At the turn of the century, there were two clear kingpins in hip-hop –both self-made men with vast, far-reaching empires that stretched into film and fashion, a knack for finding top talent, clearly defined approaches to production, and senses of rhythm that could charitably be described as unique.
In one corner: Sean Combs, who was transitioning from being called Puff Daddy to just Diddy (his reasoning for that remains as unclear as ever). His New York-based Bad Boy Records spent the end of the century churning out huge albums by the likes of Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim, Mase, the L.O.X., Junior M.A.F.I.A., and Faith Evans, all fueled by Combs’ pop-minded production sensibilities and a distinctly New York approach to rhyming.
In the opposite corner: Master P. The Oakland native launched No Limit Records as a way to distribute his own albums, but once he shifted his operation to New Orleans and recruited a stable of like-minded MCs (including C-Murder, Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal, Mr. Serv-On, and Mia X), P became the dominant voice in the rapidly growing hip-hop scene in the south. His label’s music was far more raw and rudimentary, built around basic bounce tracks continuously cranked out by No Limit’s wholesale production crew Beats By the Pound.
Several of the No Limit MCs (P included) were sort of terrible on the mic; compared to a polished performer like Snoop Dogg (who joined No Limit after fleeing the psych ward that was Death Row Records), P was competent at best and sometimes laughably inept. His voice was typically monotone and nasal, and the whole operation felt pretty lo-fi.
Still, while C-Murder and Silkk the Shocker weren’t necessarily household names, the No Limit name commanded an incredible amount of brand devotion. No Limit albums regularly went to the top of the Billboard chart and sold platinum based solely on the label’s tank logo and wonderfully garish album covers dreamed up by the surrealist minds at Pen & Pixel. The whole thing peaked with 1998′s MP Da Last Don, a double-album released by Master P that had a crazy 3D effect and sold an astonishing half million copies in its opening week on its way to going platinum four times over.
No Limit was bankrupt by 2003 and has only recently been reconstituted by P’s son Romeo Miller. But the No Limit sound has been way more influential on today’s batch of MCs than any other camp. READ FULL STORY »