Those who stopped following Master P's career since the rapper's No Limit heyday have a lot of catching up to do. The former founder and CEO of the influential New Orleans- based label may not rap as much as he used to, but his behind-the-scenes work in music, television and humanitarian causes have made the 40-year-old mogul busier than ever.
Having made numerous appearances on Fortune Magazine's "40 Richest Under 40" listin 1998, his estimated $56 million net worth earned a Guinness Book of World Records mention for Richest Music Producerthe rapper/entrepreneur used his wealth to help fund a number of different projects, most recently Better Black Television (BBTV), a "family-friendly" network set to launch in mid-2010 for which P will assume the role of Chairman/CEO.
As he prepares for the channel's launch, the man known as Percy Miller has partnered with One Million Gifts, a charity aimed at feeding and clothing one million homeless people around the country and recently finished shooting the first season of "No Excuses," a new VH1 show aimed at turning the lives of various downtrodden people around. In a lengthy interview, the businessman, entertainer and motivational speaker spoke with AllHipHop.com on the genesis of the show, why face tattoos are a bad idea and sends message to young killers.
AllHipHop.com: Can you talk about how "No Excuses" came together? Was this an idea you had or were you approached to do this?
Master P: This was something that I had been brewing for a while. It was about the changes that I made in my life and how I was able to be successful without making excuses. Also, it was knowing where I could end up if I didn't change my life. Why do so many brothers end up dead or in jail and not realizing that if we just got out and did the right thing to better ourselves, that we could go a long way? I just had to break those cycles and show people that come from the places I come from that can say, "What can we do to make a change to survive to be around and grow up?" I figured out a way to give entertainment and education in one show that will hopefully save lives. This is the first positive, entertaining reality show on television.
AllHipHop.com: Unlike similar shows, this onedoesn't talk down to the person needing help. Was that tone a conscious decision?
Master P: Oh yeah, I've really thought about this and I want people to learn something from this. I think that education saves lives and watching other peoples' mistakes can help save or change your life. This is something that our culture needs. All we got now in is entertainment and most of it's negative. There's a lot of African Americans that want to see stuff that make them feel good.
AllHipHop.com: How do you think "No Excuses" differs from T.I.'s "Road to Redemption," which aired earlier this year?
Master P: I like that show, but this show is not just about a road to redemption. You got shopaholics. You got people that are overweight. I really liked T.I.'s show, but this show is about motivating people to go out and do what it take to better yourself. I think T.I.'s show was more about somebody getting in trouble and trying to change their past. But this show is not about the past. It's about the future.
Don't be afraid to grow up. If you in Hip-Hop and you have a kid, that means that now you gotta be responsible. You should think twice before putting tattoos on your face 'cause one day you gonna have to look for a job in Corporate America.
AllHipHop.com: On the show, the topic of pride comes up a lot and some of the people you work with feel certain work is "beneath them." How do you counter this way of thinking?
Master P: You gotta do what you gotta do, because your pride could take you away from your family. I've learned that firsthand from my brother [C-Murder, currently serving a life imprisonment sentence for murder]. He know he didn't commit this crime but for him keeping it real in the streets and not saying who did it, where he at? He in the penitentiary. So sometimes your pride could kill you. My whole thing is: don't let pride get in the way of what you want to do. Hip-hop artists got this "keep it real" thing like they on the streets now. You making money and making records! All those people that's trying to feed into your ego, they not going to be there for you in the end.
It's been a struggle for me the past eight years to keep doing what I'm doing right. What I'm dong right now ain't about money. I realize you can't take none of this with you. I'm about building a legacy and about changing other peoples' lives. I'm teaching my people how to fish. I'm not giving them a fish. A lot of people in the community mistake kindness for weakness and that's where we gotta draw the line. Ain't nothing wrong with your legs and your arms. You got a great body. You in shape. Now go out there and find you a job.
AllHipHop.com: Were there any defining moments in your life that made you reconsider the negative path you were on?
Master P: I think that losing my brotherwatching my mom lose her sonand then losing another brother to the prison system affected me and made me get harder on my kids now. It's like, "Look. You got an uncle dead, you got an uncle in jail. Now you see this is what could happen to you if we don't break these cycles." Right now, C-Murder is a victim of a crime himself. He's innocent on this case but because of his name, image and past, that's given them the right to take him away off the streets. That's why I get out here in the communities to try to help save these other kids. I'm trying to show y'all, "This is why I'm still here on the streets because I chose to do the right thing."
AllHipHop.com: That being said, do you find it hard to stay connected to the places you grew up?
Master P: When kids see me coming back and I'm there, they know P come from here. They don't think he better than us. He even know he don't want to come back and live here. Guess what? I work hard because I don't want to end up back here. Somebody who's feeding you crap that you got to "keep it real" by staying here for life, they feeding you bullcrap. I'm feeding you the real. Anybody get a taste of the good life, they don't want to be living back in that environment, but they can't forget where they came from. That's why I've always been connected and give back. I say to myself, "What can I do to put a smile on one kid's face that might turn out to be better than me?" These people bought my music and allowed me to live the lifestyle I could live, so I could at least give back to their kids. There's a lot of sponsorship money that Romeo could get that I couldn't get because of my music. I realized that peoples' lives are affected [by music] and I was part of the problem and I want to be a part of the solution. I owe this to my people.
AllHipHop.com: Do you regret any of the music you've put out?
Master P: I really don't, but I know that I'm at a level of exposure that I worry about it [going forward]. Don't judge me on my past. Judge me on the path that I'm going on for my future.
AllHipHop.com: You've spoken a lot about youth violence. What was your reaction to seeing the video of Derrion Albert's murder?
Master P: We live in a violent world right now and without education, a lot of young people are making moves but they can't think. I hope that people learn that this is not what you want to go through and send yourself or your family to. So now you're in trouble. Now what? What are you gonna do? People are making excuses like, "They ain't got nothing. They live in poverty." Guess what? There are a lot of people that live in poverty that changed their lives and are successful right now. It's easier to pick up a gun than to pick up a pen.
AllHipHop.com: What would you tell the kids accused of his murder?
Master P: I'd tell them they probably took a life from somebody that could have been the next president or somebody that could have changed somebody else's life. That could've been one of your family members. But whatever you do, you have to suffer the consequences for it, so why not do right?
AllHipHop.com: Going back to music, do you ever envision a time where you'd go back to being a full-time emcee?
Master P: It's like Michael Jordan. When he was in his prime, nobody could touch him and as he got older, I think a lot of people took cheap shots at him. They felt like, "Wow, I just beat the best man in the NBA." I just feel that people would respect me more and I could offer a lot more to the Hip-Hop world in corporate America. I've been working on building a union for Hip-Hop because we have no retirement funds. Corporate America's not gonna respect us if I'm on the stage.
AllHipHop.com: But Michael Jordan retired and came back to the game. Have you officially retired from emceeing?
Master P: I think you don't retire from something you good at. I just think my fanbase is older and it's a young person's business on stage. Now me getting up on stage just to have fun, I'm fine with that. But me actually going out on tour, I don't see that happening 'cause it dont make sense to me. I can be the person behind a lot of these younger artists and offer y'all advice and give y'all more resources so you can get more money and people won't be afraid of you because of the sacrificing that I and other artists done paid. People still be like, "You older now. What is you still doing rapping?"
AllHipHop.com: Any last words for AllHipHop.com readers?
Master P: Don't be afraid to grow up. If you in Hip-Hop and you have a kid, that means that now you gotta be responsible. Hip-hop has to grow up now. You look at Russell Simmons and Run-D.M.C., those people are older now but living a good life because they realized they had to grow up. I don't care who you are. You should think twice before putting tattoos on your face 'cause one day you gonna have to look for a job in Corporate America.
AllHipHop.com: Let's go 40 years into the future. You only have one sentence to sum up your legacy. What would it be?
Master P: No limit. That's it.