C-Murder: Rapper Lives His Lyrics
One of only a handful of project blacks fortunate enough to attend a private, parochial elementary school, Percy Miller went on to graduate New Orleans' Warren Easton High School and attended Southern University at New Orleans, hoping to win a basketball scholarship to the University of Houston. However, a knee injury kept that from becoming reality. He continued his higher education at a business school, Merritt Junior College in Oakland, California, adjacent to Richmond, California where his mother had moved after leaving New Orleans. Like Chicago's Lou Rawls in a previous generation, Percy was determined and talented enough to get off the "dead-end street" where he began life and make something of himself.
Upon receiving $10,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit involving his grandfather, Percy, who had aspirations of becoming either a professional basketball player (he was a 6'3" point guard) or a musician, chose the latter course. He invested his money in a record store in Richmond which he called No Limit. Selling records, at first, Percy was determined to make them as well. He diverted a portion of his profits into some rudimentary recording equipment, a sound system and a basic studio setup. He began writing his own lyrics and recording them, experiencing modest sales in the beginning that steadily grew into ever-larger profits. Taking its name from the store, the record label was also called No Limit, with an army tank as its logo.
When he formed the label in 1993, mainstream rap was dominated by Los Angeles' Death Row Records, featuring Tupac Shakur, and New York's Bad Boy Entertainment, featuring Sean "Puff Daddy" (later P. Diddy) Combs. The likelihood of a small Louisiana label operating out of makeshift studios in Baton Rouge supplanting these big city goliaths at that time would have been laughable to anyone who might have dared hint at it. But Percy Miller, by then known as Master P, was never one to let himself be limited by the odds. His choice of the label's name was deliberate. He was determined to show the world there were "no limits" as to what one could do when they put their mind to it.
Quietly cranking out a blurring succession of recordings of himself and others in his studio's stable, using Priority Records' national distribution network, Master P finally showed up in the popular radar in 1997. In September of that year, his "Ghetto D(ope)" album supplanted the far better-known "Puff Daddy" Combs at the top of the Billboard charts. It was the first time in more than 40 years that a New Orleans-born recording artist accomplished this feat, the last having been the immortal Louis Armstrong who overcame similarly impoverished circumstances in his rise to the top of the music world charts.