We could argue best No Limit release for days. At different points, their roster included the likes of Mystikal, Snoop, Fiend, Soulja Slim, Mac, Mia X, Young Bleed…we can stop here, right? The point being there was a ton of talent that once repped for the tank.
But no release may have been more important than Master P’s Ghetto Dope*. Seventeen years ago today on September 2, 1997, the No Limit colonel released his sixth solo album and in many ways it was his label’s coming out party. Everything they produced prior to the album was practice and preparation. Ice Cream Man, Tru 2 Da Game, The Shocker and others were regional favorites but only small chess pieces in the big scheme of things. By Ghetto Dope, Percy and his crew had it all figured out in order to go nationwide.
Off top, the packaging grabbed you. The bright, orange plastic case might seem simple but it was one of the elements that caught even the most casual shopper’s attention on stores shelves. Anybody who remembers the original album artwork can recall that it featured a smoked-out fiend sitting on a curb, continuing on the dope dealing, hood-based narrative that played into everything the label touched in the early days. They were less glamor and glitz, more grit.
And to kick the album off, brothers P, Silkk The Shocker and C-Murder took it back to the kitchen with the Pyrex-bubbling-hot, wrist-whipping anthem that was the title track. Working off a sample of Eric B. and Rakim’s “Eric B. Is President,” each one of the three talking how to “make crack like this,” which took on a literal meaning for C-Murder, a more fictional one for Silkk before the Master P closed the cut out with an explainer for his verse.
The songs that followed were all considerably good. The three first singles – “I Miss My Homies,” “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” and “Burbons and Lacs” – all charted high and the album itself peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. What that did was solidify the label as more than just a “down South album” or regional phenomenon. It cleared the way for No Limit to release all those damn albums they used to advertise in the inserts of each project they pushed into record stores (No Limit dropped 8 albums in 1997 compared to a whopping 38 in 1998-99 combined).
That orange-jeweled disc was the tank’s arrival and the song that lead the charge was “Ghetto Dope.”
* — I will never refer to this album by its amended title, much like I’ll always call him Biggie Smalls, not Notorious B.I.G.