ICON: No Limit / Cash Money Edition.
Friday, July 31st at Medittera.
1991-1999: Beginnings and deal with Universal Records
Cash Money Records was founded in 1991. Bryan Williams told some of his close friends the original motivation for starting the label. "I was hoping it would get us out of the projects and into a positive way of life. And we wanted to help other people get out of this poverty" Bryan "Birdman" Williams founded Cash Money Records in 1991 with his brother Ronald "Slim" Williams. For its first few years (1991–1994), Cash Money played host to a number of local releases by artists, selling only one album without ever releasing a music video or having a Billboard hit. Some of the label's releases garnered some regional success in New Orleans, Louisiana, but the label was little known to the national rap scene. Artists on the label during this period included the group U.N.L.V. (Uptown Niggas Living Violently), Kilo G, Lil Slim, and PxMxWx. In 1995, the label signed young rappers B.G., Young Buck and Lil Wayne. The signees marked what would be the second wave of Cash Money artists. In 1997, B.G. and Lil Wayne formed the group the Hot Boys together with Juvenile (rapper) (who had already been regionally successful before Cash Money). Although initially they didn't make much impact outside of the region, they would become the label's most well known artists. Cash Money's big break came in 1998 when the Hot Boys, B.G. and Juvenile in particular, caught the attention of Universal Records executives. In 1998, Cash Money signed a $30 million pressing and distribution with $3 million advance contract with Universal, entitling the label to 85% of its royalties, 50% of its publishing revenues and ownership of all masters. Dino Delvaille, who orchestrated the deal, later told HitQuarters: "I made certain they retained 100% ownership of their work. They deserve it."Lil Wayne started as a member of the Hot Boyz and would become the label's best selling artist. After the deal Cash Money records would reach success it hadn't come close to previously. The release of Juvenile's 1998 album 400 Degreez, which was certified 4X Platinum by the RIAA, solidified Cash Money as a powerful label in the national hip-hop scene. Later albums in 1999 such as the Hot Boys' Guerrilla Warfare, B.G.'s Chopper City in the Ghetto, and Lil Wayne's Tha Block Is Hot also saw great chart success and furthered the label's reputation. These albums contained major Billboard hits such as Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" (#19 on the Billboard Hot 100), B.G.'s "Bling Bling" (#36), and the Hot Boys' "I Need a Hot Girl" (#65). All of Cash Money's albums and singles in this period were solely produced by the label's in-house producer, Mannie Fresh. Their A&R at Universal, Dino Delvaille, said: "When they first came into the business, they were very reluctant to make records with other people. They probably felt that people would steal their style or flavor, and I had to work hard to get them to open up to making records with Cam’ron, Puffy, and Clipse, among others.
2000-current: Continued success and various signings
This label's success continued into the 21st century. Between 2001 and 2003, the label sold 7 million albums. The song "Still Fly" by the Big Tymers was nominated for two Grammy Awards. However, B.G. and Juvenile later left the label in 2002, claiming financial mismanagement. In April 2003, Juvenile returned to the label for a reported $4 million deal, and in return, he signed over the rights to Juve The Great, an album which would go on to sell over a million copies and contained the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit "Slow Motion". In 2007, former Hot Boys member Lil Wayne was named president of Cash Money Records and CEO of Young Money Entertainment, giving the rapper full creative control over all releases under the two labels. Later that year, however, Lil Wayne stepped down as president to focus on his career, especially Tha Carter III. In 2008, Lil Wayne re-signed with Cash Money, ensuring that his next few albums will be produced by the label. Drake signed to the label in 2009 and has released Thank Me Later, Take Care and Nothing Was the Same. In September 2008, the label diversified by releasing rocker Kevin Rudolf's smash-hit debut single "Let It Rock" featuring label-mate Lil Wayne. On October 15, 2008 at the MOBO Awards, British R&B singer Jay Sean announced that he had signed with Cash Money Records. In February 2009, the Williams brothers were featured in CNBC's Newbos: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass, a documentary show profiling several black multi-millionaires. In early 2009 former Roc-A-Fella Records artist Freeway signed with the label. On August 16, 2009, Bow Wow announced that he signed with Cash Money Records. In 2009, they took part in a major label bidding war for Queens native rapper Nicki Minaj. Eventually, they won the bidding war and Nicki Minaj was signed to them. Cash Money Records popularity grew after signing Minaj and Canadian rapper Drake. On August 5, 2010, production group Cool & Dre signed with Cash Money Records. The production group announced the news via Twitter. They are the first in house producer Cash Money has had since Mannie Fresh. On August 19, 2010, Birdman signed DJ Khaled to the label also signing his label We the Best Music Group as a subsidiary of Cash Money. On February 24, 2012, Cash Money Records signed the nu metal band Limp Bizkit. Wayne said the same day they were close to signing Ashanti.
Percy (Master P) Miller began his career by distributing his records through a small San Francisco Bay Area record label, "No Limit Record Shop", which started out in Richmond, where his mother resided. Despite being on the West Coast, he maintained his connections to the South through his father who remained in New Orleans. He signed his friends E-A-Ski & CMT, then-girlfriend Sonya C, King George, Big Ed, and Lil Ric. Master P then joined his two younger brothers, Silkk the Shocker (Vyshonn Miller) and C-Murder (Corey Miller), as the hip-hop trio TRU.
During the early 1990s, Master P released many solo albums with little success. However, Miller was able to garner notoriety for himself and the fledgling No Limit label on the West Coast by collaborating with various artists on compilation albums such as West Coast Bad Boyz 1 & 2. By 1994, the label was on the rise, and Master P decided the time was right to expand the product. After signing Oakland rapper Dangerous Dame, who released the EP Escape from the Mental Ward through No Limit, he began working with New Orleans-based talent, starting with Kane & Abel (then known as Double Vision) and Mystikal, while TRU's third album, True, achieved gold status.
1995-1999: Successful years and deal with Priority Records In 1995, Master P officially relocated No Limit to New Orleans, while keeping his brothers and several California rappers like TRU member Big Ed, King George and Calli G on board. He then added local talent to his roster such as Mystikal, Mia X, Kane & Abel, Tre-8 and Mr. Serv-On. No Limit then signed a distribution deal with Priority Records, while Master P maintained ownership of his master recordings and recording studio. He also became the label's main artist, and released Ice Cream Man in 1996 and Ghetto D a little bit more than a year later. By 1997, No Limit had gained momentum with bestselling, if not critically acclaimed, releases from TRU (Tru 2 Da Game), Mia X's Unlady Like, which went gold despite producing no hit singles, and Mystikal's platinum-selling Unpredictable. The label also acquired their first marquee name in Snoop Dogg, on the heels of his acrimonious split from Death Row Records. His debut album for No Limit, Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, was the most successful release in the label's history at the time, as it sold over half a million copies in its first week and was certified double platinum in less than three months.
As No Limit's popularity and mainstream coverage increased, so did its roster. In addition to incumbents like Silkk the Shocker, C-Murder, Big Ed, Mia X and Mystikal, Master P kept busy by adding individual producers DJ Daryl, Randy Jefferson, K-Lou, Dez, and Carlos Stephens, as well as his main production team Beats by the Pound (KLC, Mo B. Dick, Craig B, and Odell; Mo B. Dick would put out his own record in 1999), along with solo artists Mac, Mercedes, Soulja Slim, Full Blooded, Fiend, Magic, Skull Duggery, plus groups such as R&B quartet Sons of Funk, Short Circuit, Oakland-based pair Steady Mobb'n, Ghetto Commission, Prime Suspects, and Gambino Family, all of whom would put out a combined 23 albums in 1998, in some instances their lone releases with the label. Master P's own release that year, MP Da Last Don, which featured him on a lenticular cover, reached number one on the Billboard 200 after moving 495,000 copies in its first week, and sold 4 million units overall, making it the best-selling album of his career. At the peak of its popularity, No Limit became notorious for producing lengthy albums that consisted of up to 20 tracks, while featuring numerous cameo appearances by other No Limit artists (there were eighteen alone on Soulja Slim's 1998 release Give It 2 'Em Raw), in addition to the cheap packaging of its CDs in cases that consisted mostly of cardboard stock and a small amount of plastic, as well as spearheading the movement of garish Pen & Pixel-designed album covers.
No Limit Sports and Gear
No Limit was also known for having a huge clothing line called No Limit Gear. It was founded in 1999 by Master P. No Limit Sports was also founded in 1999 and was known for having a big sports management from the NBA, NFL and WWE. P. Miller's two biggest clients were NBA all-star player Paul Pierce (who had appeared in the 504 Boyz' music video "Tight Whips") and former NFL all-star Ricky Williams. No Limit also signed former WWE wrestler Montel Vontavious Porter, whose theme song was Silkk the Shocker's "I'm Comin.' "
2000-2003: Continued success and Decline
Master P began to expand his horizons beyond music. He wrote, directed and acted in the underground movie I'm Bout It and contributed to the soundtrack, as well as two high-budget theatrical releases, 1998's I Got the Hook Up and 1999's Foolish. Meanwhile, World Championship Wrestling president Eric Bischoff, attempting to capitalize on the rapper's popularity while searching for a quick fix to boost sagging television ratings, signed Master P to a contract at a reported $200,000 per TV appearance. He and his stable, the No Limit Soldiers, which included some of Master P's lackeys and midcard wrestlers Brad Armstrong and Chase Tatum, feuded with Curt Hennig and the West Texas Rednecks, who had recorded a single called "Rap is Crap." Bischoff hoped the Soldiers would be embraced by fans as faces and the Rednecks as heels, but he achieved the exact opposite result and the Soldiers were gone after a year. Master P even tried to make it as an NBA player with a brief but ill-fated tryout with the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors.
As for No Limit, while Silkk the Shocker's 1999 release, Made Man, debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200, increasingly fewer releases featured cameos from the label's marquee artists, leading their fans to the correct conclusion that they had left the label. 1999 also saw the arrivals of Lil Italy and kid duo Lil Soldiers, who were then dropped after their debut albums On Top of da World and Boot Camp, respectively, sold poorly.In 2000 504 Boyz album Goodfellas made it big on the Billboard peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 making No Limit a big factor in the 2000s, but in 2000 only Master P, Snoop Dogg, C-Murder, Silkk, Magic, Mac and Mia X remained from their most celebrated artists. Other performers such as Short Circuit, former Gambino Family members D.I.G. and Young Gunz, Popeye, Baby Soulja, Black Felon, Afficial, Samm, Currensy, Choppa and Krazy were brought aboard from 1999 to 2000, but some failed to create interest in themselves or in No Limit Records; only Currensy, Lil Romeo, C-Murder and Krazy has since enjoyed any type of longevity over the past decade since his departure from the label. In addition, popular artists such as Mystikal and Magic had left and would put out albums to varied results; Mystikal's first post-No Limit record, Let's Get Ready, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in 2000, while Magic's first release, 2003's On My Own, failed to chart.
However, Beats by the Pound left No Limit after money disputes in the summer of 1999, and only Stephens remained. Many new producers (XL, Suga Bear, Ezell, Kenoe) arrived but didn't quite meet expectations, and many of the No Limit artists did not reach longevity and left for other projects. By 2002, it appeared that the focus of No Limit Records was limited to the Miller family prior to Magic, Choppa, TRU and 504 Boyz. This notion was further strengthened with the release of his son Lil' Romeo's debut album. On December 17, 2003, the company filed for bankruptcy due to various lawsuits, and Master P then sold the catalog. Reorganization In 2001, No Limit left Priority Records and signed a distribution deal with Universal. The label's name was changed to The New No Limit. The first release under the New No Limit banner was Master P's tenth album, Game Face. With Universal, the label also released new albums by the 504 Boyz, Lil' Romeo, Magic and Choppa. In 2004, the reorganized label had moved to Koch Records for distribution.
From 2004 to 2005, The New No Limit Records issued new albums by Master P, Silkk the Shocker, C-Murder, Lil' Romeo and the reformed TRU. In 2005, Master P established a new label called Guttar Music Entertainment. On November 26, 2010 No Limit was established again as No Limit Forever Records.