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In 1998, The New York Times published a story about a then-28-year-old rapper from New Orleans who had built one of the biggest independent music labels, No Limit Records. The headline read: “How Gangsta Rapper Turns Entrepreneur.”
The piece ended with these final words: ‘’I want to make [No Limit Records] into the next Motown and hand it down to my children, and they can hand it down to their children,’’ he said. ‘“I’m building a legacy.’’
More than 20 years later, Master P talked about fulfilling that visionary legacy during the “Generational Wealth” panel at REVOLT Summit x AT&T in Los Angeles. The discussion was moderated by his son Romeo Miller.
In true trailblazer fashion, Master P couldn’t resist taking the lead. He dropped the first gem almost immediately: His son Romeo was not born with a silver spoon. The mogul takes pride in passing down not only the empire he has built, but three key characteristics of success: education, community, and discipline. Knowledge above all else.
“Knowledge is what got me here today,” P said as he opened the program. “In order to build generational wealth, you have to educate your family, your kids.”
Romeo, who has become a successful second-generation businessman, added: “I think it’s about choices. My dad had to make the choice of wanting to do better for his future for his kids.”
The fate of two of Master P’s brothers’ inspired him to make much different choices from them. Kevin Miller, who was a voiceover actor, was killed in 1999. That same year, Master P inherited $10,000 and opened a record store. In 2003 Cory “C-Murder” Miller, his other brother, was convicted of murder and is spending life in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. These tragedies helped him to refocus.
“If it wasn’t for this man, I wouldn’t be here,” Romeo continued. “That’s why I work so hard. That’s why I am always grateful. I got cousins in jail with their parents, I got cousins who are dead. For me, just being here on this earth is the biggest blessing.”
Romeo told his dad: “I just want to give my roses. You’re a legend, an icon. I just want to give you love, pops.”
The love was felt as Romeo led Master P excitedly into some of his personal favorite anecdotes of his father’s one-of-a-kind road to success.
Romeo first asked his father what types of jobs he had before he became a music mogul.
P said, as a boy, he was always interested in making money. So, he began delivering groceries for the elderly and cutting lawns in his community. The job that sparked his entrepreneurial mind, however, was a horrible commission-based cell phone sales job. This job was the premise for No Limit Records’ first theatrical release “I Got the Hook Up.”
“I never made no money because they paid me on commission,” he explained.
He went on: “I’m like, ‘When I’m a get paid?’ They’d say, ‘You don’t get paid until you sell some phones.’ I’m like, ‘I thought I was selling the service. It made me understand that knowledge is more important than money. I had to educate myself because I wasn’t educated. I wasn’t educated [about] the job I had, and I was going to lose.”
Romeo pushed the conversation forward by asking his father about his “Million Dollar Mindset.” Without hesitation, Master P said: “You have to turn down money. It’s not about the money. You can’t work for the money. The first deal I got, they offered me $1 million and I had to realize what my value was. My value was more.”
He also urged every artist to know the business. With his applied knowledge, Master P eventually landed a deal that was “unheard of,” where he made 85 percent and the record company only 15 percent.
He said: “Never do any kind of business when you’re desperate because you’re only working for a check. Think about it. You’d do anything for a check.”
One way you can learn your business is by hiring the right people to help. “We know in the music industry, you have to make sure you have a good team,” the businessman advised. “I had to pick Michael Jackson’s lawyer’s brain at the time. It cost me $25,000. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself.”
For a real-world example, P called NBA OG 3Three, rapper NBA Youngboy’s brother and manager, to the stage to discuss the number one pitfall he sees for emerging artists.
“It’s all about having the right contract because that’s what’s going to tell your future,” 3Three said. “The whole thing about having the right contract is going further with yourself.” The next generation of Louisiana hip hop added, “That’s why I reached out to P. P helping me.”
Master P also told artists not to rely solely on social media to market themselves. Long before social media, he was selling CDs independently from the trunk of his car. The self-proclaimed “Ghetto Bill Gates” sold several million albums hand-to-hand. “It’s about making yourself visible, making yourself known,” he explained.
While many dreamers may believe the struggle to the top is the hardest part of the journey, Romeo and his dad warned that staying there is the real work. The best way to do that is to keep learning.
As Master P’s oldest child, Romeo had a platinum hit, 3 US Billboard 200 albums, a No. 1 network television show named after him plus several blockbuster film cameos all before high school.
“A lot of people grew up with me. The ‘Lil’ Romeo days’,” he reflected. “I had everything in front of me. Drugs, partying, temptation, it was in front of me as a little kid. The only reason I didn’t go off was God and seeing how my dad handled that.”
The young mogul credits his parents’ decisions to discipline him— he had curfew until he was 20 years old — and keep him enrolled in traditional schools as a child for helping him to develop his own drive.
“You (Master P) taught me how to fish,” he said. “He was never just bringing the fish home. I was there with him and I learned that you got to get out there on the front line.”
Just like his father who earned an athletic scholarship to attend The University of Houston, Romeo went to college on a basketball scholarship, too.
“[Knowledge] is the one thing nobody can take away,” Romeo stated. “That’s why...I put my career on hold to go to USC. To go to college, and to master my craft.”
Constant learning doesn’t only mean textbooks, but it also means seeing what’s happening in the space around you. Master P noticed that blacks “spend a trillion dollars [each year], but we only own 7 percent of the business. That’s what we have to change.”
He recalled a time when he was mocked for his foresight. His first tour was with Tupac and he was mocked. The host would introduce him as “Mr. P the Country Singer,” but he used that doubt to fuel him. “He who laughs last laughs the best,” he said.
One of his best laughs was 20 years ago, and it was Romeo’s first-ever investment. They invested in popular corner store treat Rap Snacks potato chips. The unique pairing of potato chip flavors revolutionized both the food and the music industries.
Thinking outside of the box has proven to be one of Master P’s strengths. So, it’s only natural that he’d continue to push the envelope with unexpected ventures. Next, consumers can expect to see Rap Noodles on the market. P wanted to know: “We’ve been buying noodles all our life. How come we don’t own no noodles company?”
He’s also investing in sports with House of Glory Wrestling, created by professional wrestler Amazing Red. After inviting Diddy, 50 Cent, JAY-Z and other hip hop icons to join in, P said: “This is going to be one of the biggest things that we’ve ever done. Because we don’t own the NFL, we don’t own the NBA, but we do own HOG— House of Glory.”
Later in the panel, Romeo had the opportunity to floss his “P1 Creams” from black-owned sneaker brand Moneyatti— another fashion venture from his dad.
Overall, Master P is a God-fearing man whose success is evidence of his faith. When people doubted him, he declared: “I’m going to turn that one fan into a million. I didn’t know that it would be a hundred million, but that’s how God works.”