Rapper Master P's New Film To Hit 500 Theaters

Stars, writes and co-directs second film featuring cameos by Snoop Doggy Dogg and Ice Cube.

If anyone knows how to make a B-film into something worth seeing and hearing, it's rapper turned producer turned movie-maker Master P, according to Andrew Shack, co-producer of P's latest low-budget flick.

After moving more than 250,000 direct-to-video copies of his first independent film -- 1996's semi-autobiographical gangsta tale, "I'm 'Bout It" -- with no help from Hollywood, No Limit Records honcho Master P has hooked up with powerhouse indie Miramax for his second movie, "I Got the Hook Up."

"Master P is really in touch with what the people want," said Shack, senior vice president of A&R for Priority Records (which distributes P's No Limit label), who co-produced I Got the Hook Up and is the music supervisor for the all-star soundtrack that features P, Busta Rhymes and Ice Cube, to name a few. "He's hit a niche [with these low-budget movies], and he has a hold on that niche now. He was the originator and now he's gone forward and taken it to the next level."

As a rap artist, P, who starred in his latest flick as well as wrote and co-directed it, released a string of multi-platinum records on No Limit using his street-marketing expertise, including the solo albums Ghetto's Trying To Kill Me, 99 Ways To Die, Ice Cream Man and Ghetto Dope. But he announced his retirement from the rap game last December, saying he would step down from the mic to concentrate on his business after his final solo album, The Last Don, is released in the spring.

Dimension, the genre movie-division of Miramax, announced its acquisition of the worldwide rights to P's latest film earlier this week. The comedy about a cell-phone scam in South Central Los Angeles stars Master P, A.J. Johnson ("Friday") and John Witherspoon (of the "Wayans Brothers" television show) and features cameos from rappers Snoop Doggy Dogg and Ice Cube. Dimension is the home of the two highly successful Scream films, as well as the hood-movie spoof Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood and the rap documentary Rhyme and Reason.

Looking to add perhaps a new perspective to his filmmaking, P brought rap video director Michael Martin (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Master P) to help him direct the movie. In addition, the soundtrack is slated to feature tracks from P, Tru, Mystikal, Silkk The Shocker, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, D'Angelo, Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube and others. The film, which Shack said should be in theaters by April, was co-executive produced by Priority president Bryan Turner.

" 'I'm 'Bout It' was one of the biggest straight-to-video releases ever," Shack said. "And so now we have a situation where Miramax has guaranteed that this one will be released theatrically on no less than 500 screens. This movie is going to be huge."

Shack, who described the movie as another example of P's "genius street-marketing," said No Limit began promoting the film on bus benches and No Limit albums six months before filming even began.

An ad for the movie appears in the recently released album by P protégé Mystikal, Unpredictable. "Miramax has the same mentality as we do and No Limit does," Shack said. "A very hard-core, street-marketing, do-what-you-have-to-do type of attitude." [Thurs., Jan. 15, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]