Master P has been in and out of the spotlight in the years since his days as the head honcho and Tank Colonel of No Limit Records. Recently, with the help of D.C.'s Fat Trel and Atlanta's Alley Boy—two street rap hardheads with aggressive styles—the rapper/producer/entrepreneur has been going through something of a renaissance.
His solo record Al Capone and subsequent follow-up with Trel and Alley Boy, Louie V Mob, are some of P's strongest releases in years, even if they're more modest accomplishments than those of No Limit's heyday. P definitely seems re-energized by music in 2013, excited about upcoming artists and the sound he pioneered that, he argues, is back again.
Interview by David Drake (@somanyshrimp)
Can you tell me about the process of recording Al Capone?
Music, for me—you go through a feeling. You go through that era when you get it. And I feel like that niche, that swag came back to me, where I could compete with this generation and time of music. A lot of people go by what they did in the past. When music comes to me, I want to deliver it. I feel like me listening, getting out and understanding the culture and where the music’s at right now, [the music] went right back to my time. I think that a lot of people are remaking my old songs and putting a lot of Master P in their records.
I was able to deliver it and have a good team around me: Fat Trel, Alley Boy, the Louie V Mob. And the music went back to real street music. That era is where it’s street, but it’s club. It has that bounce and that whole club atmosphere in the music. That’s what I’m good at. The young boy I had producing my records, Young Bugatti, he went hard, Deezle from New Orleans went hard and 1500 [or Nothing]. With those three, they gave me the sound I needed, so it put me right back at the top of my game. And now I have like 100 records done already.
I think that a lot of people are remaking my old songs and putting a lot of Master P in their records.
How did you meet the producers you used on Al Capone?
Deezle is from New Orleans. He’s been in California making music, and when we connected, it was just like getting back with your homeboy. He had that heat. Young Bugatti, this kid’s in the 11th grade but he's got grown people music. Being able to find the next new superstar on the production side, I feel I found a jewel, somebody [with whom] we could get it, together.
The music just came together. I met him in the studio a couple of years ago with one of my other homeboys, and I just liked what he was doing. It didn’t matter how old he was, like "you too young," or whatever. This man’s sound is up-to-date. It has that Southern type of vibe, with 808 drums, and it's what's in the club right now. And 1500 [or Nothing] is known for making big records. They made Game, T.I., Chris Brown, and Rihanna [beats]. They have a lot of big records under their belt.
Do you draw inspiration from Fat Trel and Alley Boy, now that you’re working with them?
They definitely gave me my youth back. Being around them, and being in the zone that they’re in, they remind me of myself. These are two young cats who work hard. We use the studio like the gym. It’s not like we come in here to play, we come in here to work. We consider ourselves the Big Three. You have an OG and two young shooters that really understand the music business. I gave them the blueprint, and there’s not no regular artist around here, these are my partners.
Alley Boy got his company Duct Tape, Fat Trel has Slutty Boyz Music. So this is for real, we’re business partners and that’s what we’re going at with this generation. This is a more digital business now, and [you should] be able to control your rights and your destination [without] nobody to sit over you, A&Rs telling you what to make. We aren’t playing that kind of game. Then I’m able to reintroduce some of my older records with them, which reintroduces myself to this market, but also introduces them to a fan base that has a history of hit records. I sold 75 million records and to be able to combine the two generations together, it’s history in the making, twice.
How did you first come across Fat Boy and Alley Boy's music?
I discovered them late. It was already brewing out there on the streets and I just felt like they didn't have somebody to actually stamp them as artists. I feel like we’re all misfits. Either people are crazy to deal with you or they can’t see the true talent that you have. That’s what makes you a diamond in rough and I seen them as being diamonds in the rough. That same swagger, that same hungriness and grind to be successful. But they just need the right coach. I feel like Phil Jackson with two superstar players. Coming out to the streets, I think that there’s no bigger team than us. Now, with the stuff we’ve been through, the people we’ve lost, the family members and friends we lost, to be able to put that in your music? People could really feel it. The authentic-ness. They come from the ghetto and they want to change their [lives].
I sold 75 million records and to be able to combine the two generations together, it’s history in the making, twice.
That’s what made me really like them too. Not only coming from the streets—and they lived the rough life—but they wanted out, and they wanted to make a change in their [lives]. I don’t mind helping somebody that wants to make a change or make a difference. Who's out there ready to do it, and be ready to work 24/7. Not just talking, but actually trying to get better and motivated to be the best. Everybody got a time. I just realized that sometimes in life, you can look at something and somebody else can’t see my vision is bigger than a lot of other people's. Somebody might say, “What do you mean that’s going to be a nice house over there?” I’m already planning it, and I’m already seeing these are going to be some of the biggest artists in hip-hop. We believe in each other.
Looking back on your career, do you have a major regret? Is there one thing that you wished you’d done differently?
I wouldn’t say I’ll try to change my life for other people. I know I went through a growing process to where you feel like, “You know what? You going to do this, you’re not going to do this, you’re going to give this up.” But like they say in the Bible, sometimes you have to go with your God-given talent and you have to do what’s best for you. That’s one thing that I can look at in my life and say, "I got to do what’s best for me, and I can’t keep stopping my life for what other people think," because people are going to think what they are going to think, no matter what I do.
I can do good for all the kids across the world. I could help people. But they’re always going to go back to, "He made it from being an "Ice Cream Man"' and they are not going to let that change, so I might as well use that to be the best person I can be. So I’m growing. At the same time, I can do what my God-given talent is, and that’s this music and being able to speak to these street kids. And to be relevant, I can speak to them even more. Knowing that now I’m doing me, I really feel good about myself.
When you first hit the scene, No Limit did 75 million in sales and basically took over. Then it seemed like within a year or two, it disappeared. What do you think was the real cause of that coming to an end?
Everything has its time. Somebody else had their time before me. It was the Geto Boys and N.W.A. Some music is timeless, but as an artist, you have a certain amount of years. You've got to develop new production, and that’s why I have younger producers. You have to be able to think about the future, you can’t just think about now. In the hip-hop business, people only think of the now. If you look at a corporation, they’re already prepared for when this slows down: How am I going to have the next, best technology? And I don’t think music companies are doing that. They go with who’s the hottest artist in the game right now.
Two or three years from now, they won’t be, unless you get out and prepare yourself with the next sound, because you don’t know what the next sound is going to be. The sound changes. The reason I’m able to get back into this now is that the sound has gone back to Down South street 808s, bouncy beats and catchy hooks in music. One time, there was an East Coast flow. It wasn’t about the music. Then it was a West Coast, riding sound. So everything in life has its time period, and you have to go back and revisit stuff. That’s why I don’t care about what I did 10 years ago. You have to be able to sell music for the now. Your swagger has to be up for right now and that’s the page I’m on.
Everything in life has its time period, and you have to go back and revisit stuff. That’s why I don’t care about what I did 10 years ago. You have to be able to sell music for the now.
I don’t sit back and dwell on the past like, "Oh yeah, we did this and we sold 75 million." What can I do to build my library up like that now and build my team? Let them be motivated by what I did in the past, but we can surpass that if we work harder. We aren’t in this game to player hate, we want to celebrate who’s in the now, right now, and figure out what's our niche next, to be able to take over this game again. I feel like 10 years ago, we had a movement. Now, we’re in the revolution with No Limit Forever.
What other contemporary artists are you listening to now?
I’m listening to E-40, I’m listening to Chief Keef, I’m listening to T.I., I’m listening to Rick Ross, I’m listening to A$AP Rocky. There’s a lot of great records out there. I’m listening to Gucci Mane.
Whose career are you most proud have been a part of? You’ve worked with so many artists and were an A&R basically for so many artists over your career.
Beyoncé. I gave them one of their first hit records. I’m definitely proud of them. To watch where she's at, it’s amazing knowing that this was the same girl that was in my basement at my studio looking for records, and now she’s able to reach her dreams.