Once Upon a Time #2: Meeting the Limitless Entrepreneur
Read the first story here: How Tim Dog Outhustled Himself
From Slick Rick’s not-so-child-friendly “Children’s Story,” all the way up to Kendrick Lamar’s vivid Compton narratives: storytelling has always played a huge part in hip hop. And let’s not forget about the countless fascinating, fun or remarkable life stories of rappers. Some of which you might even not know yet. So let’s have a bit of fun with stories about story-tellers instead of listening to them, for a change.
Thomas Heerma van Voss (1990) is author of three Dutch novels, editor for numerous publications, and founder of now-defunct website Hiphopleeft (Hip Hop Lives), which had been delivering high-quality Dutch longreads and reviews on hip hop from 2007 up till 2012.
His new book, titled Plaatsvervangers, has been released earlier this week via Thomas Rap/De Bezige Bij. Hip hop plays an important part in it. Matter of fact, it’s all about music: about the Dutch hip hop scene, the power of hip hop music, about remarkable life stories of artists he considers to be personal heroes. Stories that could’ve come straight out of made-up movie scripts, ranging from the life and times of Slaughterhouse, Dr. Dre and Master P, to the influence of Damon Albarn and Hans Zimmer on contemporary music.
For The Find, Thomas has selected two artists and stories he finds worth sharing. After How Tim Dog Outhustled Himself, read his second story here on another personal hero:
Meeting the Limitless Entrepreneur
Last year I went to the U.S. to interview another personal hero: Master P (yes, he was a personal hero: I’ll elaborate on that later). I visited him in a studio in New Orleans, and it was quite a weird experience. Here he was, the guy who has earned hundred of millions at the end of the nineties with hardcore, really amateuristic yet addictive street hip hop. The self-proclaimed Ghetto Bill Gates who came up from one of the most dangerous hoods in the USA: the Calliope Projects in the formerly called Murder Capital, New Orleans.
He was a middle-aged man now, bigger than I expected, and I felt really intimidated. Mainly because of the location of the interview: in a studio near the hood he grew up in, with his crew staring at me when I walked into the studio. Many of them were new artists signed by P—artists nobody in Europe and probably even the USA ever heard of. They all didn’t say a word to me. They just listened to the conversation, and started at me. Constantly. Master P did all the talking from behind his own sunglasses.
Whatever I tried to say, I got the feeling I didn’t really get through to him. He even wasn’t impressed at all by the fact that I have all his CDs from his former label, No Limit Records—around 80 CDs from artists nobody knows anymore—and he wasn’t impressed by the fact that I knew almost all his lyrics off the top of my head.
“I lived a quiet, safe life in a rich, nice neighborhood of Amsterdam. No Limit Records was my ‘gateway’ to another world”
Why did I listen to him so often, in the first place? Because I wanted to collect it all. Not only his music, also the merchandise, the drinks—everything. Master P was the first real “hip hop entrepreneur”, in a way the likes of 50 Cent and Jay-Z have copied it from him. In that sense he was really influential for the rap game: not as an artist, but as a businessman. Matter of fact, I could give a summary of about 1 full book page of all his side-hustles and business ventures during the heydays of No Limit Records.
As a teenager I became addicted to No Limit, also because of one other reason: I lived a quiet, safe life in a rich, nice neighborhood of Amsterdam. No Limit was my ‘gateway’ to another world. A world of violence, drugs, gang wars… A world of blood and death—finally some action in my life. And in that sense Master P took a part in forming me as a person. I don’t listen to his new raps much; they sound too forced, too desperate to become successful again. But from time to time I still listen to his old work.
And my visit to New Orleans will remain a precious memory for the rest of my life. I felt relief when I was back home, yet I also wanted to go back to this hero of mine.