Master P On Rap Feuds, Conscious Parenting, Black Superheroes with Allison Kugel.
One of the greatest minds to emerge from the 1990s hip hop pantheon, Percy “Master P” Miller transcended a childhood of poverty in New Orleans’ Calliope Projects, to become a beacon of generational wealth, diversified business interests, and ownership in an industry once notorious for exploiting its artists. From music, movies, and real estate, to the food and automotive industries, his portfolio continues to grow.
A true gentleman who prefers to remain above the fray of controversy and relishes sharing the spotlight with those around him, Master P’s example and mentorship has guided artists from Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Wayne, and 2 Chainz, to his eldest son, rapper, actor and entrepreneur, Romeo Miller.
Master P’s latest project is the upcoming film, #Unknown, a creative collaboration with his son and co-executive producer, Romeo Miller; and the film’s producer, writer, and director, LazRael Lison.
Allison Kugel: What are the top three things that have shaped the person you are today?
Master P: I would first say God, my kids, my family, and just being able to be blessed.
Allison Kugel: But is there anything in your life that was a turning point, that completely transformed you?
Master P: I started realizing that we don’t have to dwell on our past, that it’s okay to move forward; it’s okay to better yourself. It’s ok to have faith. Nobody is perfect. That’s what it was for me. I feel like once I started having kids, I realized I have more to live for and I wanted to be around to watch them grow up, so I had to start making the right choices. And I want other people to say, “If P can do it, I can do it. It’s okay to better yourself.” One thing my grandfather always told me was, “If you want to better yourself and you want to live longer, mind your business and stay out of other people’s business.”
Allison Kugel: Growing up where you did, what gave you the power of belief that you could become everything you ultimately became?
Master P: It was my grandfather, but it was also knowing if you don’t have anything, you can still make the best out of what you have. I think a lot of people don’t realize that just having life, even with what we are going through now, through this pandemic, you never know when somebody is going to walk out that door and you’re never going to see them again. When you live in poverty, you know the only way is up. That’s what pushed me and motivated me, and I think we shouldn’t want to be around people that hold us back. Even in poverty, I started realizing that if I’m going to be successful, I have to cut the negative people around me off. Everybody has 24 hours. A lot of people are mad at other people and judging what other people have. That hate ends up being more important than the positive. It becomes more important than you making it out or bettering yourself. So, I started celebrating people. When I was living in poverty, I started looking at other people who had a nice car or a nice house, and I started being happy for them. When you can be happy for somebody else’s success, blessings will start coming to you. Everybody wants to get to the bag, but you are never going to get to the bag being negative, envious, and jealous. Pride took the devil out of heaven, and he took three fourths of the angels with him. We have to stop that pride, put that to the side and say, “Let me invest my time into something positive, and into me being a better person.”
Allison Kugel: You started off as a basketball player. Was music your Plan B?
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: 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 do you think you came into this life as Percy Robert Miller to learn, and what do you think you came here to teach?
Master P: I came into this world to be a student of the world. I’m constantly learning every day and getting better, and I also realize I came into this world to be a father to my kids. When I use the word “father,” it’s different from being a daddy. I have a lifetime commitment to my kids, and as a single dad you have to stay focused on your kids. My kids mean everything to me.
Allison Kugel: How many kids do you have?
Master P: Altogether, I have nine.
Allison Kugel: Your hand is in so many different things these days, and your movie #Unknown will be released next month. What is it about acting that appeals to you?
Master P: When you get to a certain level, you want to bring projects to life. For me, it is almost like being two different people. I can go be a businessman on this side and come back and utilize my acting skills and my fanbase, and just feeding them. It’s connecting to the audience and letting people see me in different ways. In this movie I play the mayor, and it’s a suspense thriller. It’s about being able to let people see me in different ways. In my next movies, I want to go beyond what you think you would see me doing in a movie. I’m even thinking about, like how Arnold Schwarzenegger played his role in Kindergarten Cop. I want to do a movie like that, set in an elementary school, playing a teacher or a principal. It’s fun to be able to portray other people and to bring a character to life.
Allison Kugel: Tell me about the plot of this movie.
Master P: #Unknown is a suspense thriller, but it’s also about a relationship and about trust and faith in somebody. The main character, his girl doesn’t believe him about what is going on with all these murders that happened years ago in this town. The movie has a great plot to it, but at the same time, throughout the story your mind is constantly trying to figure out what’s true, and did this happen, and when did it happen? I think it’s also about a couple trying to figure out if they can trust each other. Is this guy who he says he is? This film asks the question: in life, do you really believe in the person you are with?
Allison Kugel: And do you ever really know somebody?
Master P: Exactly, that’s what it is. That’s the unknown.
Allison Kugel: So many films are now being released, simultaneously, in theatres and on streaming services, because of this pandemic. It’s re-shaping the entire movie industry. What are your thoughts?
Master P: I think it’s great, because people are able to enjoy these movies and get a chance to see it when they want to see it. Streaming is so important, and we are focusing on that. You’ll be able to go to Amazon Prime to see this movie, #Unknown, and it’s incredible. It’s the new way, and a lot of people want to be safe during this pandemic, so this is a great way to put movies out now.
Allison Kugel: Do you think a movie release can be as exciting of an event, and be profitable, when the majority of people elect to watch it at home instead of in the theatre?
Master P: We’re going to have to adapt to the times. People have a choice. Some people still want to go to theatres and see films, but some people are more comfortable at home right now. This is about safety, right now. A lot of these movies are not going to make the money they normally would make, but when you look at the streaming right now, those numbers are about to start going up, so it’s just a new way.
#Unknown, starring Master P, Judd Nelson, Tom Sizemore, Denise Boutte, and Hal Ozsan; and produced, written, and directed by LazRael Lison, premieres October 1st, exclusively on Amazon Prime. Follow Master P on Instagram @masterp and follow filmmaker LazRael Lison @lazrael_lison. Watch the trailer for #Unknown.
Listen to the full conversation with Master P and filmmaker, LazRael Lison, on the Allison Interviews Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Follow Allison Kugel on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at allisoninterviews.com.