Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

C-Murder: Rapper Lives His Lyrics

Life and Death in the 'Hood

B.W. Cooper public housing development sign
B.W. Cooper public housing development sign

The story of Corey Miller began, like so many other rap artists, in a teeming inner city, in this case New Orleans. He was raised in a run-down, overcrowded cluster of residential buildings officially designated the B.W. Cooper Public Housing Development, but known locally as the "Calliope Project" (pronounced cal-e-ope, not ka-lie-a-pee) in the city's impoverished Third Ward. Like most of the city's projects, life in the Calliope "'hood" was tough and dangerous. Those who had very little material wealth or goods were preyed upon by those who had even less. Drugs were rampant. So were firearms. Murders and violence were commonplace occurrences, especially during turf wars over the lucrative drug trade. Many of those who grew up there pursued lives of crime because few legitimate, good-paying occupations were accessible to them. Dropout rates were high, as were rates of incarceration. Despair was the order of the day.

Against this backdrop, on March 9, 1971, Corey was born, like so many other children to poor black families, in New Orleans' Charity Hospital. His parents divorced and Corey, along with his brothers and sister, were raised by his grandmother, Maxine Miller, who they affectionately called "Big Mamma."

Like many of his peers who were also raised in the projects, Corey grew up tough and mean. An older brother, Kevin, had been murdered by a heroin-addicted acquaintance who was trying to rob him. Like many of those who he hung with, young Corey might have ended up dead or serving a long stretch in Angola (the state prison) at an early age, had it not been for the fortuitous circumstances surrounding his older brother Percy Robert Miller, Jr., better known by his stage name of Master P.

Four years older than Corey, Percy was a product of the same culture. But, instead of "going bad," Percy had lofty goals and ambitions that transcended his dismal surroundings. In less than a decade he transformed a $10,000 inheritance into a $361 million leisure and entertainment empire that employed 100 people. Fortune magazine's "America's 40 Richest Under 40" issue (Sept. 1999), listed him as No. 28 of 40 among the nation's entertainers. He earned $56.5 million in 1998 alone. His major product: rap music.

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