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Music Review: Various Artists – I’m Bout It

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If you were a rap fan during the just before the dawn of the new millennium, odds are you’ve heard a No Limit song or two.

Label owner and CEO Master P was, at this time, riding high on the massive success of his anthemic "Make 'Em Say Ugh,” recouping from the impressive sales from his indie-released Ice Cream Man LP, and simply kicking his feet up to listen to the cash registers ring as countless copies of his newly released long-player, Ghetto D, flew off the shelves. As a little aside, P was an independent label head; the man had absolutely no one to answer to. He was running himself and all of his profits went into label funding and, of course, his own pocket.

Even with all of the crappy output that came from P and the rest of the label over the years, this certainly wasn't always the case. Albums like the aforementioned Ice Cream Man and Ghetto D," along with a plethora of others, they have firmly cemented No Limit’s legend in rap history. What separates these works from others in their large catalog is the quality control. These albums were actually decently put-together hip hop records as opposed to a quick afterthought in which to capitalize on, perhaps, that “star’s” recent five minutes of fame.

Even though a lot of folks don't give No Limit the credit they deserve for opening up the doors for southern rap artists, they did a lot much than that also. P showed it was possible to maintain your own label independently and do it successfully, and the throughout the label’s many releases, they re-established the names of tons of artists, as well as resurrected the careers of some that had long since been forgotten.

B-Legit appears on this album over sharp synth whines on the superb "Come On," as does JT tha Bigga Figga on the funky "Game Tight." You should know from the jump that nothing I'm Bout It serves up your way is going to revolutionize how you listen to rap music. From the nihilism long since trademarked by Brotha Lynch Hung on his feature "Situation on Dirty" to the touching-but-still-gangsta crossover appeal of "Ride 4U" with Mr. Jinks, this is playing it safe within No Limit's pre-established guidelines.

But I'm Bout It is so beautifully crafted and so self-aware that it is instantly likeable. While later No Limit works became forced, awkward caricatures of what the label once stood for, this is pure, unadulterated N'awlins funk like no one had ever heard at the time. With upbeat numbers like Prime Suspects' "Cops Runnin' After Ya," Steady Mobb’n’s meditative “If I Could Change” and the Pharrell-like crooning of Beats by the Pound producer Mo B. Dick on "That Thing Is On," this is pure, 100% No Limit product and P knows it. And for that very reason it can be enjoyed as nothing more than that. It corners nearly every urban musical market and nails them flawlessly.

And with that said, it's no wonder I'm Bout It has withstood the test of time. Over 10 years old, it still sounds as fresh today as it did back in mid-1997. And thanks to this re-release (which omits Mac’s excellent “Lock Down” from the track list); you can relive some of those fond memories of No Limit’s glory days.

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About Thomas Steenhagen