Friday, November 1, 2013

No Limit Records (Part 2)

Time for part 2!!!

Although the label was still successful on the surface this year, 1998 was the year in which the No Limit
product became so overexposed and cliched that a fall off was imminent. Although the hardcore, gangsta material worked to a degree in previous years, it was clearly time for a change, but we didn't get that. They did do a few songs dedicated to lost ones (family and friends), escaping a life on the streets, reminiscing on their childhood, etc, but other than that it was more of the same. They did bring their own southern style to the mix, but it got repetitive after a while. And see if you notice a trend during this year.

That album cover still makes me laugh a little bit, lol. Silkk's sophomore album was the third No Limit album I purchased, on May 2, 1998. While "Throw Yo Hood Up" (featuring P and Snoop Dogg), "It Ain't My Fault" (featuring Mystikal), "You Ain't Gotta Lie To Kick It" (featuring Mia X and Big Ed) were decent, mostly due to the guests and the beat, the TRUE highlight on this album is the rowdy and energetic opener "I'm A Soldier". This KLC produced "soldier song" bangs, as Silkk (who wasn't too bad on this one honestly), P, Mystikal, Mac, Skull Duggery, Mia X, Fiend, C-Murder, Big Ed and Lil Gotti work this beat so well. Not much more to say about this album.

C's debut is one of the best No Limit albums. Like I said in part 1, he was the best Miller brother on the mic. I recall some people saying he was trying to sound like 2Pac, but I disagreed. He was at his most inspired on this album. I liked the apply titled "Don't Play No Games", featuring another show stealing verse by Mystikal. Can't forget about "Soldiers", another KLC produced banger of a "soldier song". C was amped alongside P, Silkk, Mac, Fiend, Big Ed, Mia X, Kane & Abel and Mystikal. Speaking of Mystikal, to this day, the one line from his verse that sticks out to me is "before you disrespect me you betta serve 100 October's in Angola!" Oohhh! Other highlights include "Picture Me," featuring the debut of the late Magic, "Constantly N Danger" (featuring Mia X), "Akickdoe!" (featuring UGK, they had a good relationship with P back in the day), "Duck And Run," "Get N Paid," "Where I'm From" (featuring Prime Suspects), and "Feel My Pain." Very good album.

I saw this at the movies in 1998 and a couple of times after that, but I have no desire to watch this movie again. The soundtrack itself was largely good. Of course one of the immediate highlights would be the Jay-Z, Sauce Money and Memphis Bleek cut "What The Game Made Me." The other non No Limit songs were straight, those being UGK and N.O. Joe's "Bump and Grill," Snoop's "Hooked" (some indirect foreshadowing), Ice Cube's "Ghetto Vet," Eightball & MJG's "Let's Ride" and I can't forget the interesting ODB (RIP) and Mystikal collabo "Who Rock This," marking the only Wu-Tang/No Limit collabo ever. Soulja Slim's "From What I Was Told," "Itch or Scratch" (Fiend, Mac and Prime Suspects), The Commission's "What You Need," and "We Got It," which features Fiend, Serv On, Big Ed and a show stealing verse by Magic were very good. Good soundtrack.

In my view, Fiend was No Limit's best artist and his debut was one of their best albums as well. There were highlights all through this album, including the opener "Take My Pain," "Going Out With A Blast," "Walk Like a G" (featuring Soulja Slim), "What Cha Mean" (featuring Kane & Abel, Mac and Soulja Slim), "Do You Know" (featuring another show stealing verse by Mystikal), "Big Timer" (featuring Mia X), a decent remake of LL Cool J's "I'm Bad" on "The Baddest,"  "I Swore," the UGK assisted "Slangin" and "On A Mission," which featured a somewhat dope verse by C-Murder (although I could barely understand what he said) and Steady Mobbin. Very good album from Fiend.

Soulja Slim's debut is possibly one of the more underrated No Limit albums. Compared to some of his fellow labelmates at the time, his album received little to no promotion, but it was good overall. "From What I Was Told" is a clear highlight, along with "At The Same Time" (featuring Snoop Dogg), "Imagine" (featuring C-Murder and Mac), the sped up flow on "Law Brekaz" and "NL Party," which closed the album and had an all star lineup of the No Limit roster.

Oh God. Before I get to this bloated album, let's talk about the insipid movie of the same name. The plot was stupid, the acting was horrendous and it was clear to me immediately after watching that it should NOT have been made, plain and simple. As far as this album goes, this was apparently Master P's swan song, supposedly his last album. A double album on No Limit was already pushing things, but one by P was pushing it even further. Although P literally said nothing we hadn't heard before throughout this entire album, what saved it was the production (in spots) and the guests. Let's start with the first disc. "Soldiers, Riders & G's" would've been much better had it just been Mystikal and Snoop (P and Silkk add NOTHING to this song). "War Wounds," featuring Snoop, Fiend, Mystikal and Silkk was good, but again, Silkk added nothing to this song, while Snoop, Mystikal and Fiend brought the military minded goods. The Bone Thugs N Harmony assisted "Till We Dead and Gone" almost sounded like a BTNH song featuring P and Mac dropped a good verse on "Dear Mr. President." Other that that, everything else was largely forgettable, especially the not so good remake of Run-DMC's "Dumb Girl" on "Thug Girl."

Not much to say about the second disc, but "Let's Get Em," with C-Murder and Magic, was good, "Hot Boys and Girls," which featured Silkk, Mystikal, Kane & Abel, and Mia X was also good, and P's verse on this one was possibly his best on this entire album. And for the love of God did we REALLY need a sequel to "Make Em Say Uhh!??" It was clearly NOWHERE near close to the original and it made LESS noise. In the end, I doubt if this would've been better as a single disc. The one thing I will say is that had this been P's last album, this likely was the best way for him to go out, all things considered.

This album was originally scheduled for a July 21, 1998 release date, but it was moved up 2 weeks without any warning (Mac's "Shell Shocked" got the 7/21 date instead). Twins Kane & Abel, hailing from the Bronx, were dope and with that NY background, they brought somewhat of a East Coast style to the tank. There's some filler to be found on this album, but the highlights are just that. Most memorable for me is the rowdy "Throw Them Thangs," featuring a DOPE verse by Magic, "We Don't Care," "No Limit N's" featuring C-Murder and another show stealing verse by Fiend, an anthem for the smokers in the appropriately titled "This Is for the Smokers" and "Watch Me," with Soulja Slim, Mystikal, and a forgettable verse from Silkk. Another good one.

Mac was second behind Fiend in terms of the best artist on the label, and this album showed why. "Boss Bitch" featuring Mia X was a good way to begin things and the rest of the album followed suit. "My Brother" was a nice tribute to his brother,  "Soldier Party," with Master P, made you want to dance, the Mystikal featured "Murda, Murda, Kill, Kill" was good, as well as "Tank Dogs," with C-Murder and Fiend. The apply titled "Be All You Can Be" was good (Silkk shockingly doesn't disrupt this one), "Can I Ball" with Soulja Slim almost sounded like a Cash Money song, but it was still good, and I can't forget the title track, featuring an incredible verse by Fiend and "Wooo," which saw Mac, Snoop, Mia X, Big Ed, and Kane & Abel drop good verses, but Serv On, no sir, his verse was the worst, "Nobody Make A Sound" would've been that much better with just Mac, Magic and Fiend (female duo 2-4-1 added nothing to this song), and I gotta end this one by talking about "Empire." In this song, he says "I could give a fuck about hip hop, the culture or the cause/The shit is watered down like a scene from Jaws." I took issue with that line, because why are you on this track if you don't care about hip hop culture? Criticism aside, this was one of No Limit's best albums too.

Flipping through an issue of The Source magazine in mid 1998, I was surprised when I saw this cover and I had no idea prior to seeing it. This was Snoop's first album on No Limit (third overall) and it was quite the signing for No Limit with Snoop leaving Death Row. I also heard this album was made in 3 weeks, and I could believe it. You can also credit P with changing his name from Snoop Doggy Dogg to just Snoop Dogg. Here are the highlights:

Woof! (featuring Fiend and Mystikal, these two had an impressive track record of guest appearances)

Gin & Juice II (nowhere near the original, but still good)

Still a G Thang (again, good but nowhere near the original)

DP Gangsta (this remake of N.W.A.'s classic "Gangsta Gangsta" was decent, featuring a show stealing verse by C-Murder)

Doggz Gonna Getcha (another good remake, this time of BDP's "Love's Gonna Getcha)

20 Dollars To My Name (Snoop, Fiend and Soulja Slim dropped good verse with them down to their last $20, Silkk, uh, did not)

Don't Let Go

There also was a "direct to video" movie made, starring Snoop, titled "Da Game Of Life". Never seen it, and it's not on my radar.

Big Ed was hit or miss most of the time, and his debut album was saved by the production and the guest appearances. His best solo performance on the album was "Life," everything else the guests dropped better verses than he did. Case in point, "Make Some Room" (featuring Mia X, Mac, C-Murder and Snoop Dogg), "Buck Em" (featuring Fiend and Magic) and "We Represent" (featuring Mia X, C-Murder and uh, Serv On, I could've done without Silkk's cliched, tough talk at the end). This would be his only album under No Limit, and although he would remain with the label for a period, he died of throat cancer in August 2001.

The only thing I have to say about this album is that "Drama" was a good song and Mystikal stole the show with his verse on "Satisfied." This cat was locked up on child pornography charges in April 2011, so I have nothing more to say about him or this album.

Magic was originally intended to be the first artist under C-Murder's TRU Records imprint, but he was largely still considered a No Limit artist. This was also a good debut from Magic. There are quite a few highlights, but some of the notable ones are "I Never" (this KLC produced joint is a banger), "Take It to da Streets," "Did What I Had 2" (featuring Mystikal), "New Generation" (featuring Mac and Fiend), "No Hope," and "Mobb 4 Ever," with a lineup that consisted of C-Murder, Fiend, KLC, Prime Suspects, Gambino Family, KLC and a SHORT lived act called TRU Survivors. Magic would release a second album with No Limit in 1999, titled "Thuggin," but would later leave the label after that. In a sad note, he and his wife Chastity were killed in a car accident on March 1, 2013, with their daughter being the only survivor.

I remember getting this as a Christmas gift in 1998. Nevertheless, Prime Suspects, consisting of Glock, Oozee and Nu-Nine, were decent; they had their moments here and there. The standouts on this album were the opener "All 4 One," "Money Makes" (featuring Kane & Abel and a not so bad verse by Silkk), "My Old Lady" (featuring Snoop and Fiend), "Consequences of the Streets", "Fear", "Mac's and Choppers" (they rode O'Dell's beat nicely), "Of All The Hustlers" (featuring C-Murder) and "Ride Wit My Heat," which was popular with my cousins and I. Although they made a few appearances here and there after this, it was their only album for the label and that was essentially it for them.

In some of the earlier No Limit albums, when this was advertised, it was only 2 members, then out of the blue, 2 more were added. Either way, this was basically like Prime Suspects' album, although the members here held their own a little more and the production was better. "I'm A Baller" (featuring P, C-Murder, Mia X and Fiend), "Childhood Years" (featuring C-Murder and Porsha), "Desperado," "Don't Cry" (featuring Fiend, C-Murder, QB and Magic), "Only G's Ride" (featuring Mystikal and Mo B. Dick), "Clean Sweep" and"Mafiosos" were highlights. After this album, well, that was it for them.

This album was also moved up (without warning), as it had a November 17, 1998 release date, but came out on October 27th, which was the Gambino Family's release date until it was changed to 10/20/1998. I still could never decide if this album was better than "Unlady Like," but now when I think about it, I feel it was. The album starts off in the most energetic way possible with "Bring It On," a KLC produced banger which featured Fiend, C-Murder, Mac, Mystikal, and...... Skull Duggery. Other dopeness could be found in the form of the rowdy "Don't Start No Shit" (featuring P and C-Murder), a tribute to MC Lyte on "Mama's Tribute," "Flip & Rip" (featuring Mac), "What's Ya Point" (featuring Snoop Dogg and Fat Joe) and of course the Fiend assisted "I Think Somebody," which not only featured dope verses from both artists, but a TIGHT beat consisting of gun claps. This was also Mia's last album with No Limit.

This was mostly produced by Carlos Stephens. I don't even think anyone even knew (or cared) when this album dropped except me, lol. The good joints I remember on this album were "I'm a Soulja," featuring a brief, tight verse by Mystikal, "Blood Line" (featuring Magic, with it's bass driven, rock like vibe), "Hustla Baller," "Ghost in the Dark," "Get Em Up" (featuring Fiend and Prime Suspects) and "Our Thing" (featuring Magic, Mac and QB). The group was practically never heard from again except one appearance on the next TRU album in '99.

I also received this as a Christmas gift in '98, should've asked for something different, lol. The album wasn't bad per se, but at this point it was just cliched as hell. "Bout Dat Mess" (featuring Fiend, Mac and Big Ed) and "Niggas Like Me" (featuring Silkk and another show stealing verse by Mystikal) were two of the sole highlights. This was also their final album with No Limit.

SMH, what in the hell? You know, I think I'm the ONLY person I know that bought this abomination of an album. Outside of maybe "Gangsta Shit" with Snoop Dogg, I can't think of one major highlight on this album, which received NO promotion or hype whatsoever, and I'm surprised it moved only 12,851 units. P probably made more money off this album than Full Blooded did. After this album and an appearance on TRU's "Da Crime Family," he was never heard from again after this, and can you blame him? Also, you're not going to have a successful career in hip hop with a name like "Full Blooded."

When I first saw this cover, I thought, "man, this is going to be something else when it drops," and when it did, it was just another album, more of the same. You would think they would use this as an opportunity to showcase the best of the label. Fiend's "Break Somethin" and part 2 of "No Limit Soldiers" were the SOLE highlights on an otherwise forgettable compilation.

We close out 1998 with Mystikal's third album, the first No Limit album I bought on its release date, December 15, 1998. It was goo, but compared to "Unpredictable" it fell short. "There He Go," "That's the Nigga", I'm On Fire", "The Stick Up" (featuring Fiend and Mia X), "Whacha Want, Whacha Need" (featuring Busta Rhymes), "What's Your Alias?" (featuring Fiend, Mac and Silkk) and "I Smell Smoke" are good songs. This was Mystikal's final album with No Limit.

From a fiscal standpoint, 1998 was a successful year for No Limit Records. That's where the good news almost ends. Although a good number of the albums released that year from the label were good, overall they over saturated the hip hop market, as it became quantity over quality, their music became cliched as hell and it hurt them big going into 1999. It also didn't help that Cash Money Records was making a name for themselves on the Southern hip hop scene and they would directly or indirectly challenge No Limit for southern dominance, neither did a label full of departing artists help either.   

How in the hell did this disaster of an album go platinum is beyond me. Silkk brought absolutely nothing new to the hip hop table, not that he could considering that he was beyond horrible on the mic. I don't think "It Ain't My Fault" needed a sequel, even with that insipid "brushin' teeth" line by Mystikal. Other than that loyal reader, the SOLE highlights on here were "You Know What We Bout," featuring a nice verse by, who else, Jay-Z and "Southside Niggas," featuring C-Murder and a THUMPING Mo B. Dick track. Let's move on from this forgettable album.

Is it possible for one artist to have the best verse on an entire album? That's what happened here, as "From N.Y. to N.O." not only featured the late Big Pun, his verse was the best on this entire album. Serv On did NOT improve from his "Life Insurance" debut, and although he was never good to begin with, he got worse this time around and it showed. It's like he sped up his flow at times (not impressive) and he tried to be more gangsta than he was by cursing too damn much and it simply wasn't good. What saved this album was the guests and the dope production. As far as I'm concerned, the "highlights" were "Murder" (featuring Magic and produced by Ke'noe, Magic just owns this one), "Straight Outta N.O." Yes, they attempted to remake N.W.A.'s classic "Straight Outta Compton," and the beat was dope, along with good verses from C-Murder and Magic. "Tank Nigga" was ok, but even at this point the "soldier songs" were wearing thin, and last by not least, "F.U. Serv" had a thumpin beat, but Serv On's lyrics were just so unbearable that it's hard to even listen to the damn song. This was also Serv On's last album with No Limit. Next please.

Interesting story about this album. Not only was it the second No Limit album I bought on its release date (March 9, 1999), but as I was coming into Target to purchase this, I saw my cousins Andre and Aaron exiting that same store, likely with this album in their hands, lol. This sophomore album from C was a complete step down from "Life Or Death," plus it was a little bloated, coming in at 28 songs. The songs I remember most are the Goodie Mob assisted "Where We Wanna," a tribute to 2Pac (and a remake) in the form of "On My Enemies" and "Money Talks," featuring a show stealing verse by Fiend.

Yes, I really bought this album, and probably was the only one to do so. Long before Lil Romeo, we had Lil Soldiers, and the novelty of them being kids wore off QUICKLY, as in immediately after their first appearance on Steady Mobbin's "Black Mafia" album. Needless to say, this was not good and the ONE good thing about this album was the DOPE production; sadly it was wasted here. Lil Soldiers were never heard from again after this album.

Oh yes, now THIS is what I'm talking about right here. This was sort of a return to form for Snoop (complete with linking back up with Dr. Dre) and he delivered. It was WORLD'S better than his 1998 NL album, and with an album that consisted of joints such as "Buck Em" (featuring Sticky Fingaz), "Bitch Please" (featuring Xzibit) and the now classic "Down 4 My Niggaz" featuring C-Murder and Magic, this was a platinum winner.

Like really, did this HAVE to be a double album????? I have nothing to say about this BLOATED piece of work, but I will speak on "Hoody Hooo" and "No Limit Army."

"Hoody Hooo" was somewhat of an anthem in the summer of 1999, but it was nothing more than a loud and obnoxious response to what Cash Money were doing at the time, and when you compare the two today, No Limit looks/looked outdated and stale as all hell. And speaking of Cash Money, that brings me to "No Limit Army."

P wasted NO time with the BLATANT biting by saying "No Limit is the army, and we the soldiers." Now loyal reader, I'm pretty sure that you have heard B.G.'s "Cash Money Is An Army" right? Blatant biting of that song, a much better one I might add. I don't know who the hell P thought he was fooling, but he didn't fool me or anyone else. Instead of doing something creative like, bringing something new to the table, they decided to bite. And to add further nothing new, he even GIVES CASH MONEY A SHOUT OUT AT THE END OF THE SONG. Seriously, who does that? You JUST bit one of their hits. The desperation was kicking in.

Trust me, this cover was not my sole reason for buying this album. I remember a few guys I knew saying they would only buy this album because of the cover. Overall, I was not impressed with anything here, plus it was released a little too late considering that the label was declining. This was also her first and only album with No Limit, as she later left hip hop and enrolled into law school.

This was the third and final No Limit album I bought on the day of its release (July 6, 1999), along with a copy for my cousin Andre and Ruff Ryders' "Ryde Or Die Vol. 1." Not only was this Fiend's last album on the label, this was also the last album solely produced by Beats By The Pound (all except for Carlos Stephens), as they were unceremoniously shown the door by P, and even the circumstances surrounding that are still not clear. 

Fiend (and BBTP) went out with a bang and delivered the second best No Limit album in '99 after "No Limit Top Dogg." The album was just as good, if not better than, his 1998 debut. Highlights include the KLC produced thumpers "The Rock Show," "They Don't Hear Me," "Talk It Like I Bring It," "Mr. Whomp Whomp," and "Been Thru It All" (featuring Magic).

This was as unacceptable as they come. To be fair, it was clear P wasn't retiring after all, because even after his supposed last album, "MP Da Last Don," he was still making guest appearances on other albums, No Limit and otherwise. I wasn't surprised when I saw this album advertised, as it was clear to me the only reason he came out of, uh, retirement, was due to Cash Money's success. I even saw an ad in The Source magazine that year that hyped this as "the biggest rap album ever." Yeah right, that had to have been some NL marketing, because this was about as far from a big album as they come. I heard this album one time (my cousin Aaron copped it) and clearly have NO desire to listen to it again. The descent of No Limit Records continued here and I'll give you one guess, just by looking at the features on the cover, as to which song is the SOLE highlight on this album. 

Man, this album probably still is a sore spot for my cousin Andre, lol. I remember the last time I showed him this cover, he said "man, get that out my face man." All I could do was laugh at the time. Just looking at this cover built up anticipation, but it sadly never even got to the drawing board, due to Snoop leaving No Limit in 2000, Mac being incarcerated and Fiend departing. It's always interesting to look at this cover as see what could've been.

Wow, this was some kind of ride down memory lane wasn't it? As mentioned, I no longer own any albums these albums, as I either sold, traded or gave them away for free. (This has changed. The majority of these albums I added back to my collection. 6/9/19.) P and company had a decent run, but once Cash Money started making noise in late '98 going into '99, that was essentially it and No Limit never recaptured that same glory from '97 and even '98. The repetitive sound, cliched lyrics, over saturated product and departing artists (and of course Beats By The Pound) all contributed to the decline. The legacy, if you will, of No Limit shows that endless grind and hustle will pay off in the end, especially if you have the focus and drive to succeed. I won't be surprised if I get some album review requests after this, but it's all good, lol. 

Thanks for reading!!

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