Time to dust off your combat boots and pull your camo back out of the closet: BET’s five-part docuseries The No Limit Chronicles, about the legenday late-'90s hip-hop label, kicks off at 9pm ET Wednesday with a two-episode premiere. The show features new interviews from some of the label's best-known soldiers, including Master P, Snoop Dogg, Mystikal, and Silkk The Shocker, and it's produced by the same team responsible for The Death Row Chronicles, the Emmy-nominated L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later, and BET's forthcoming Ruff Ryder Chronicles. Get bout it bout it and rowdy rowdy as you relive the rise, reign, and fall of one of the greatest record labels in hip hop history.
In preparation for the premiere, here are seven No Limit classics that correspond with the many fascinating facts we learned from The No Limit Chronicles.
Master P had a plan to use basketball to escape the Calliope Projects. It almost worked. Having successfully resisted the temptation of street life, he moved to Houston to play basketball for the University of Houston Cougars. The escape was short lived, however, as P tore his ACL before the start of his freshman season. He moved back to New Orleans after the injury and the need to support his family led him to hustling. He would soon wise up and move out to California for a fresh start.
On a promo tour to promote his sophomore album, Tupac met Master P, who owned the No Limit record store but was still an aspiring rapper. They chopped it up and P got the opportunity to open for Pac for a few dates on his 1993 tour. Years later, he would call these shows his "breakthrough."
After finding some independent success on the west coast, Master P returned to New Orleans to get his brothers C-Murder and Silkk the Shocker, and to search for talent for his fledgling No Limit Records. He ended up flying Mia X, Mr. Serv On, and the producers who would craft the signature No Limit sound, out to Richmond, California. Shortly after their arrival, P recorded the southern anthem "I’m Bout It, Bout It" and bucked conventional wisdom to prove that, actually, it’s not where you’re at, it’s where you’re from.
As part of his No Limit soldier recruitment efforts, Master P went up to Jive Records and forced an impromptu meeting with executives. He told them to release New Orleans recording artist Mystikal, whose career had more or less stalled at the label. When Jive balked and said Mystikal still owed them almost $400K, P whipped out his checkbook and paid off the debt on the spot.
Master P famously signed one of the most lucrative record deals in history, but how did he do it? When the major labels came calling, Master P knew what he wanted, but didn’t know exactly how to frame his position so that record companies would understand. Rather than wing it, he turned to someone who did: P paid Michael Jackson’s lawyer $250K for just one meeting. It was worth it. That sit-down gave P the language to articulate what he was looking for from a major. The distribution deal he struck with Priority gave P the power to truly control his own destiny.
Signing star NFL running back Ricky Williams was the greatest and most disastrous thing to happen to the fledgling No Limit Sports. While the signing put the company on the map and proved that an athlete's love of music could be leveraged to disrupt the existing agency structure (a model later replicated by Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports), initial results suggested that music moguls should stay in their lane. Williams' contract was unusually heavy on incentive-based pay and light on guaranteed money. As luck (or Murphy's Law) would have it, Ricky got injured his rookie year, so he failed to hit all but one incentive, and the bad press from the situation effectively tanked No Limit Sports. The kicker is that the incentive-laden deal structure was actually Ricky’s idea! No Limit Sports was merely following the wishes of their client...and it cost them everything.
Former No Limit artists C-Murder and Mac are both serving life in prison for crimes they claim they didn’t commit. Interestingly, neither artist would have even been convicted under the laws that exist today. Both C and Mac were convicted thanks to a Louisiana state law with a deeply racist history. In 1898, after the US Supreme Court ruled that states could not exclude blacks from juries, Louisiana amended their state constitution to allow for guilty verdicts in criminal cases with as few as nine jurors voting to convict. The purpose of this change was to disempower or dilute the influence of black jurors. In 1973, Louisiana amended its constitution to require 10 concurring jurors, which was still the law when C-Murder and Mac were tried (in both cases, the jury’s vote was 10-to-2 to convict). Louisiana has since amended its State Constitution to bar non-unanimous verdicts (and the U.S. Supreme Court banned them earlier this year), but the changes came too late to help either artist; it applies only to crimes committed after 2018.
The five-part docuseries No Limit Chronicles premieres with back-to-back episodes on Wednesday, July 29 at 9pm ET on BET.