C-Murder: Rapper Lives His Lyrics
An Entertainment Empire
Within a handful of years after forming his company, Master P had become the dominant player in the hip hop genre. His label was "seemingly able to mint millionaires at will," according to New Orleans Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera, as he elevated members of his stable from obscurity to superstardom. No Limit rappers like Mia X (Mia Young, the "Queen of Hip Hop" who Master P discovered working at a New Orleans neighborhood record store while collecting $155 a week on welfare), Fiend (Ricky Jones) and Mystikal (Michael Tyler) were cranking out million-selling albums, as was Master P himself, while rival labels began stagnating.
A major coup was scored when former Death Row mainstay Snoop Dogg (formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg) joined the No Limit roster in 1998, leaving Death Row near death. The June 20, 1998 issue of Billboard, the music industry's bible, listed 11 CDs bearing No Limit's tank logo in its Top 100 R&B listing of bestselling albums. Soon No Limit artists were starring in MTV music videos and feature films.
By the end of the decade, with a diversified portfolio and business interests expanding into movies (he appeared in a dozen of them), music videos and video games, shoes, clothing lines, talking dolls, paid phone cards, a sports management agency (New Orleans Saints' top draft choice for 1999, running back Ricky Williams was one of his clients), real estate investments and other ventures, Master P was making bigger bank than Combs' Bad Boy Records. He owned a house in Beverly Hills, complete with swimming pool and tennis and basketball courts, in the same neighborhood as Will Smith, Whitney Houston and other black entertainment superstars. He owned a second home in an exclusive Baton Rouge subdivision whose residents included former governor Edwin Edwards. His business acumen was noted at that time by a future governor, Kathleen Blanco, then serving as Lieutenant Governor, who called him "an awesome professional."
As Percy Miller, he even played a little professional basketball for several minor league teams and attended tryouts for the NBA Toronto Raptors and Charlotte (later New Orleans) Hornets. However, he was cut by the Hornets just prior to the start of the 1999 season, thus ending his abbreviated athletic career.
By this time, New Orleans was a major hub of the rap culture, with Cash Money Records and its major stars, Juvenile and The B.G., giving No Limit a run for its money. But No Limit, oblivious to the competition, forged on, minting gold and platinum records and music videos in record number for a "bull market in no-frills reality rap," in the words of music writer Spera.
Master P's generosity soon became almost as legendary as his ability to crank out hit records. He donated huge sums of money to numerous worthy causes, especially those designed to uplift ghetto kids and their aspirations. He gave generously to youth sports programs and the playgrounds (parks) on which they perfected their skills, and he donated uniforms to team members. In March 1999, he gave $250,000 to St. Monica School which he attended as a young boy and, more than six years later, following Hurricane Katrina, when the Archdiocese of New Orleans mandated closure of St. Monica Church and School, he donated another $250,000 to help keep them open. Above all else, besides the money he gave, Master P continually expressed his hopes that he could be a good role model and have a positive impact on others "coming out of the projects."
Like a good brother, Master P opened his heart and his studio to his brothers Vyshonn and Corey, offering them the opportunity to enjoy a little success of their own. They did, selling millions of records under their stage names. Vyshonn became Silkk the Shocker. Corey became C-Murder.