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. He maintained connections to rival gang friends despite rivalries.
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, Fiend, 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. The label signed individual producers DJ Daryl, Randy Jefferson, K-Lou & Dez as well as Master P's main production team, Beats by the Pound (KLC, Mo B. Dick, Craig B, and Odell; they would ultimately depart the label in 1999 due to financial disputes) and Carlos Stephens, in addition to 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. Together they would put out a combined 23 albums in 1998, in some instances their lone releases with the label. Master P's own LP 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 4.5 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 twenty tracks and numerous cameo appearances by the label's other 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.
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. In 2000 504 Boyz album Goodfellas made it big on the Billboard peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 making No Limit a small 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 the artists Currensy, Lil Romeo, C-Murder and Krazy Lil Soldiers have enjoyed any type of longevity over the past decade since Master P's 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.
On December 17, 2003, the company filed for bankruptcy due to various lawsuits, and Master P then sold the catalog.