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How Master P Flipped A $10,000 Life Insurance Settlement Into A $250 Million Business Empire

The amazing tale of Master P, who turned a basketball injury that ended his career into a $250 million empire after starting with a $10,000 insurance settlement check

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When you browse our annual ranking of the richest rappers in the world, many of the top names are probably easy to guess. You have your standards… Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Dr. Dre. You might then be astonished by the person who is ranked #8.

A huge hit hasn’t been had by the eighth-richest rapper in the world in almost a decade. In fact, his once dominant rap label filed for bankruptcy back in 2003 and his most recent self released studio album sold just 75,000 copies. In case you weren’t able to guess, we’re referring to Percy Miller, the pinnacle of the No Limit soldiers. preferred by the name Master P.

No other rap label or CEO was more successful in the mid- to late 1990s than Master P and No Limit Records, which may be difficult to imagine today. By building a very prosperous business empire that brought him hundreds of millions of dollars, Master P was able to escape from one of the roughest and poorest ghettos in New Orleans. And a payout for $10,000 from a life insurance claim served as the catalyst.

Master P – The Early Years

Master P was raised in the Calliope housing projects, one of the most violent and drug infested areas of New Orleans. P intended to use his NBA career to help his family leave the slums. He received a basketball scholarship to the University of Houston after high school. P’s hopes of playing in the NBA were, regrettably, shattered after he severely injured his knee during the first few months of his freshman year.

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After the injury, Master P left Houston and transferred to Merritt Junior College in Oakland to be closer to his family which had recently moved to the nearby city of Richmond. He took as many business classes at Merritt as he could since he was determined to succeed and provide for his family. When P’s grandfather died in a work-related accident in 1990, tragedy struck. The accident’s one silver lining was that Percy received a $10,000 malpractice insurance settlement cheque.

Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images
Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images

The East Bay-based No Limit Records & Tapes specialized in selling West Coast gangster rap recordings, with a focus on musicians like Tupac, Too Short, Rappin 4 Tay, and E-40. The business quickly became popular in the neighborhood, and in 1991 Master P started selling his own independently produced album, “Get Away Clean,” through the recently established “No Limit Records” label. As the opening act for Tupac and Too Short on a West Coast tour to promote the album, Master P left on his own. P made as many connections with promoters and DJs as he could along the way. Master P made the decision to relocate No Limit Records back to New Orleans in 1992 after his second album, “Mama’s Bad Boy,” independently sold more than 150,000 copies. He did this in an effort to seriously compete in the record label industry. By 1994, his third album “The Ghettos Tryin to Kill Me!” had independently sold an unprecedented 250,000 copies, bringing in more than $900,000 for No Limit Records.

Striking It Rich

All the major record labels started calling quite shortly. Master P was able to negotiate an extraordinary arrangement between No Limit and Priority Records thanks to his incredible popularity as an independent artist. In addition to the $375,000 advance No Limit would receive for each album created and the 75% of the wholesale price from each album sale (the norm at the time for a major artist like Madonna was 25–50%), at the conclusion of the agreement Master P would acquire ownership of every master recording from his entire roster of artists, including himself.

Perhaps what happened next is not surprising given how successful he was as an independent artist without funding, promotion, or widespread distribution. Ice Cream Man, Master P’s debut album for Priority Records, peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts in 1996 and eventually earned platinum status with over 1.7 million US sales. No Limit quickly churned out albums for roster artists like Silkk The Shocker and C-Murder (P’s brothers), Mystikal, Mia X and Steady Mobb’n. No Limit had created more than eight platinum albums by 1997. No Limit published approximately 50 albums in 1997 and 1998, many of which reached the top of the Billboard sales lists. In the US, 3.2 million copies of Master P’s 1997 album “Ghetto D,” which included the song “Make Em’ Say Uhh,” were sold. More than a million copies of the single for “Make Em’ Say Uhh” were sold.

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The Peak Of Success

1998 without a doubt served as Master P and No Limit Records’ apex year. The penultimate album by Master P, “MP Da Last Don,” was released that year. That record sold a staggering 500,000 copies in its first week alone and debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart. In the end, the record would sell over four million copies. Taking advantage of their success, No Limit recruited Snoop Dogg, a superstar rapper whose contract with Death Row had just recently expired. Snoop’s first No Limit album “Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told” debuted at #1 on Billboard, sold 800,000 units in its first two weeks and would eventually be certified 2X platinum. Master P’s company sold more than 20 million albums in 1998 alone thanks to Snoop and the other No Limit hitmakers.

As if this wasn’t enough, Master P was growing his empire into a wide range of side enterprises as No Limit was dominating the Billboard charts. He launched a sports management company, a clothing line, a real estate firm, a phone sex business, a high end travel agency, a video game company and a film studio. Millions of copies of the straight-to-VHS films that No Limit Films regularly produced were sold. Between 1992 and 1998, No Limit Records sold $120 million worth of albums and in 1998 alone Master P’s various business ventures generated revenues of more than $160 million. Master P has a personal net worth of $250 million and No Limit Records has sold almost 80 million CDs globally as of March 2013!

The Decline

No Limit would have struggled mightily to surpass the success of 1998, regardless of talent or luck. Master P spent a lot of time between 1999 and 2002 attempting to launch an NBA career. He actually signed deals with the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets. He participated in a couple seasons of play in the Continental and American Basketball Associations, but he was never selected to an NBA regular season squad. No Limit did release a couple more platinum albums while he was shooting hoops, including two from Snoop Dogg and two from his son Lil Romeo. Unfortunately, America’s musical preferences drifted away from No Limit as Master P’s attention turned to basketball. By the time No Limit filed for bankruptcy in December 2003, their most well-known musicians had moved on to new labels. In 2004 Master P launched “New No Limit Records” and released a self produced album called “Living Legend: Certified D-Boy” which only sold 75,000 units. The label changed its name to “No Limit Forever Records” in 2010, and as of right now, it represents a few lesser-known and mid-level rap artists. But don’t write off Master P just yet; as he has demonstrated, there is truly no ceiling to your achievement if you work hard and are lucky.

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