When people claim “It’s bigger than Hip-Hop,” few icons come to mind: Puff Daddy, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Jay Z, and last but certainly not least, Master P. The New Orleans rapper, label owner, filmmaker, and all-around hustler has invested in, flipped, packaged, and sold everything you could think of from energy drinks to car rims. And now with his 14th album on his plate, he passes on a complete solo effort and serves up his new wave of artists as the entree. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give much confidence in the tank’s future.
Master P addresses the title of the album in a short intro on “Goin Thru It,” which alludes to the Fox series, Empire. But the similarities end there since Lucious “ain’t got sh*t” on Master P and his baby mama is apparently “way worse than Cookie.” With 19 tracks, Empire should be treated as a compilation album from the Money Mafia Mob who are signed to No Limit Forever Records. Master P keeps his fingerprints present throughout the album with verses and hooks, auto-tuned and otherwise. There are records for every occasion of our ADD lives: what to expect from your Trap Queen (“She Whip It Up”), running into old fake friends who leeched off your success (“U Think I Forgot”), and of course, picking yourself up to grind harder and making it on your own (“The Life I Chose”).
There are two moments on the album where the song themes are delivered in a noteworthy fashion. On “Goin Thru It,” Master P keeps the first verse moving by leaving no dead space over the foreboding, floating beat. He lists off sources of stress in his life to underscore the fact that there are distractions attacking him from every angle. Then on the deluxe edition of the album, “On My Mind” closes out the project and addresses the pain brought on by losing people to gun violence and the prison system. The grief is palpable in Master P’s voice. The production from BlaqNmilD conveys an uneven blend of carrying a heavy heart yet maintaining a hopeful outlook.
The one shining gem on his project comes in the form of the producer for all of the tracks, BlaqNmilD. The New Orleans producer flexes his self-proclaimed ability to mesh sounds from around the country into his music. He isn’t as melodic as Zaytoven or trapped out with the percussion as Metro Boomin. He opts to use unique samples (organs, wah wah pads on an electric guitar) to set his sound apart from most of the producers copying the watered down West Coast-Pop hybrid made for radio or minimal drum heavy style for the strip clubs. He even provides the hook on a few of the tracks. Aside from Master P’s reference to Mimi Foust on “Freaky” (“I tried to put her in the shower like Mimi…”), BlaqNmilD’s production is the most impressive, relevant aspect to Empire.
With the rich selection of topics present on Empire, Master P and Money Mafia’s verses fall short of his prior days with TRU, save for the glimmer of hope on his son’s, Maserati Rome, verse on “U Think I Forgot.” But above everything else, it sounds like Master P had fun working on this album with his new artists; maybe too much fun. He sings in auto-tune, features someone from his label on almost every song, and did it all under his own business. And if his platforms now are to be taken as a vessel for future stars in the making like BlaqNmilD, we’ll be paying attention every time. Too bad that potential doesn’t turn into a solid body of work.