in artists like Mystikal & Soulja Slim and in-house producers Beats By The Pound.
The No Limit rise and fall helped to establish dos and don’ts for artists and labels alike.
During an interview with DJ Vlad in 2014, Master P declared the label sold 75 million records – and it’s hard to dispute the claim.
In order to truly appreciate the success, you have to understand the engine behind it. Master P was able to negotiate a distribution deal with Priority Records, a label built on backing street artists. The unprecedented “80-20 deal” gave P the rights to all of No Limit’s masters.
Once the label took off behind hits like ‘I’m Bout It, Bout It’ and “Mr. Ice Cream Man”, music from the No Limit camp kept coming. Master P used his platform to propel his artists, appearing on tracks and dropping his signature “Uhh!” adlib.
Offering fans lengthy albums with 20-plus songs gave the consumer more bang for their buck, as Master P spared no expense on features. Outside his own artists, big names like UGK, Jay-Z and Big Pun were brought in to appeal to different fan bases.
From 1997-2000, No Limit released more than 50 albums, with a considerable amount going Gold or Platinum without singles or video.
Master P used his fame to expand the brand, selling everything from clothes to toys. The No Limit CEO inked a shoe deal with Converse before stepping on an NBA Hardwood. Master P landed a tryout with the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors, and played multiple preseason games with the Toronto Raptors in 1999.
Long before Jay-Z created ROC Nation Sports, Master P signed Heisman Winner Ricky Williams right out of Texas University to No Limit Sports Management in 1999. NBA star Paul Pierce was also signed, making an appearance in the 504 Boyz “Wobble Wobble” video.
No Limit’s street reputation was one of the key factors in landing Snoop Dogg after he left Death Row Records, providing insurance against Suge Knight. The Long Beach legend dropped three albums under the tank, each selling more than a million copies.
Master P’s eventually moved to the big and small screen, creating successes like “I Got The Hook Up” and the “Romeo!” show with his son, Romeo.
As the 2000’s began, No Limit’s popularity waned as artists and producers like Mystikal, Snoop Dogg and Beats By The Pound signed elsewhere.
No Limit went through several name changes, before settling on No Limit Forever Records in 2010 as sales continued to plummet. Eventually Master P turned to mentoring artists like Washington D.C.’s Fat Trel.
The No Limit blueprint can be seen today, in independent artists like Nipsey Hussle and Young Dolph.
Long live the Tank.