The legend of Percy “Master P” Miller reads like a Jack Kirby and Stan Lee comic book origin fever dream. Rapper, former dope dealer, store owner, man who alleges he beat Michael Jordan in 1-on-1, label head, mogul, Forbes’ list crasher, pro basketball player, basketball league boss, film director, pro wrestler, motivational speaker.
To run down the full history would take up a pretty length book, or in P’s case, a real-life biopic that held casting calls earlier this year. There are neighborhood superstars and borough kings who may never escape regional status, and then there’s Percy Miller: The ghetto Superman. Without Master P, you have very few DIY entrepreneurs in rap. Without Percy Miller, you lose a large chunk of what turned the South into the premier space for rap creativity after he came into the picture.
Ghetto D, his sixth album of the ‘90s, arrived when half of the county was still dealing with the wake of the murders of The Notorious B.I.G. in March of 1997 and Tupac Shakur in 1996. Shakur’s fiery spirit contained a blueprint that was emulated by countless rappers after him. If a rapper could promote the grit and grime while also sounding as real and honest as he did, the music could sell. P’s boutique had a hand in everything; films, music, clothing and look. Despite a scratchy delivery with a drawl that could constrict around certain idioms and totems of street wisdom, Master P was never an impressive rapper.
But he and his sound were the perfect mid-90s entry point for learning the ghettos of New Orleans. Unfiltered, chaotic, and shot through with a crackling urgency, his most signature song was based off a rather undecipherable grunt, and his catalog littered with punches about drug dealing, losing friends, and getting money. Throughout his career, P brought the ghettos of New Orleans front and center on every album release, and Ghetto D was his signature moment.
The original cover art for the album depicted a fiend taking in crack and blowing out the previous P and TRU albums that came before Ghetto D. That cover was ditched for the now-iconic gold-plated font that began Southern Rap’s infatuation with Pen and Pixel cover art; a feat blown up even more by Cash Money’s exploits a year later. The name was shortened to Ghetto D but many people know it as Ghetto Dope. In his own play for world domination after lifting plenty of influence from ‘Pac, Master P created an entire universe that everyone got sucked into.
The album was a family affair, a full-blown showcase for Silkk Da Shocker’s dance around any concept of metered rhyming, time signatures, and physics, and all for a whopping eleven tracks. Fellow TRU brother C-Murder only appears twice. The star’s biggest free agent, Mystikal, locked in on three tracks. It cemented Mia X as the label’s most formidable rapper, a rarity for a female artist on a mostly male-dominated rap label. Ghetto D was a No Limit Records compilation album cleverly disguised as a Master P solo disc. P couldn’t do all the heavy lifting for an entire album. The idea persists today with a wide number of crews who have a personable lead act but more talented rappers allowed to shine in their collateral spotlight.