Master P: I was good at music, but I didn’t know I was that good until I actually got into it when I got [injured]. You might think you’re going in one direction, but God will put you in another direction. When I got hurt playing basketball in college, I felt like I had failed everybody in my family. I was supposed to go to the pros, and I’m thinking I’m on my way and I’m about to take care of my family and get them out of the ghetto. But then I got hurt. I always tell people, let your failures take you to the next level and let your failures make you great. I remember my grandfather saying, “Look son, don’t sit around here and just keep worrying about what happened. You gotta go make something else happen.” I had to find something else that I loved, and God opened up a bigger door. Most of my friends that played basketball at the time I played didn’t make that much money in the NBA, and what I was able to do [with music] was just unheard of. And I could have easily just been in the music business, but I went to college and educated myself. Without the right education, I don’t think my mindset would have been the way it is today, and the way I was thinking about business.
Allison Kugel: Everybody I asked about you said the same thing, that you were never owned by a record label; you’ve always owned your own music. Was that also part of the plan?
Master P: It happened with my grandfather. He was in the war, and when he came back home, they were supposed to give him ten thousand dollars to buy a house, and they never gave it to him. He always said, “Grandson, you need to start your own business. Start your own army.” That’s where No Limit (the name of Miller’s record label and production company) came from. My grandfather instilled that in me; “You’re not going to make it in their system. We have to create our own.” I always went against the grain. I knew I couldn’t just work for a paycheck, because I was living in the projects with sixteen people in a three-bedroom apartment. I had so many people and so many mouths to feed, and I couldn’t do that with a regular paycheck. I had to own it, and I’ve always kept that mentality, to where, when you look at African Americans and Latinos, we don’t own anything. My mindset was to change that narrative, to be able to own my own masters, to be able to build other executives. That’s where education and knowledge come in. We search and seek and pray for money, but we don’t search and seek and pray for knowledge and information. That’s what’s going to get us to our destiny.
Allison Kugel: Yes! I love that you said that. I pray every night with my son, and we never ask for things. We say, “Thank You,” and we pray for wisdom, knowledge clarity, health, and so on. Gratitude is what attracts things to you.
Master P: When you bless others, blessings will come. My most important job is to be a servant. It’s not about being a boss. It’s about being a servant and being able to serve my community, to serve underprivileged kids, being able to serve the elderly, and being able to educate the next generation.
Allison Kugel: Early on in your music career, you were Tupac Shakur’s opening act. What was that like?
Master P: It was crazy, because everyone was there to see Tupac. They didn’t care about me (laugh). I was happy to have just one person [in the crowd] jump up. One guy was just going crazy for me in the audience. And being on the road with Tupac, I said, “I’m going to turn that one fan into millions.” To then be able to sell 100 million records is just incredible. Knowing that if you believe in something… and you don’t have to be the best, because I wasn’t the best at first. I had to get into the studio and work hard. I was living on the West Coast, and I had this Southern slur in how I talked, so I had to become better. They say the best way to do that is to stay in the gym, which was the studio. I wasn’t afraid to outwork everybody. I outworked those guys. While Tupac and all those guys were partying, playing, and just having fun on the road, I was in the studio working. I said, “While they sleep, I’m going to be working.”
Allison Kugel: What did Tupac think of your music?
Master P: At first, he didn’t understand it. Then they started seeing as we are getting into some of the southern markets, how people were gravitating to my music. They started listening and saying, “This is alright.” In the end, Tupac really started liking my music, and that was a blessing because he was the biggest star in the world of hip hop at the time. To have him jamming to my music, I knew I was on my way.