Master P has just shot his best friend and business partner, Anthony Boswell, in the chest. Twice.
Smoking gun in hand, he watches impassively from the driver’s seat of a truck as Boswell falls to the ground in front of a strip club. Then, as 50 or 60 witnesses look on, P revs the engine and peels away.
”Cut,” yells director Michael Martin. Boswell — who, when he’s not acting, serves as vice president of operations for P’s label, No Limit Records — picks himself up and dusts off his green-and-yellow pimp outfit as P, looking natty in a loose-fitting gray suit, slides out of the truck and strolls over to Martin. ”That last one is the one we use,” says P, referring to the just-completed (fourth) take of a scene from MP Da Last Don, the ”black Mafia” movie they’re shooting in an industrial area of downtown Los Angeles. Martin nods; the Don has spoken.
It’s a month until the May opening of P’s first theatrically distributed film, the blaxploitation comedy I Got the Hook-Up, but P’s game plan is to have Da Last Don — a straight-to-video quickie — wrapped well before Hook-Up hits theaters. He’s allotted 12 days for the task; as it turns out, he finishes it in 11.
Welcome to the fast-track world of Master P (a.k.a. Percy Miller), rapper, actor, screenwriter, director, record and film producer, and founder-CEO of the New Orleans-based No Limit Records, a company reportedly estimated to be worth $50-$100 million. At the ludicrously young age of 28, P is arguably the hottest multi-threat talent operating within — and beyond — the music industry. Many believe he has already outstripped the ubiquitous Sean ”Puffy” Combs in terms of clout, influence, and street cred. Earlier this year, P scored a coup by signing rap superstar Snoop Dogg, who called No Limit ”the best rap label” in the business. With six gold and seven platinum albums under his belt (his recent solo album, Ghetto D, is No Limit’s first triple-platinum release), the New Orleans native isn’t just running with the big dogs — he’s leading the pack.
Still, he’s not a household name quite yet. Although No Limit currently has six albums in Billboard’s top 100, P’s success has only now begun to register on the mainstream’s radar (a fairly common state of affairs in the rap world, where artists routinely earn gold and platinum albums without the benefit of MTV, radio, or press exposure). That doesn’t overly concern P, who’s more interested in profits than press clippings. Now, however, he’s out to prove to Hollywood that his name can draw movie audiences, and he’s already made a compelling argument: I Got the Hook-Up — a film made for a modest $3.5 million — opened May 27 and brought in $4.4 million in its first five days. Only last year, P released his first film, I’m Bout It (a crude, semiautobiographical inner-city drama that he cowrote, codirected, and starred in), straight to video after trying in vain to net a suitable theatrical-distribution deal for the self-financed, $1 million effort. It went on to sell a phenomenal 250,000 copies. Impressed by I’m Bout It’s out-of-nowhere success, and anxious to make inroads into the lucrative urban market, Miramax (distributor of contemporary indie classics such as Pulp Fiction and The English Patient) and its subsidiary Dimension Films snapped up Hook-Up after seeing a rough cut of the movie. Dimension president Cary Granat says company bigs ”flipped” for the farce about two bungling cell-phone hustlers: ”We thought it was hysterical. I think we all reacted to what was really a fresh pairing of [actor] A.J. Johnson and Master P. They’re a great partnership as a comedy team,” says Granat. ”We felt it had great potential, that it was funny and really worked…. We would really look forward to the opportunity to work with him again.”