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)
25. 504 Boyz, Goodfellas (2000)
24. Magic, Sky's The Limit (1998)
23. Big Ed, The Assassin (1998)
22. Various Artists, I Got The Hook Up Soundtrack (1998)
21. Kane & Abel, Am I My Brother's Keeper (1998)
20. Mr. Serv-On, Life Insurance (1997)
19. Various Artists, Down South Hustlers: Bouncin' & Swingin' (1995)
18. Mia X, Unlady Like (1997)
Best Songs: "4Ever True," "Mama's Family," "Party Don't Stop," "All Ns"
The Biggest Mama, professionally known as Mia X, was the undisputed queen of No Limit Records. P’s G.I. Jane, if you will. Mia added a female touch to many of the No Limit classics, and more often than not, outshined her contemporaries. But don’t let pretty face and sweet voice fool you: the self-proclaimed “Ghetto Sara Lee” was every bit as ‘bout it as her male counterparts on the Tank.
In the late 90s, female rappers were defined by their looks and sex appeal, but Mia was able to become a force on pure skill alone. She could sing, she could rap, and most importantly, she could hold her own on a track overcrowded with hard heads. For a while, she was the lone female voice on No Limit, and she held P and the tank down loyally from the very beginning.
Her No Limit debut, Good Girl Gone Bad, dropped in ‘95, but it was her sophomore set, Unlady Like, that was her true coming out party. Complete with a big first single featuring the then-red hot Foxy Brown (“Party Don’t Stop”), Mia balanced raw and gritty war stories with radio-ready records like her remake of Salt-N-Pepa’s “I’ll Take Your Man,” which featured the duo.
Unlady Like would later strike gold, leading Mia to high profile gigs like the Five Deadly Venoms’ Sprite campaign. Mia’s been relatively quiet over the past 15 years, but on Unlady Like, Mama Mia played Mother to the No Limit roster, and they all showed up to support. It was a TRU family affair.
17. Snoop Dogg, No Limit Top Dogg (1998)
Best Songs: "Down 4 My Niggaz," "Bitch Please," "Just Dippin," "My Heat Goes Boom"
When Snoop escaped Death Row to enlist with P and No Limit Records, it was one of the biggest stories in music at the time. Snoop was still one of the most popular artists in hip-hop, but the negative reviews of Tha Doggfather, coupled with the negative energy surrounding Death Row, had the Dogg reevaluating his career.
Many believed P’s army was the only faction big and powerful enough to keep Snoop safe from a less-than-happy and then-incarcerated Suge Knight, who seemed hell-bent on sabotaging Snoopy’s career. So Snoop did what any smart businessman would have done, jumping ship from the former hottest record label in rap, and aligned himself with No Limit, the hottest new label in rap music.
Snoop headed down south, but left his original sound behind in Cali. He traded in g-funk for southern fried funk, abandoning the west coast bounce that made him a superstar. But while Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told was highly anticipated and commercially successful, it was panned critically because of his departure from the g-funk sound. In hindsight, the album was pretty great, and featured some of the best production Beats By The Pound ever cooked up, but at the time the world wasn’t ready such a drastic change.
Taking the criticism constructively, Snoop went back to the drawing board for his second No Limit album, No Limit Top Dogg. Beats By The Pound showed up a few times, but the album was a true return to form for Snoop. West coast heavy hitters like Dr. Dre and DJ Quik shaped the sound of the album, which was the perfect precursor to Dre’s 2001 project, which dropped just a few months later.
Snoop’s next album, Tha Last Meal, was just as dope as No Limit Top Dogg, but was almost 100% west coast-influenced. Top Dogg, on the other hand, did a great job of balancing Snoop’s Cali roots with the No Limit sound, something that was very important for him at the time.
16. Fiend, Street Life (1999)
15. Mystikal, Ghetto Fabulous (1998)
Best Songs: "That's The Nigga," "Ghetto Fabulous," "I'm On Fire," "Round Out the Tank"
After the success of his 1997 No Limit debut Unpredictable and his scene stealing verse on “Make Em Say Uhh!,” Mystikal became the most popular No Limit soldier not named Snoop or Percy. In fact, Mystikal outshined almost everyone on any song he guested on—and at the end of the century, everyone from Busta Rhymes to Naughty by Nature to Outkast were calling for features. Jealousy of Mystikal’s popularity must have run rampant at the Tank.
Ghetto Fabulous was a defining moment for Mystikal’s career, and despite having no major song or video in rotation, the album moved an astounding 400,000 copies in its first week on shelves. It was one of the only No Limit releases that featured big name guest appearances from outside the label (Busta Rhymes, Naughty By Nature), and would go on to sell well over a million copies. It was clear Mystikal’s starpower was beginning to outgrow No Limit, as the emcee was ready to transcend from just a rap star to a full blown pop force.
Ghetto Fabulous would be Mystikal’s last album on No Limit, as he dropped the Tank logo from his remaining Jive Records releases. It is, however, hard to believe Mystikal only released two albums while on No Limit, because his influence on the label and their popularity was so overwhelming. Mystikal’s next album, Let’s Get Ready, would go on to be the biggest release of his career, selling over two million copies and spawning his two biggest singles to date, “Shake Ya Ass,” and “Danger (Been So Long).” But Ghetto Fabulous was Mystikal’s last great moment on the label that thrust him into the mainstream spotlight. The title couldn’t have described the album more perfectly.
14. Silkk, The Shocker (1996)
Best Songs: "The Shocker," "Free Loaders," "No Limit Party," "If My 9 Could Talk"
Much like Devin The Dude was simply Devin prior to the release of The Dude, Silkk The Shocker was just known as Silkk in 1996 (the Shocker was later added after a dispute with R&B quartet Silk). Silkk had been introduced to the world via his older brother Master P, who always kept Silkk in the pocket for features on many of P’s singles. P saw the appeal of his baby-faced baby brother and instantly began pushing him as the heartthrob of the No Limit army. But the heartthrob title and mainstream crossover wouldn’t come until a few years later, as Silkk’s first release was 100% hardcore gangsta rap.
The No Limit roster was relatively light at the time, and The Shocker only featured first generation soldiers like Mia X, Big Ed, Mr. Serv-On and Skull Duggery. No Limit dropped Silkk’s debut on the heels of Master P’s insanely popular Ice Cream Man album, just as No Limit began taking over the South and Midwest. The album was a mild success, but it definitely prepared the world for Silkk’s chart dominance and commercial success that would ensue just a few years later. The album had a definite Cali influence, but is one of the most cohesive of the NL catalog, and arguably Silkk’s best work.
13. Soulja Slim, Give It 2 Em Raw (1998)
Best Songs: "From What I Was Told," "At The Same Time," "Get High With Me"
When Soulja Slim made his debut as a signed No Limit rapper on the I Got The Hook Up Soundtrack, he boasted “From what I was told/Niggas say I’m a hit No Limit like Pac hit Death Row/And make some money out the asshole.” It was a bold statement for an unknown artist. But what the general public didn’t know was that Soulja Slim was regarded as the 2Pac of New Orleans. He talked it like he lived it, and was 100% street certified.
Hailing from the NO’s infamous Magnolia Projects, Slim first cut his teeth at Parkway Pumpin’ Records (where many future No Limit stars would get their start) alongside KLC, with his first-ever No Limit Records appearance being a slot on the Down South Hustlers compilation under the moniker Magnolia Slim in 1995.
Magnolia Slim dropped a few super indie projects on the Parkway imprint, and spent the next few years in and out of jail. Once Slim became a free man, P, seeing Slim’s influence on the streets, quickly inked him to No Limit and repurposed him as Soulja Slim. His NL debut, Give It 2 ‘Em Raw, was completed and rushed into stores, landing on the Billboard charts at No. 13. Reaching that high on the Billboard charts as a No Limit artist wasn’t at all uncommon, but Slim had little to no promotional push, and he wasn’t one of the most well-known NL soldiers.
Slim’s tenure on No Limit only lasted two albums, as incarceration and disputes with P halted his output, and Slim left the label in early 2002. Slim hit the indie circuit with Years Later... and was quickly scooped up by Koch, who re-released the album. Just as Slim’s career had a resurgence, he was shot dead in his mother’s front yard on Thanksgiving eve in 2003. Slim would later find posthumous success on Juvenile’s smash hit “Slow Motion,” which spent two weeks atop the Billboard 100. The song was originally Soulja’s.
None of Slim’s albums would see the same success as Give It 2 ‘Em Raw, which is one of the very few No Limit albums that’s still in print (and available for stream via services such as Spotify). Slim was buried wearing the same camouflage outfit seen on the cover of Give It 2 ‘Em Raw, a cover that was one of the most popular in the Pen & Pixel catalog; it was even remade by Lil B for White Flame in 2012. Soulja Slim’s murder remains unsolved.
12. Master P, Ice Cream Man (1996)
Best Songs: "Break 'Em Off Something" f/ UGK, "Bout It, Bout It II," "Mr. Ice Cream Man," "No More Tears"
Percy Miller never shied away from a good gimmick, and in 1996, as the world was first catching wind of Master P, he introduced himself as a new character, the Ice Cream Man. Complete with a wicked interpretation of the children’s folk song “Pop Goes The Weasel,” P used the Ice Cream Man as a metaphor for the ultimate hustler. Whether you were slanging dope or rap tapes, it didn’t matter, as long as you were moving product for profit, you too could be an Ice Cream Man.
P, whose early work made waves in the Bay Area, had left Cali for greener pastures in New Orleans. He took the Ice Cream Man-metaphor with him. P’s use of the moniker was a bone of contention in the Yay, as the Luniz claimed they’d invented the phrase and that P was nothing but a biter (to be fair, the Luniz and Dru Down began using “the Ice Cream Man” in 1994). But while the Luniz tried to get an anti-P campaign off the ground, P’s popularity soared, and the album quickly went platinum. P’s all-white Dickie’s suits and ice cream truck-driving marketing scheme paid off.
Ice Cream Man was P’s first major look as a solo artist after scoring the distribution deal with Priority, and his gruff street tales and gangsta rap persona took off almost immediately. No Limit became the South’s answer to Death Row Records, who ruled the charts at the time. P became an underground hero with this album, as it paired the best sounds from the west coast and the south; it was truly rap gumbo. The album also produced three of P’s biggest cult hits to date, “Break Em Off Somethin” with UGK, “Bout It, Bout It II,” and “Mr. Ice Cream Man.” A star was born with this release.
11. Fiend, There's One In Every Family (1998)
10. TRU, True (1995)
Best Songs: "Last Dance," "That's How We Break Bread," "Walk Like a Killer," "i'm Bout It, Bout It"
Master P was one of the greatest trendspotters in the history of hip-hop. A visionary, P could spot the next big thing quickly, and was right there to capitalize when it popped off. It might have been happenstance that P and his two brothers stayed in the red hot Bay Area in the early-to-mid-90s, or perhaps P had an intuition that it was the place to be for a rising independent rap label. Despite being from New Orleans, everyone thought P was from Cali when he first began to garner national attention.
While living in Richmond, California, P, Silkk and C-Murder linked with California natives King George, Calli G and Big Ed to form the six-man group The Real Untouchables, better known as TRU. The group dropped two obscure albums (1992’s Understanding The Criminal Mind and 1993’s Who’s Da Killer) but didn’t gain traction nationally until 1995 when P scored his landmark distribution deal with Priority Records. True is chock full of Yay Area mob music, heavy on California synths and sounds, and featured underground legends like C-Bo. Despite Cali’s dominant influence on the album, True’s biggest hit was “I’m Bout It, Bout It”—the sole southern-sounding record on the project. There’s no doubt that after P saw the response to “Bout It,” he packed up his army and headed back to the Bayou.
9. Master P, MP Da Last Don (1998)
Best Songs: "Soldiers, Riders & G's," "War Wounds," "Thinkin Bout U," "Hot Boys & Girls," "Streets Keep Me Rollin"
In 1998, rappers retiring or, uh, fake-retiring wasn’t a common thing; Too $hort had thrown in the towel two years prior with his tenth album. But for someone like Master P to call it quits at the absolute height of his career was unfathomable. So when P announced that he cashing in his rap 401k with a double disc entitled Da Last Don, fans were devastated. P felt it was necessary to retire as a solo artist to focus on his other ventures, which had now bubbled into professional basketball, sports management, dolls and major motion pictures. With all of that money on the table, what rapper would have time to rap?
P’s previous album, Ghetto D, was released in September of ‘97, and nine months later his double album Da Last Don was ready for rollout. The Colonel had previously dropped two double albums on No Limit, one as a compilation (Down South Hustlers), and the other with his group TRU—but MP Da Last Don was his first as a solo act. A 29-track swan song to bid adieu to the Colonel of the Tank.
Everything about the album was over the top. A 3D album cover. An accompanying movie, where P played the alienated black son of a white mafia don. P was going out with a bang. The album was chock full of bangers and some of the best production that Beats By the Pound churned out during their tenure. Sure, the Scarface accent P flossed throughout was a bit hokey, but P was legitimately teflon don status in the music business in 1998. And as we all know with rappers and retirement, this wasn’t the end of the road for P.
8. C-Murder, Life Or Death (1998)
Best Songs: "Akickdoe," "Don't Play No Games," "Makin' Moves," "A 2nd Chance"
Many complained that C-Murder was with weak link in the TRU supergroup and the least lyrical of the Miller brothers. Critics constantly took aim at Corey Miller, labeling him as a 2Pac biter and writing his solo career off as pure comedy. Sure, C found himself in the spotlight thanks to his older brother P, but C silenced a few of his naysayers with his debut, Life or Death. Dropping just a month after Silkk’s insanely popular Charge It 2 Da Game, C’s Life or Death was harder and more unapologetic than the work of his younger brother.
Life or Death featured no crossover attempts, as the project was created by and strictly for the streets. C’s brash delivery of crime tales and violence would foreshadow his violent and sad future, but there’s no denying that C and Beats By The Pound were firing on all cylinders at this point in 1998. Even if you didn’t care for Corey’s lyrical abilities, the beats on Life or Death were good enough to make even the staunchest of backpackers tip their hats.
C’s next two releases, Bossalinie and Trapped In Crime, were both solid, and C began to acquire a bit of a cult following—a legion of loyal followers who stuck with his solo work even as No Limit’s commercial appeal began to dwindle in the 2000s.
7. Silkk The Shocker, Charge It 2 Da Game (1998)
Best Songs: "It Ain't My Fault," "Just Be Straight With Me," "Give Me The World," "If I Don't Gotta," "Let Me Hit It"
People like to clown Silkk’s rapping ability in 2013, but in 1998 you couldn’t tell him nothing. He was the man. Ladies loved him, girls adored him. Brands wanted him to hawk their products, and he was the default southern artist everyone called for a remix verse. He was on top of the world. The album that put him there? Charge It 2 Da Game.
His first single, “Just Be Straight With Me,” featured a young Destiny’s Child, and his second single, “It Ain’t My Fault,” featured Mystikal and was a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The album moved an astonishing 288,000 copies in its first week and went on to sell almost two million copies in total. Album cuts like “Let Me Hit It,” “Give Me The World” and “If I Don’t Gotta” rounded out Silkk’s sophomore set, making it one of the brighter spots of No Limit’s catalog.
6. Mac, Shell Shocked (1998)
5. Young Bleed, My Balls & My Word (1998)
Best Songs: "Keep It Real," "Bring The Noise," "The Day They Made Me Boss," "An Offer U Can't Refuse"
On Master P’s “Weed & Hennessy” the Colonel proclaimed “‘97 was alright, but ‘98 gonna be the year.” 1997 was a breakthrough blockbuster year for the Tank, so when Percy decided to kick off 1998 with Young Bleed’s debut, My Balls & My Word, it left many scratching their heads. Sure “How Ya Do Dat” was a big record in the summer of ‘97, but why was this little known rapper leapfrogging releases from high-profile soldiers like Silkk and C-Murder?
Bleed never appeared on an album-opening assembly line posse cut (a right of passage for any Tank dog)—or even an album cut for that matter. His sole No Limit feature was on the I’m Bout It Soundtrack. Well, the truth is, Bleed was never really a No Limit soldier—at least not in the traditional sense. Young Bleed was actually signed to P’s old friend from Baton Rouge, C-Loc. C-Loc and his Concentration Camp conglomerate (Young Bleed was a member) had also inked an indie deal with Priority Records, and seeing how much influence and selling power P had, C-Loc and No Limit released Bleed’s debut as a joint venture.
P saw the potential in Bleed (“How Ya Do Dat” was actually a Bleed solo cut that P snatched and remixed), and releasing his album proved to be another savvy move for Percy, as My Balls & My Word became one of most cohesive albums to ever drop on No Limit. The bulk of the production was handled by Happy Perez, whose sound could be best described as a first cousin to Beats By The Pound. Bleed was no slouch on the mic either, as his slow and thick southern drawl was a compliment to the eerie Happy Perez and Beats By The Pound’s production. Unfortunately this was Young Bleed’s first and last release on No Limit, and the only time he ever earned a plaque for his craft.
4. Various Artists, I'm Bout It Soundtrack (1997)
Best Songs: "How Ya Do Dat," "What Cha Think," "Situation On Dirty," "Come On," "Meal Ticket," "If I Could Change"
I’m Bout It was Percy Miller’s first foray into the motion picture business. The crudely-filmed straight-to-VHS movie was based off P’s hit “Bout It, Bout It,” a track that was a cult favorite across the country, even in far-reaching places like NYC’s infamous Tunnel nightclub. The phrase was made popular in New Orleans, but quickly spread around the country, thanks in part to the two versions of the track P released.
Master P dropping a self-funded semi-autobiographical film in the summer 1997, which was groundbreaking at the time. It further fueled the legend of P being the ultimate rap entrepreneur with a Midas touch. Never missing an opportunity to turn a profit, P released an accompanying soundtrack, which featured some of the most known-unknown regional rappers at the time. Names like Brotha Lynch Hung, E-40, B-Legit, UGK, Eightball & MJG were paired with NL Soldiers like Silkk, C-Murder and Kane and Abel.
The soundtrack was P’s first album to reach number one on Billboard, and spawned three semi-hits that landed on Billboard’s Hot 100 (“If I Could Change,” “How Ya Do Dat” and “Pushin’ Inside of You”). Both the soundtrack and movie went platinum, and inspired a legion of other rappers to jump in the home video biz. The film did so well that major motion picture companies came calling with their checkbooks in tow, thirsty to bring Ps’ visions to the silver screen. P saw the movie business for the ultimate lick that it was, and made a mint in the process.
3. Mystikal, Unpredictable (1997)
Best Songs: "The Man Right Chea," "Still Smokin," "Here We Go," "Unpredictable"
Mystikal was the original high-profile acquirement for No Limit Records. Sure, the Snoop signing was a bigger and more publicized play, but the “round out the tank” was the first big addition to the world’s No. 1 gangsta rap label. Mystikal’s Jive Records debut, Mind of Mystikal, made a little noise in the industry, but it wasn’t until after Mystikal joined the Tank that he become one of the hottest acts in hip-hop.
Rumors began to swirl that Mystikal was riding with Percy once he popped up on the I’m Bout It Soundtrack and started guesting on subsequent No Limit releases. But once the full-page Unpredictableads and album inserts (which featured Mystikal’s face as a puzzle) popped up we knew the partnership was official.
Mystikal’s tenure on the Tank only lasted for two albums, although his contributions loom much larger. There was a time when No Limit stans would buy entire NL albums for the lone Mystikal feature; others would fast-forward tracks to hear Mystikal’s part and Mystikal’s part only. His energy, unorthodox delivery and animated lyrics set him apart from the other soldiers in the trenches, and Unpredictable was his coming out party. It was arguably the most anticipated amongst all of the COMING SOON teasers P would litter in his other releases.
Mystikal handled most of Unpredictable for dolo, but the features were sequenced perfectly. P’s fingerprints were all over the album, but he didn’t dilute the project with his overbearing presence. Silkk, who was red hot at the time, guested on the first single (“Ain’t No Limit”); and strategic features like “Here We Go” with E-40 and B-Legit perfectly timestamp the era. With Unpredictable, Mystikal proved he could deliver more than just scene-stealing guest verses, and earned a platinum plaque in the process.
2. Master P, Ghetto D (1997)
Best Songs: "Ghetto D," "Make Em Say Uhh!," "Let's Get Em," "I Miss My Homies," "Burbons & Lacs"
In music, timing is everything, and no one knows this better than Master P. Combining hard work, a street hustlers mentality, and a little luck, P found himself at his critical and commercial peak towards the end of 1997. 2Pac and Biggie were both gone, and the rap game was ripe for the taking. The East vs. West coastal war tore the country apart, and with P coming from the neutral South, he was in the right place at the right time with the right plan.
P was a marketing mastermind, and knowing Ghetto D would be his solo breakthrough, he invited each and every No Limit soldier along for the ride. Sure, it was a P solo record, but with only one song out of 19 not including a feature, it was truly a family affair. Or P’s way of tricking you into listening to his entire roster.
Despite the compilation feel, P further immersed himself in the New Orleans sound courtesy Beats by the Pound, and proved he could make hits while doing so. In fact, the two biggest songs of P’s career chart-wise, “Make Em Say Uhh! and “I Miss My Homies,” were both found on Ghetto D. The album also introduced us to new Tank dogs like Mystikal (who finally fired back at UNLV’s “Drag Em In The River” on “Let’s Get Em”), and served as the perfect set-up for lesser known acts like Fiend and Mac, whose debuts were on the horizon. Cult favorites like “Ghetto D” and “Burbons & Lacs” rounded out the album, which even the biggest No Limit detractors couldn’t deny.
The original Pen & Pixel-designed cover featured a crackhead beaming up with a cloud of smoke above his head, and featured the album covers of previous No Limit releases in the haze. Offensive? Maybe. But P really was selling his own form of ghetto dope at the time. However, he was doing it the legal way, and Ghetto D turned over three million people into mouth-breathing fiends.
1. TRU, Tru 2 Da Game (1997)
Best Songs: "No Limit Soldiers," "I Always Feel Like," "There Dey Go," "FEDz," "Smoking Green," "Swamp Niggas," "Freak Hoes"
While many believe Ghetto D to be No Limit’s crown jewel, TRU 2 Da Game was actually the tipping point that pushed No Limit to global domination. The double-disc project was adventurous at a time when 2Pac and Biggie were the only two rappers on planet earth who had enough cred (and gall) to attempt such a feat. TRU 2 Da Game even predates the Wu-Tang Forever double disc (the only other faction in rap who could justify a double album) by five months.
So it was extremely bold for a relatively obscure Southern rapper (with Bay Area roots), with no major radio or video airplay, to drop a double album alongside his two lesser-known little brothers (And on a small independent label at that—this wasn’t Death Row or Bad Boy). It was huge gamble, but P rose to the top by playing by his own rules, not falling in line with everyone else’s. The album featured a leaner and meaner lineup, scaling back from six TRU members to only three, all of which shared the Miller surname. Former members Calli G and King George were left in California when the Tank departed for New Orleans, and while Big Ed was an O.G. TRU member, he now sat on the No Limit roster as a solo artist.
Former members weren’t the only thing P left on the West Coast, as his sound evolved from Cali-tinged g-funk to thicker New Orleans bounce. The entire swing was different. P’s voice, delivery, and cadence also changed, as he sounded more confident and comfortable on the mic. We’d heard his younger siblings on previous releases (Silkk’s debut dropped a few months earlier), but both Silkk and C-Murder’s mic time more than tripled on this release. And while P’s nepotism was apparent, the release proved blood was thicker than water, and that these three had a bright future ahead of them—like it or not. Sometimes-member Mia X was back and better than ever, with her razor sharp lyrics and brash delivery serving as the perfect set-up for her breakthrough sophomore album, which immediately followed.
While the double disc might have been a bit daunting for the casual No Limit fan, the project created a whole new legion of fans who immediately enlisted in P’s army and could rap “No Limit Soldiers” word for word. Tracks like “I Always Feel Like,” “FEDZ,” “Swamp Nigga,” “Smoking Green,” and “Freak Hoes” were all regional hits in their own right, and P’s gamble paid off, as TRU 2 Da Game became a huge success, selling over two million copies.