Walking into Master P’s office in Van Nuys, California, is almost like taking a step backward in time. The walls are adorned with gold and platinum plaques of No Limit Records’ heyday in the late 1990s. The first visible plaque in his office is that of his 1995 breakout album, Ice Cream Man. It was an album where Master P compared the neighborhood ice cream man to the infamous neighborhood drug dealer. But beyond the brazen comparison was an essential theme that became apparent throughout his career as a rapper, businessman and entertainer. Master P was the quintessential salesman who could sell almost anything to a public willing to buy.
He has marketed independent movies (I’m Bout It, I Got the Hook Up); clothes and sneakers (No Limit Clothing, P. Miller); energy drinks (Make ’Em Say Ughh!); and, of course, records (over 75 million). You don’t turn a $10,000 inheritance into a $300 million conglomerate by chance. If there is a dollar to be made in any industry, Master P has researched it and figured out a way to earn that buck.
His unwavering self-determination stems from having very little financially while growing up in New Orleans’ notorious Calliope Projects. It was a place where the crime rate was high and job opportunities were low. He figured out quickly that the best way to make a living was to find a product, promote the product, and sell it himself.
Master P’s latest product is his family’s story. Currently a single father after a turbulent and highly publicized divorce, P has invited cameras into his home to capture the day-to-day adventures of him guiding the lives of his five kids, who range from age 9 to 26. The Reelz channel’s “Master P’s Family Empire” delves into P’s attempt to rebrand his label and himself as an artist; manage his son Romeo’s burgeoning career as an actor; and keep his daughter, Cymphonique, focused and away from boys as she balances her music career and college.
Minus the soap opera aspect, Master P, Romeo and Cymphonique give viewers a peek inside a real-life family empire.
Master P’s in control
You haven’t done music in 10 years and you’ve been putting all of your energy into your kids’ success. How does it feel now to be back?
Master P: It feels good, my kids come first, just being with them, watching them grow and being a part of their lives and careers and being able to get back in the game. Because the game is going back to the ‘90s anyway, a lot of people are remaking my older songs and other artists’ songs from the ‘90s as well. I feel like if you still got the swagga to do it, then do it.
You’ve sold over 75 million records, what’s the difference in the music industry now versus then?
Master P: It’s a digital game now; social media is driving everything and you don’t know what’s real. Some people have millions of followers, but they only sell 10,00 records. Some of the biggest artists in the world that people are spending a lot of money on are only doing 30, 40, 50,000 records sold. It’s not a good time to be in the music business if you don’t understand the digital part of the business.
Was the music called “trap” back then?
Master P: It was always called trap, because we were trapping back then. I know [for] this new generation, this just came up. When you talk about the ice cream man, I always wore the all-white suits back in the day, [when] we were on the block. I got the concept from the Avon lady. She would come in the ‘hood and I’m like, “I’m going to sell my CDs out the trunk of my car like the Avon lady.”
How important is hard work to success?
Master P: People have to realize we made a lot of big records in the bathroom. I grew up in the projects, I had an eight-track machine taping my music inside the bathtub, I had my mic and I would close the door, the producer would have the music box on the side. A lot of people get caught up thinking they need these big-time studios but you don’t, you just need to make good music. This generation doesn’t get the hard work — this generation is looking for a successful mogul or CEO like myself, or Puffy, 50 Cent, or Jay Z, and [they] think [they’re] going to get with these guys and [their] whole life is going to change.
How do you manage wearing both hats as a parent?
Master P: I’ve been wearing a lot of hats all my life, but I teach my kids that you have to love your mom, you’re going to have your mom in your life forever. So we have to be friends to be parents for our kids no matter what we go through; it’s just a process you go through. Some people fall deeply in love, some people fall out of love and that’s what I’m able to teach my kids. You have to be able to communicate things and that’s what I’m able to teach my kids. Don’t just get into [a] relationship for looks, you also have to have some balance if you want to be in business — you have to have an educated partner beside you or it’s not going to work.
Romeo has his say-so
Explain your feelings on the backlash you got on dating outside of your race?
Romeo: It doesn’t affect me because I’ve never lived a life where I viewed people for their color. I come from the South and we’ve seen a lot of racism where we are from in Louisiana. My pops taught his kids to just love, and if you have a good heart that’s what I see. It’s crazy to think that still in 2015, that’s such a big deal. It shows that we still have a long way to go, but at the same time the only way to be happy is by living your life.
Besides a good heart, what are a few qualities you like to have in your woman?
Romeo: I like those nerdy, smart girls. I love family-oriented girls, I have a big family so I love to get to know the other person’s family as well. If you smell good, you’re halfway there. You just need to smell like an angel.
Are we going to see your mother at all on the show?
Romeo: I think what people don’t understand about reality is that it’s a business. People ask why my other siblings and mom [aren’t] in it, and this is my business, this is a job. I’ve done movies I’ve done TV shows and reality is one of the hardest things because you’re most vulnerable, you don’t know what you’re going to do next. There is no script, filming it’s whatever happens, happens. We wanted to do something where the fans could get a closer glimpse into our family, people have to understand everybody doesn’t want to be on TV 24/7, it’s not for everybody. … That’s what I have always loved about my family, social media wants to bring in my family drama, they like to see that but for me that’s my real life. I love my mother to death, I love my father to death, I love my brothers and sister to death, so whatever I can do to help them — that’s not for the cameras that’s for my real life. I wrote a letter on my Instagram, because you have a lot of kids that are going through things, and that is what inspired me to do my next project “Fighting Monsters.”I wrote the letter so I don’t have to talk about it 24/7. When you’re in a very public divorce the kids are always a part of it, sadly. When people have false accusations, we have to say something because we’re in the middle of it.
The fans want to know, did you ever attend ICDC College?
Romeo: People didn’t understand, and they wondered,“why is he doing this?”But for me, education is really important. I didn’t go to ICDC College, I don’t go there; I went to USC. I want to endorse education because that’s very important to us.
Cymphonique steps forward
What are you most excited about with the show?
Cymphonique: I think the most important part of the show is the values that my dad has. He’s known for being independent and he passed that down to us, and you’ll get to see our business plans and business ventures.
Is there pressure to be great, being the daughter of a legend?
Cymphonique: My dad is a great man, and a kindhearted man, and those are big shoes to fill. There is pressure but it’s all in the way you view the pressure; I see it as motivation. He’s always talking about generational wealth and taking his mistakes and learning from his mistakes to make it better.
What’s it like having to having to have a chaperone with you everywhere you go?
Cymphonique: It’s all about safety and you never know what might pop off, [so] I don’t mind it, lots of people [might] feel [stifled] by it, but [I’d] rather be safe than sorry.