The “golden era” for rap music is generally considered to be the late 1980’s to late 1990’s. There were countless classic records from West Coast and East Coast rappers (plus many from Midwest rappers, especially in Detroit, Flint, and Chicago). Down south, however, Percy “Master P” Miller had designs of his own, having started his No Limit Records after making a name for himself in California with such albums as 99 Ways To Die and TRU’s “True”.
Anybody who remembers the rap scene back then, will certainly remember how No Limit took over the rap game from 1997 to 1999. I was a teenager then, and it seemed as if No Limit released an album every damn week. They released dozens of albums, from stars such as Snoop Dogg, Master P, and Mystikal…to the forgotten, such as Steady Mobb’N, Lil Soldiers, and Magic…to the hood favorites, such as Kane And Abel, Fiend, Soulja Slim, and C-Murder (who is Master P’s brother).
On Master P’s Ghetto Dope, he infamously sampled Eric B and Rakim’s “Eric B For President”, flipping the “make rap like this” into “make crack like this”, while rapping step by step instructions on how to cook crack cocaine up. P literally equated selling records to selling dope.
And, like every successful dopeman, Master P flooded the market with a consistent product that sold heavily. No Limit albums were easily recognizable, with the ridiculous Pen And Pixel covers (which crosstown rivals Cash Money Records would take to an even gaudier level), the different colored plastic jewel cases, the repetitive song titles and lyrics (how many No Limit songs had “Get Em” in the title? A LOT).
Good thing the music stood out, which was predominantly from the criminally underappreciated Beats By The Pound (yep, another drug/music analogy). Considering they produced THOUSANDS of songs in a relatively short time span, the beats on No Limit albums were rarely repetitive, and were like musical drugs for us teenagers cruising around listening to them. My favorite No Limit beats: “Break Em Off Something” from Master P (RIP Pimp C from UGK), Young Bleed’s “How U Do Dat”, and “No Limit Soldiers” off of TRU’s True To The Game. The Roland 808 drum machine’s closed high hat sample is one of my favorite musical sounds…it sounds almost as good as playing guitar power chords while the active guitar pickup is getting distorted to hell through a Mesa Boogie amplifier. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with southern rap music: that high hat.
And Beats By The Pound were the best southern rap producers, with the arguable exceptions of DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia, and Mannie Fresh. In a golden era focused on lyricism, Beats By The Pound proved music could trump lyrics. I knew a few people who would buy damn near every No Limit record: they may have never heard, or even heard of, the artist or group on the album…but they knew that the beats would be hard as hell. And they usually were. Which is a strong testament to how good BBTP were as producers, and how good No Limit marketed themselves.
No Limit Records was a pioneering independent music label, and they had plenty of gold and platinum albums to back it up. Sure, most of them are probably best forgotten…but the TRU albums, the Down South Hustlers comp, and Master P’s Ice Cream Man, Ghetto D, and MP Da Last Don had some classics on them. Go check em out on YouTube, cause that’s what I’m about to do…