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Master P's Minneapolis: How'd the hip-hop mogul wind up living here?

Hammed Akindele @flytouchstudio

Hammed Akindele @flytouchstudio

Prior to late 2019, you wouldn’t see any 6-foot-4 dads with diamond-encrusted No Limit Records pendants inside the gleaming Minnehaha Academy gymnasium.

That all changed when Master P moved to Minnesota.

In the retrospectively halcyon early days of 2020, news broke that the rap mogul born Percy Miller made a WTF relocation from L.A. to Minneapolis, where he now lives with his prep basketball star sons, Hercy and Mercy. At the time, Sen. Bernie Sanders was surging in the Democratic primary, COVID-19 had infected just 13 Americans, and how Master P was adapting to his new Minnesota lifestyle felt like a story that demanded to be told.

These days, as a global pandemic has society on lockdown, Master P and sons have absconded to their L.A. mansion. But once the viral curve has been flattened, the Miller family will be Minneapolitans once more, P’s publicist assures us.

In the meantime, here’s some quarantine reading material about our new celebrity neighbor.

 

Master P, flanked by his sons Mercy and Hercy

Master P, flanked by his sons Mercy and Hercy Hammed Akindele @flytouchstudio

It’s mid-February, and seated courtside in Minnehaha Academy’s gym, Master P isn’t interested in laying out details of why his family now lives in south Minneapolis. He’s here to look after a sick relative, he says, and that’s all he’ll reveal. He was, however, eager to praise the basketball and academic successes of his sons.

Master P’s boys, both of whom are thriving as Redhawks, hadn’t seen snow before enrolling at the Christian school along the Mississippi River. Their dad had, having taken holiday vacations from New Orleans’s notorious Calliope Projects to visit Minnesota family members in the ’80s.

“As a kid, we always came here for Christmas time,” Miller, 49, says in his no-nonsense drawl. “For us, this was our getaway to see Santa Claus in the snow.”

Miller bounced outta NOLA on a hoops scholarship, eventually landing in the Bay Area. That’s where, in 1990, he’d launch No Limit Records, funded by a $10,000 malpractice settlement related to his grandfather’s death. Throughout the ’90s, No Limit put out hit albums from Mystikal, Silkk the Shocker, Snoop Dogg, and, of course, Master P himself, peaking with a massive 1998.

For one week that year, only Warner Bros. produced more Top 40 albums than No Limit. P’s label generated $120 million in its first six years, the New York Times reported in a story headlined “How a Gangsta Rapper Turns Entrepreneur; At 28, Master P Has Created One Of the Biggest Independent Labels.”

“I guess I want to be the ghetto Bill Gates,” he told the Times.

But in 2003, the label declared bankruptcy. No Limit folding was a rare fiscal L for Master P, who ranks among hip-hop’s most skilled and persistent capitalists.

“Prince told me, like, ‘Man, I’m inspired by you being an entrepreneur and creating your own brand.’ The No Limit brand, and doing it on my own,” Miller says of a chance conversation he once had with a fellow business-minded musician. “He was like, ‘That was courageous.’ I never thought about it until I heard it from Prince. That’s when I’m like, ‘I think I made it.’”

At the height of his musical fame in the late ’90s, P also worked tirelessly to forge an NBA career, eventually inking preseason contracts with the Charlotte Hornets and the Toronto Raptors. (One of his elder sons, rapper/actor Romeo, played college ball at USC.)

Master P’s singular resume also includes…

A sprawling list of film/TV credits (remember 1998’s I Got the Hook-Up?); a 1-900 No Limit phone-sex hotline (callers were promised chats with the “No Limit bitches” featured on CD sleeves); a sports-managment firm (clients included NBA journeymen Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson); a book (2007’s Guaranteed Wealth), and a brief pro-wrestling stint (the No Limit Soldiers stormed WCW in 1999).

Miller’s current portfolio of business interests is just as diverse. There’s his MoneYatti sneaker brand, the bodega-ubiquitous Rap Snacks chips, and, soon, Rap Noodles (“Like ramen but better flavor,” he tells us). He even offers a seminar called MasterClass Millionaire Mastery Business & Marketing Conference, with tickets starting at $247 (one day, no lunch with Mr. Miller) and running up to $2,495 (three days, plus lunch).

“To be able to come from where I come from—the struggle, the pain, the streets, the poverty,” he says. “And look where we are now.”

 

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Where Miller is now is 1,931 miles from Hollywood.

“You gonna do whatever you need to do for family,” he says. “And sometimes you gotta get outside your comfort zone. For us? This is definitely getting out of our comfort zone.”

P’s friends on the Timberwolves urge him to hit the town, the semi-recently single celeb says, but he’s mostly in family-man mode. Miller’s go-to destinations include tourist mecca Mall of America and international steakhouse chain Ruth’s Chris. He recently took the boys snow-tubing, and reportedly had a blast.

“A lot of my friends at home, back in California, will ask ‘How is it?’” Miller says. “I say, ‘We still shine in the snow.’”

Amazingly, Master P is not the first former hitmaker to relocate to the Twin Cities. Back in 2015, Sisqo, the man behind underrated hit “Thong Song,” moved to the sleepy suburb of Maple Grove. “No thongs out here!” he informed Northwest Community Television.

Miller, who may or may not have been buttering this townie reporter’s bread, effusively heaped praise onto what he calls his second home. He’s lobbying the state legislature to change interstate high school sports eligibility rules; he seems genuinely distraught by seeing homelessness out in the cold. (“We spend a lot of money on a lot of other stuff, but I’m thinking, ‘How do we fix that, take our people off the streets?’”)

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In terms of civic boosterism, Master P is a regular Mayor Jacob Frey. (Mayor Frey declined to comment on his city’s latest celebrity transplant for this story, though to be fair he had more pressing coronavirus-related concerns to address.)

“You know what? There’s something magic about this place, we’re gonna make this place cool; it’s gonna be cool to be in Minnesota,” Miller promises. “I mean, people don’t realize… I feel like this is an untapped market. This has everything that all the big-city markets have.”

 

When Master P speaks , the proud papa vibes are irrepressible.

And for good reason: Hercy, a junior, is being barraged with NCAA scholarship offers. In fact, during dad’s big interview with City Pages, the 6-foot-3 point guard politely interrupted with news of an offer from the University of Pittsburgh. Mercy, just an 8th-grader, is already clocking minutes with the varsity team. Both boys boast GPAs hovering around 4.0.

Hercy joined his AAU pal Jalen Suggs, a top college recruit, and 7-footer (!) Chet Holmgren on a dominant Minnehaha Academy team that was fresh off three consecutive state championships.

“Hercy is not only a great basketball player, he’s a great kid,” says Redhawks coach Lance Johnson. “He’s a natural leader, he’s fit into our school culture perfectly. Everybody had heard of Master P, and their parents had all heard of him—they’re just really, really good people, a positive bunch.”

COVID-19 cancellations prevented Minnehaha Academy from battling for another state title, but the team had already achieved national acclaim. Target Center was filled to the gills with 17,378 basketball fans on January 4, an attendance figure that dunks on the Timberwolves’ NBA-worst average of 15,066. The draw was Minnehaha Academy taking on powerhouse California school Sierra Canyon, which boasts the sons of NBA royalty LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

“It was like David vs. Goliath,” Master P says. “We had no chance at beating them, but these guys came together like a real brotherhood.”

Final score: A 78-58 blowout, with the Redhawks toppling the Trailblazers in a prep game that was televised on freaking ESPN.

“The Miller boys are young leaders in our school,” Minnehaha Academy principal Jason Wenschlag says. “They’re respectful, work hard, and don’t have an attitude about who they are, where they come from, or who their dad is.”

Fellow students know about who Hercy and Mercy’s dad is. Teammates will blast No Limit tracks in the locker room, Hercy says, with the top three being “Mr. Ice Cream Man” (one of Hercy’s personal faves), “Make ’Em Say Uhh!,” and “Hoody Hooo.”

“We’re having fun out here, I like it,” says Hercy, whose 73,000 Instagram fans follow his Minnesota adventures. “The cold? Getting used to it still.”

 

Despite today’s apocalyptic overtones, the Miller men just keep hustling.

Blessed with dad’s entrepreneurial gusto, Hercy and Mercy concocted a line of cleaning products called Master Clean Life, which debuted in mid-March. The family’s Team Hope NOLA foundation has volunteered to clean the homes of elderly Crescent City residents with those products, all currently free of charge as New Orleans battles the global crisis.

Master P’s long-in-the-works biopic continues to percolate. The star is “somebody new, a young kid,” says Miller, who’s eyeballing a release date sometime this year. There’s also God Is Real, the faith-based film that’s being bankrolled by Romeo and Master P and due out in 2021. Those two Miller men are also collaborating on a father-son rap album.

Generational wealth underpins everything in the Miller universe. Master P is fixated on the concept, and for good reason: Prosperity breeds prosperity. Amassing an estimated $200 million fortune from virtually nothing is the ultra-rare bootstrap-pulling anecdote that bolsters the mythical American dream. But that’s what Miller did, and he’s adamant about proselytizing fiscal literacy.

“I come from poverty, so to break that negative cycle, we have to build generational wealth,” he says. “And that’s got to start with the next generation, preparing them for success.”

That’s the drumbeat mantra of Master P, the freshly minted Minnesotan who’s focused on the futures of his two youngest sons.

“You know, some fans be shocked when they see me, can’t believe it, ‘Is that really you?!’” he says. “Underneath all the stardom and the fame, I’m just a regular dad. I love my kids. I think when they see that, they’re like, ‘OK man, P cool. He’s not Hollywood, he’s just the guy that made it.’”