The story behind the success of ''I'm Bout It''

Truth in advertising is not a particular concern of upstart video success Master P (a.k.a. Percy Miller). On the cover of I’m Bout It, the direct-to-video movie he cowrote, codirected, and stars in, are the words BANNED IN THEATRES ACROSS AMERICA. The reality is somewhat less dramatic: P, who founded the New Orleans-based rap label No Limit Records in 1992, says he tried to get the movie in theaters but opted to self-release it after negotiations with distributors proved unfruitful.

”We talked to New Line and Paramount, but they didn’t want to give us the full [complement] of theaters,” he says. ”They were also worried they’d have to have armed security people in theaters.”

P’s martyrizing marketing hasn’t hurt sales. Released June 3, I’m Bout It has sold over 110,000 copies, at $19.95 a pop, in only a month; and Priority Records, distributor of the video, has shipped over 240,000 copies — tremendous numbers for an independent video release, and enough to post it at No. 11 on Billboard’s video sales chart.

A hard-boiled ghetto fable ostensibly based on P’s life, I’m Bout It bristles with profane humor and casual violence, as it traces its hero’s journey from drug kingpin to hip-hop entrepreneur. The film is crudely impressive, blending blunt brutality with self-promotion in a sort of low-budget hybrid of Menace II Society and Private Parts. Advertised primarily through fliers included in No Limit’s albums, it’s also testimony to the 27-year-old P’s savvy. Made on a budget of ”close to $1 million,” according to P, the film stars many of the B-list artists on his roster, including his brothers, who go by C-Murder and Silkk the Shocker. ”No Limit is a family business,” says P in his Louisiana drawl, ”and we like it that way.”

P is optimistic that he’ll find a theatrical distributor for his next production, a comedy called I Got the Hookup. ”People want to talk to us,” he says with pride. ”I’m rollin’ with the big dogs now.”

I'm Bout It
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