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Monday, February 27, 2006

Does the "P" stand for "Poseur"?

While I wouldn't consider myself a fan of the show, I've seen a few tidbits of ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Yes, there were plenty of great celebrity dancers on there this past season, but I kept my eyes on Percy "Master P" Miller. Why? Because the dude just couldn't dance. After what I saw this season, along with the music I've heard from him via his No Limit record label, I wonder if the "P" in his nickname is really for "poseur" instead of "Percy".

There was a time when New Orleans-based No Limit Records could not be stopped. In the late '90s, they kept churning out hit album after hit album, hit single after hit single. The formula was simple: release a solo album featuring a cavalcade of guest rappers, use the liner notes as promotional tools for future albums and interest will hopefully keep up. This worked for quite a while for a number of other upcoming No Limit acts. I remember stocking many copies of records by artists like Silkk the Shocker, C-Murder, Lil' Romeo, Mystikal and Master P himself over and over at Best Buy.

Along with glitzy videos, low-budget, straight-to-rental movies and an avalanche of albums, probably the most recognized product from No Limit was the inescapable club banger, "Make 'Em Say Ugh." With a moronic chorus set on repeat on the radio and in the clubs, there were plenty of people saying "ugh" whether they liked the song or not. There was no limit to this silliness in sight. Or was there?

Somewhere along the lines, No Limit's shimmer dulled as other labels like Cash Money took over and then crunk came along. So, what happened to No Limit? To be honest, I don't really care.

I've never been a big fan of rap and hip hop. From a musical standpoint, I've never been all hot on big processed beats, off-key shouts, sleazy keyboard sounds and monotone vocals. While that's not all of what rap and hip hop sounds like, those are the characteristics that I keep hearing with mainstream and underground acts. That kind of rap/hip hop ain't for me, but I'll never say never to it.

So how this pertains to Master P is this: a lot of rappers and hip hoppers like to focus on "the game" instead of the music. Yes, money is nice to have, but flaunting it on MTV Cribs (complete with a larger-than-life painting of yourself in a hallway) is not something I can relate to. Maybe the point is to create a facade that dreams do come true and there's hope. Well, there is always hope, but to dream you will have millions of dollars, millions of fans, nice cars, big houses and lots of jewelry is much like dreaming about winning the lottery. It's important to have goals, but not the kind of aiming for happiness with the acquisition of millions of dollars.

Over the years, I keep hearing about how people don't care about the quality of the music they release. This doesn't just pertain to hip hop: it's in all genres. The intent is to get somebody somewhere to unload a few hard-earned dollars for a CD, DVD or some form of merchandise like a T-shirt. Yes, this makes sense from a business standpoint, but can you really count on this music being timeless? Of course not. Not all music is made from the same source of inspiration, yet it's all documented the same way for the ages. No matter if it's on CD, vinyl, cassette tape or MP3, it's gonna stick around whether you like it or not. Don't believe me? Go to any used record store in the world or check out a site like Half.com. I get the feeling that something like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On is going to last much longer than Master P's Ghetto D.

Some people want to express themselves however they want to while others want to express themselves so they can make a lot of money. From what I've seen of Master P, the quality of the music was important, but there were other intentions. Building a major empire out of the label, opportunities like acting and playing professional basketball came about. After a few years of not hearing a lot out of him or No Limit, he reappeared on Dancing With the Stars. Proving that he was a weak link from the get-go, the fan vote kept him on the show for a few extra weeks.

I'm no dance critic, but seeing a person shake his wobbly arms and stiff legs around ain't the kind of dancing that is wanted on Dancing With the Stars. The judges hated his performances and I wondered when P was going to get the boot. When that moment finally arrived, it was a blessing.

I don't roll around in joy for this kind of stuff, but when I see a poseur, it's a sense of satisfaction to see his/her limited talent be exposed. Yeah, there were plenty of records sold and millions of dollars thrown around in this case, but when the dust settles, what do you really have to show for it? Looking like a washed-up fool ain't something to aim for.

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