Hip-hop’s true chameleon continues to be Percy Miller, better known as rapper Master P. Whether it’s making “clean” albums with his son, Romeo, helping improve life for New Orleans residents or talking real estate with Donald Trump, the hip-hop mogul is always focused on making dollars and spreading sense. Already a rapper and entrepreneur, he’s added philanthropist and author to his long list of credits these days. We caught up with hip-hop mogul to talk everything from politics and prose to post-Imus albums and Oprah.
So, you’ve added author to your long list of titles now that you’ve written your new motivational book, Guaranteed Success: When You Never Give Up (Urban Books, Sept. 4, 2007, 16.95). What is the message you wanted to get out there?
We’ve gotta build more entrepreneurs. If we want (Senator) Barack Obama to win, but we don’t have the financial means to support him, it’s not going to happen. I always wanted to better my life even when I lived in the ghetto. I want people to focus on the knowledge because anybody can get the money. The power of words and vision is so important. All the people I knew who are now dead had already visualized it by saying, `Man, I ain’t going to make it. I’m not going to live that long.” We have to have more vision. We’re not going to change our community by working for somebody.
You’ve shown your business savvy side since you were selling cellphones to your fellow students in high school. What reactions do you get when people learn that side of you?
People get caught up in the stereotype. I always was an entrepreneur. I’ve taken my game to the next level where I’m taking hip-hop to Wall Street. People say, “Why do you want to clean up your act?” It’s sad. Like why not want to clean your act up? Why not want to live as Black people and survive? Why not want to be like Bill Gates or Donald Trump or Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad author)? Why not understand the importance of the man up above and how we can’t do this on our own?
Speaking of Donald Trump, I heard that you guys have a friendship. Is that how you got into real estate?
I was in a car with Donald Trump and he said, “That’s my building. That’s my bank. That’s my hotel.” He made me step my game up. If you really want to build a generation of wealth, then you have to get into real estate. If you want to make changes in the community, you definitely have to put real estate in that community - and that’s what I’m doing. There are always things you can do to grow and that’s what my life is about now. And never compare what you have to what other people have. Be thankful for what you have and grow with it. Other people just give you the drive. After all I have, when I see Donald Trump I feel, man, I still gotta work.
That’s interesting seeing that you’ve made Forbes magazine’s list of Highest Paid Entertainers and even landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the title of Highest Paid Entertainer in the hip-hop industry. Is it true when they say: “More money, more problems”?
Once you get a lot of money you are a target for people to sue. I’ve had cases that I’ve overpaid for because I didn’t have the knowledge. I paid a lawyer $500,000 to represent me on a case and it wasn’t worth nothing but $200,000 (when we settled out of court).
Did it ever get so bad you had to file for bankruptcy?
When you get to my level in life you can’t file for bankruptcy. I have wanted to file but they’re like you can’t file, you have too much money. That’s why I wrote this book; I want people to spend better.
You sound a lot different from your No Limit Records days when you were known to keep it street and making folks “say uhn”. What brought about the change?
I watched Oprah Winfrey with Al Sharpton on her show and I tried to walk pass the TV, because they were saying we gotta be more responsible, clean up these lyrics in hip-hop. I’m like I done sold 75 million records, I really don’t want to hear that. To be honest my conscious was like, P, it’s people like you that’s part of the problem. We’re giving these kids the wrong information. I can do something about this; I can really take a stand and do something about this. If I’m in the car with my kids and my wife and have to turn my own music down when it comes on, that’s a problem. I need to get my act together. So it made me like “P, you have to do something. Oprah’s talking to you.” I’m so proud of Oprah. I hear the negative comments rappers make about her and it’s sad.
This new album, Hip Hop History, seems to reflect that. Not only are you rapping with clean lyrics, but you and your rapper-actor son Romeo are joining forces on it.
We’ve got the best of both worlds on Hip Hop History, out September 4th, the same day the book drops. He can speak from his perspective and I can speak from mine. It’s never been done where you now have the father and son (rapping on an entire album. We wanted to do it) even though it’s not going to sell millions and millions.
Wait, Master P is doing something without trying to make money? Why release it if you don’t expect it to sell well?
My whole goal for this project is to show people that we can be responsible for what we say in music. In order for there to be change, somebody’s got to spark that change because right now it’s cool to be bad. It’s about putting balance in the marketplace. The whole positive thing is going to take time. Right now people -- from the media to the radio -- are glorifying negativity. I can take the cussing out of my record and still have my street cred.
Some records don’t have cussing, but can still be disrespectful. What’s the story with Hip Hop History?
Well, ours is about glorifying our beautiful Black queens. It’s definitely a social issue in our community that we have to be responsible as people in relationships and glorify each other. When we put each other down we definitely tear families apart. We’ve got to put each other on a pedestal.
So as a native of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina hit right at home. As we approach the two-year anniversary of Katrina, how have you used your success to help?
In my community after Katrina I noticed the government was putting programs up, but was missing a lot of people. These people were uneducated so when the Hurricane hit they couldn’t even fill out forms for FEMA. So I built this program called Team Rescue One where we went out and helped them fill out these applications and also give our own money.
I’m doing a foundation right now where we are putting gymnasiums in the community. When Hurricane Katrina came I gave millions of dollars, but it wasn’t enough. It can’t just be me. If there were 100 of me when Hurricane Katrina hit we could have put our money together and said, “We got this.”