Reality-rapper Skull Duggery's debut, These Wicked Streets, may read and sound like a No Limit label-release. The production team behind it certainly supports that theory and the guest artists include many of No Limit mogul Master P's rap soldiers.
But don't let that fool you. Skull Duggery is not just another rapper hopping on the Master P bandwagon.
Rather, the 27-year-old rap artist seems to be using Master P's label as a springboard into his own career as a producer and label chief. The Southern-fried gangsta-rapper's first offering, released earlier this month, features the thick bass and fast beats of No Limit's Beats By The Pound production team, as well as appearances by such No Limit artists as Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal, Snoop Dogg and label chief Master P himself.
Skull Duggery, however, is signed to Penalty Recordings, with distribution by the famed hip-hop label Tommy Boy.
"I've known Master P for a while now," Skull Duggery (born Andrew Jordan) explained last week from his hometown of New Orleans. "When he hit the mainstream, I told him to pop me off in the studio so we could run this. He's a friend of mine, so he helped me out."
Master P's move paid off as These Wicked Streets broke in at #21 on the Billboard 200 albums chart four weeks ago. A gangsta-rap album thick with the signature No Limit sound and appearances by such No Limit rappers as Snoop Dogg ("Mistakes In The Game"), Fiend ("Testimony") and Mia X ("The Set-Up"), the album's 18 tracks cover the familiar gangsta-rap territory of hustling to make it on the streets, the pain involved in that life and hoping for a better life while doing what you can to survive.
Addressing these topics all at once is the album's first single, the catchy "If It Don't Make $$$...," which features the punch line "then it don't make sense."
"I was just wanting to let 'em know I'm in it too," Skull Duggery said of the song. "A man has got to do what he's got to do, but if it ain't making money, then it ain't right."
In particular, Skull Duggery intends "If It Don't Make $$$..." to be a warning about the dangers of street-hustling life, which ends for many in death, not riches.
"Everyone out there hustling ain't coming out on top," he explained. "People get capped every day. And they ain't making dollars no more, and that ain't making sense."
"Mainly, it's just that I'm trying to let people know what they doin', what they think they doin', what they think they getting away with," he continued. "If they keep doin' it, they never going to get what they want in the end."
Now that These Wicked Streets has made its mark, Skull Duggery is busy promoting it while making plans for his own label and production team. "My deal is that my first album is entirely produced by No Limit and my next one will be done by my own producers, Mos Street Productions. I'll still be on Penalty, but I'll also be on my own label, called Hoodlum Entertainment."
For the handful of fans who have grown tired of the signature No Limit sound, Skull Duggery's decision to use the label on his first release and then branch out on his own seems welcome.
"As much as I love No Limit, I'll admit that their music can sometimes sound the same," 16-year-old Christian Webb, a fan of the label, wrote in an e-mail.
For Webb, Skull Duggery's planned evolution away from No Limit's production team may be a good sign. "I like Skull Duggery, his lyrics seem closer to the street than some other No Limit works. If he changes up for his next album, I think he'll have to keep the sound 'Dirty South' to keep it real," Webb wrote.
Skull Duggery said he'll keep a rugged, Southern hip-hop sound for his future releases and that his lyrical content probably won't change.
"My sound is completely different from No Limit," Skull Duggery said. "Their attitude is of the street thug and how to live the thug life and how to make money. To me, I haven't made the money yet and I want to get more of it."
But when he does, you won't be hearing it in his music. "I still feel the game," he said, "but when I get money, why should I change?"