By Ryan Velez
Many may not put him alongside other legends of hip-hop, but Master P (born Percy Miller) and the No Limit Soldiers put a huge spin on rap in the 90’s with their southern influence, as well as his marketing and business acumen. A true rags to riches story, Master P is sharing his rise via his own biopic, King of The South. What is notable about this is his own son, Romeo Miller, is funding the movie with $10 million. NPR spoke to Master P about his career and how his family has become a rare example of Black generational wealth.
Part of what is notable about Master P and his independent rise is that it came at a time where many of his contemporaries were being cheated by the industry. “Because if you look at all the [hip-hop] biopics that have come out right now, everybody lost from the record companies. If you look at it, from the N.W.A.s to the Tupacs to Notorious B.I.G., all these guys, their story was they didn't get a fair share from the record company,” he explains.
“Jimmy Lovine offered me a million dollars in the '90s and I turned it down and walked away and built my empire into hundreds of millions. So, imagine if I took that million dollars. I would have been done. That probably would have been the only money my family would have seen. This story is going to show the world that we've got to use our minds sometimes, too. We shouldn't be in a rush. I tell people all the time, don't do a business deal when you're desperate.”
This financial acumen and literacy is a big part of what Master P imparted to his son, and it is clear when hearing Miller’s mentality about education.
“From day one, when I was 10 years old and I told my pops I wanted to do this and get into the industry, the first thing he said, "You've got to make sure you get your education." And tithing was very important. He said, "When you start making money, you've gotta give 10 percent back." And for us, it's weird because we never got in this industry — and my dad especially, because he started this empire — but from watching him, it was never for fame. It was never to be the best rapper. The intention was always bigger than just music. It's a platform to do the work you're really supposed to do out in the world,” Miller explains.
While an expert multi-tasker at his peak, Master P still feels a responsibility to help the future generation get off on the right foot financially. A great example he gives is what happens when people first start to sniff success.
“The first thing gon' come to you is a lawyer and a financial adviser. Think about it. The women, all that's gonna come, the opportunity, all that. But a lawyer and a financial advisor. Now imagine you're from the ghetto. You've never had no money. All of a sudden this guy comes up with a suit on and he's going to tell you what to do with your money.
So now the lawyer's going to tell you whatever you want to do. Is you really reading those contracts? Are you prepared? That's what I tell Romeo. When Romeo talks about preparation, that's what we're prepared for. That's what going to school — he went to USC, I went to University of Houston — that's what that's for. So you get that paperwork in front of you, you read that paperwork and say, "OK, well, sir, what do this mean?" "Oh, well, don't worry about that." "No, I can't sign it until you tell me what that means." And it's OK to audit a record company or audit a financial adviser.”
With any luck, Miller and his fellow new generation of artists will see what those before them had to go through, and take a more active role in handling their earnings and finances.