It’s hard to believe that No Limit Records’ stronghold on the rap game was 15 long years ago.
Some of you might be too young to remember No Limit’s heydey, but in the late '90s, Master P and his legion of soldiers ruled rap with an iron fist. From 1997 through 2000, the label dropped 51 albums, making Master P hip-hop’s ultimate hustler. It seemed as if everything he touched turned to gold. But music wasn’t enough for the budding entrepreneur, as he expanded his empire to hawk movies, sneakers, clothes and toys.
No Limit dabbled in professional wrestling (for the WCW), started a sports management agency (15 years before Jay-Z), and P even attempted to play in the NBA. And to think, this all started from a $10,000 insurance settlement check from P’s grandfather.
But while the outside ventures brought in beaucoup bucks and helped elevate the brand, P’s bread and butter was always the music. Thanks to artists like Snoop Dogg, Mystikal, Silkk The Shocker and P himself, the label was able to sell over 80 million records worldwide. And thanks to his monumental distribution deal with Priority Records—where he was able to keep 75% of the profits (wholesale price) for every album sold—he made an estimated $350 million dollars ($160 million of that in 1998 alone) over the span of his career. In fact, No Limit albums were generating so much income that P never had to tour—which is the way most artists today make their money.
The craziest part about the label’s success was that the sales didn’t come from heavy radio or video airplay—people were just incredibly loyal to the brand. Artists on No Limit had no promotion other than magazine ads and the tank logo and ‘Executive Producer: Master P’ tag on the back of their colorful albums. Obscure artists like Skull Duggery, Full Blooded and Mercedes sold hundreds of thousands of units based on their Percy Miller cosign alone. It was a craze.
As the 2000s rolled on, America’s tastes in music changed, and the Tank was no longer the force it once was. It appeared the label had done so much that they’d hit a ceiling. Production troop Beats By The Pound, the outfit who created the No Limit sound, left the label, and upon their departure, many of No Limit’s blue chip players followed suit. Lil Romeo became the label’s biggest star, and No Limit’s commercial appeal came to a halt.
During No Limit’s rise to the top, the label dropped some incredible music, and sadly their contributions to hip-hop are often overlooked. Master P changed the way music was marketed, packaged and sold, and does not get the credit or respect he deserves. Unfortunately, much of their back catalog is out of print and only a few of their albums are available on iTunes or Spotify.
There is a silver lining for No Limit fans, however, as 2013 finds Master P in the midst of a comeback, having aligned himself with Fat Trel and Alley Boy to form the Louie V Mob. So in honor of P’s contributions to the rap game and recent resurgence, we bring you The 25 Best No Limit Albums. It will make you say UHH!
Written by Andrew Barber (@fakeshoredrive)