When it comes to the Southernization of hip hop music, some people will immediately recall Cash Money Records. Others will mention So So Def, and perhaps a few other labels.
However, no crew was putting out more product and gaining more notoriety in the 90s than No Limit Records. The label was started by Percy Miller aka Master P in Richmond, California in 1990 and was a top-level imprint within in a relatively short period of time.
Some may not recall some of the seemingly obscure names or rhyme styles of some of the earlier artists on the roster, but E-A-Ski & CMT, Sony C, King George, Big Ed and Lil Ric, along with Master P and brothers Silkk the Shocker and C-Murder as the trio Tru, put in the majority of the work early on.
Though commercial success was slow early on, the No Limit Records come-up would coincide with the label moving from a record shop in Richmond, California to his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Once there, Master P would begin a heavy infusion of New Orleans talent, starting with Kane & Abel and Mystikal. He would then add Mia X, Fiend, Tre-8 and Mr. Serv-On.
P’s shrewd business moves would place him on the fast track to being a millionaire. No Limit would eventually get a distribution deal with Priority Records.
Master P owned the label and his master recordings, something many artists-turned-executive still struggle to do. In 1998, the label would put out an astonishing 23 albums, which were led by Master P’s MP Da Last Don. It sold over 4 million copies.
No Limit was also known for pouring cameos into each album. This was frowned upon by many other hip hop artists, but was eventually copied. No Limit would also come to be known throughout the game for the absurdly blinged out graphics on each No Limit album cover, which was copied exhaustively by many other imprints, and for putting rap imprints on the east and west coast on full notice.
The label would score a major coup when securing Snoop Dogg from Death Row Records in 1997. His Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not to Be Told went double platinum.
The 504 Boyz were No Limit’s last gasp of high-quality hip-hop music but it simply wasn’t enough. Good times don’t last for long and by 2002, they simply weren’t moving units anymore. By 2003, No Limit Records was bankrupt and P was forced to sell his masters.
Though the speculation and conspiracies ran wild, Mr. Serv On places the blame on the unfortunate consequences of street minded individuals lawyering up during a 2013 interview for HipHopDX.
This misunderstanding and riff led to a massive exodus of talent that was virtually unheard of before or since.
The No Limit brand at its peak included a very successful clothing line, sports management firm and stints in many other business ventures. Today, No Limit has been relaunched as No Limit Forever and is based in Los Angeles, California.
Here are some of my favorite No Limit selections.