By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
No Limit Tour
If Master P's No Limit empire ever crumbles -- and one day it will -- the shooting guard formerly known as Percy Miller has quite a future in the mail-order business. He's been designing catalogs since 1990, when he turned No Limit Records from a store into a label. He may call them albums, but every No Limit release since then has been little more than a soundtrack for the coming attractions found in the CD booklet. Look at Master P's latest compilation, the recently released Who U Wit? Aside from glorifying his brief career as a Charlotte Hornet (the funniest joke that wasn't meant to be is that almost all photos of P in Hornet teal and purple catch him at practices or during pre-game introductions), the collection is little more than a catalog for forthcoming No Limit discs. Joe Camel was less blatant.
In the 16-page booklet for Who U Wit?, he squeezes in 13 plugs for friends of P such as Mercedes, Porsha, Fiend, Lil Italy, Da 504 Boyz, D.J. KLC, and others, featuring an array of album art that's been Photoshopped within an inch of existence. (He doesn't need a Lexus as long as he has an iMac.) He also manages to pimp his new line of sneakers (No Limit Converse All-Stars -- make 'em say, corporate synergy!) as well as the Talking Master P Doll, now available from No Limit Toys, bitch-slapping a Ken doll in a store near you. Apparently, there wasn't enough room to plug any of P's direct-to-video projects. If you had any doubts that P runs No Limit like an assembly line, here's proof: Seven of the releases showcased inside Who U Wit? have release dates within three months of each other, just so you never have to wait more than two weeks for more No Limit propaganda.
And that's all No Limit albums really are. So many guest stars appear on No Limit projects that the name on the front is irrelevant; P rarely performs on his own records. His name appears above the title on Who U Wit?, but he shows up once, on the track "B-Ball," which somehow has been wedged onto the album four times. Only the No Limit handle matters -- look no further than Snoop Dogg's latest, No Limit Top Dogg. As a colleague said, it's like naming a Beach Boys album Capitol Pet Sounds. Of course, the name of the artist is important, if only to tell the discs apart. Test patterns have more variety. Whenever P and his production crew, Beats by the Pound, find a new beat, that'll make two; they should change the name to Beats by the Slice. Or just Slice, as in a watered-down version of a bad idea.
There are some things Master P can't do: sports...and fake sports. His tryout with the Charlotte Hornets was a publicity stunt that only looked real, although the album cover of Who U Wit? and the photo montage inside make it seem as though running a multimillion-dollar hip-hop cottage industry is something he does in his spare time, not the other way around. Master P had as much chance of sticking with the Hornets as Garth Brooks had of batting cleanup for the San Diego Padres. P's new sports agency outfit has only hurt its clients: Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams' draft stock had its own Black Tuesday when he signed on with No Limit and, last week, he appeared on the cover of ESPN -- The Magazine in a bride's gown. And a few months ago, Master P brought his No Limit Soldiers gimmick to World Championship Wrestling, a run that lasted for exactly two appearances. A tag team cobbled together by WCW -- featuring P's bodyguard Swoll -- remains, but P's presence there is not even a memory, already excised from the wrestling record books. In two short weeks, Master P became the biggest ass in wrestling tights since Andre the Giant. Think about it: If people consider you a joke in the world of professional wrestling, what does that mean in the real world?