By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
For poor Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime
He knew himself to sing and build the lofty rhyme.
--John Milton, from "Lycidas"
Master P knew himself, but more importantly, he knew us too. "Real niggas and bitches unite!" he raps as his fifth and final album, Da Last Don, closes up the characteristically blithe "Let's Get 'Em" and segues into a heretofore unfamiliar, yet appropriately elegiac, take on Boyz II Men's "Goodbye to Yesterday" titled "Goodbye to My Homies." No, friends, Master P has not followed his music's prophecy into the grave, but the rumors are true: This 28-year-old entrepreneur will never rap solo again. If ever we encounter his rock-slingin', cap-blastin', pap'-gettin' "reality" rap, it will be as we roll a phatty in the lowrider of our dreams. Or we might yet meet him alongside his little P's on any one of a dozen albums currently set for release on his No Limit Records: from Skull Duggery's These Wicked Streets and Fullblooded's Memorial Day to Rear End, the debut by the precocious femme Mercedes.
Of course, P's real homies--those of us who've been with him since he bum rushed our hearts way the hell back in September of '97--knew it was coming. If you looked deep--beyond the arrogance of his bangin' gangsta classic "Make Say Ugh"--you could sense that P had a vision no hit single, or #1 album, or dozen albums, or half-dozen movies, or line of sportswear, or series of fatalistic TV commercials could ever contain.
Those ugh's were the ugh's of a world-weary "soldier" (a realist, really), "goin' through some thangs" too complex to be capitulated over the tepid arrangements slopped down by the team of lackey "producers" who understood P's thangs about as well as they would have understood Hamlet.
Which is why Master P's expansive, two-CD swan song is so difficult to accept. Here P finds solace in love ("Think Bout U"), family ("Mama Raised Me"), and domesticity ("Get Your Paper"); and, as is (pardon me, was) always the rule with P, we can hear him trying to extend his music's scope outside the "gangsta" pigeonhole on tracks such as the multifaceted critique of postfeminism, "Thug Girl." Sadly, these songs can only serve as sketches, glimpses really, into what might have been had the Master decided to push on past the 2 triple 0 and into the daunting tomorrow that will always suffer from his absence.
Today, like the Milton of "Lycidas" sadly remembering the lofty rhymes sung by his fallen Cambridge classmate Edward King, we can look back on our friend's barely realized career and remember that, if only for a moment, Master P picked up our world, threw it in the back of his jeep, stuck his gat in its mouth, and made it say ugh. I, for one, will keep on sayin' it.