Inspire, Inform, Empower
PERCY MILLER, “MASTER P”
Mastering Commerce, Art, And Ownership
He single-handedly reinvented the music business; now he is revitalizing the movie business with the release of I Got the Hook-Up 2
Leading the charge of owning our culture and controlling our commerce, this is more than a movie—it’s a movement!
Monarch Magazine: What prompted you to revisit the classic and launch I Got The Hook-Up 2?
Master P: Well, it was two things. One, I feel like we have seen so many tragedies, it’s just time to laugh. I feel like laughter will heal all that pain. We’ve been through so much; we need some more funny movies that we can relate to. And two, there’s no ownership when you look at African Americans and Latinos. We make a lot of these great projects but none us own any of them. So, there’s a lot of movies in the movie theater that resemble minority stories and have minorities in them, but we have no ownership. I believe I Got the Hook-Up was a classic, so with I Got the Hook-Up 2, my goal is threefold. I’m addressing the importance of laughter, ownership, and gentrification. So, this movie is funny, but it also has a message. And I felt like although its twenty years later, it’s now time to take that message into a movie that will spread out to our people. When they leave the theater, not only are they laughing, but they’re also thinking, “I got to own my products. I just can’t let it go for nothing or we’re going to lose the community.” Just like in the first movie I Got the Hook-Up, the first one was about the cell phone, but in I Got the Hook-Up 2, it’s about the family business—which is called Big Poppa’s—and the threat of losing that business, which brings the family together to save it.
Monarch Magazine: There are a lot of prominent black actors and comedians in this film. What was the process like choosing the right people to be in this film?
Master P: I feel like Hollywood chooses all the same actors and actresses. And there’s so much talent out there that doesn’t really get the chance to be on the big screen. So, I thought, my responsibility as an owner is to provide that opportunity for those that Hollywood overlooked. So, the process was, half of these amazing talents come to audition and during auditions I explain that we’re going to do something different and change the way Hollywood makes movies. Positioning Hollywood stars alongside social media stars, we were able to have 126 speaking roles in this movie, which is unheard of—we’re up for the Guinness Book of World Records. I feel like we’re on to make history this year with this project.
Monarch Magazine: The approach you have chosen to take has so much power on multiple levels: taking control of our culture, being an owner versus a player, and building a legacy of wealth. Is this message something you would like all to embrace?
Master P: Oh yes. Both African Americans and Latinos and being known as minorities—we have to take control of our projects or we’re going to lose everything. And this movie is not just a movie. This is a movement. This is going to open up opportunities for African American filmmakers all around the world. For us to be able to go to AMC theaters and do this on our own—this is breaking all those barriers. It’s the same approach I’ve taken in music. I said I’m going to be independent. I’m going to be the number-one label in the country. It’s going to be the same thing with movies. We have our Spike Lees. We have all these filmmakers, but they’re still going through a system. We have not opened up this system—what I’m doing and going to do is break that system. And this is going to be a game changer because the more we make, the more we’re going to be able to put back into the community. But for me, the philanthropic side is so important because I want to help the next generation. I’ve been doing this for nineteen years. I have a foundation called Team H.O.P.E. where we help inner-city kids further their education. This is so important—without knowing economics, education, financial literacy, we have no staying power.
So, we got to begin sewing this message into our entertainment, and that’s going to start helping the next generation. It starts with somebody standing up, and I feel like we’re standing up for African American films. You got African American film festivals, we got all these things but when you look at these production companies, we don’t make up 3 percent of what goes to the movie theaters. That’s embarrassing, to be honest. We go support all these movies, but we don’t own none of them. We got a lot of great actors and actresses making a lot of money but still don’t match what the production company is making. If they can afford to give a Will Smith 20 million dollars for a film, how much are they making? You know, so it’s bigger. I feel like this is a real movement and we’re going to have real young people thinking outside of the box saying “Yeah, when I finish this, I can own it.” We’re going to be able to open up those avenues and explore those. I was able to go to Stevie Cole, an African American lady that’s running the diversity division at AMC, regarding increasing the number of films that reflect African American and Latinos into the movie theaters. And so, we have to own our products to be able to do this.
Monarch Magazine: How did you come to gain this type of insight and outlook on ownership? What was the “a-ha moment” for you?
Master P: The “a-ha moment” for me was looking at my grandparents and seeing how hard they worked. But they still didn’t have nothing to show for the hard work they were doing. My grandfather even fought in a war, came back home and thought that everything would be decent and it wasn’t what he thought it was going to be. And you know, we work hard, but you know what I learned from my grandfather is you got to work smart. And the only way you can do that is to own your business, if you don’t want people telling you what to do and if you want to make real money. So, that’s the insight I got from my grandparents—I thought, “You know what? They are right.” And I took that and ran. We not going to break that generational curse of poverty if we don’t get out here and own stuff. I come from a poor culture of people and that’s why I work so hard to say I want to build a generational wealth. So I got to prepare my kids. I got to prepare the people that work for me. I got to create other millionaires. It’s not just about me.
Monarch Magazine: What has it been like for you to do this project with your son Romeo? How does it feel in general to be able to work alongside your son?
Master P: Well, to be honest with you, Romeo is just a different breed. He’s my son, but he’s picked up a work ethic that’s unheard of. He works, work, works. He believes in God. He’s about helping his family. It was amazing working with him on this project, as a father-and-son duo, to star in this movie and to also finance this movie. As well as breaking down barriers to where we’re able to work together as a family. Romeo understands, as a young man, he doesn’t have to just be in front of the camera. He’s going to make his money behind the camera. He’s going to build his star power up being in front of the camera, but the real money is made behind the camera. So by him going to the University of Southern California and making those sacrifices and going to film school, I’m proud of him because I feel like as a family, we’re unstoppable. Because you got two generations of expertise. You have youth and you have wisdom. I feel like we’re going to build generational wealth that’s going to open the doors to pass down from family to family and break that poverty curse that probably most African American families have handed down. So, I’m happy and excited and I couldn’t be doing this project with a better partner than my son. Because, you know, they talk about “Oh well, a lot of African American fathers, they’re not with their kids.” No, we’re changing that—were not the people that people place a stereotype on because we do hip-hop. No, we are real businessmen. We’ve been around. We’re working together as a family. And we’re about giving back. That’s what I love about Romeo too—he’s passionate about giving back. He doesn’t talk about it, but he has been giving back for years and doing the right thing. You know, we grew up in a bad environment in New Orleans in the Calliope projects. To be where we are at now, it’s nothing but God. You know, we’re about doing the right thing.
Monarch Magazine: How important is mentorship to you, and who were some of yours?
Master P: It’s so important to me, because if you look at us as African Americans we’ve become a culture where we forget about each other. But some of the people that I’ve mentored and thought, “These guys are not going to turn it around,” they end up turning it around and I’m proud of them. From Gucci Man to Meek Mill—I managed those guys when nobody wanted to be around them. I’m excited and I’m trying to help so many other kids now. You know, even the kids that are incarcerated, saying, “Look you get a second chance, you have to put your trust and faith in God, you have to do the right thing.” I tell people all the time that being poor is a mindset. I don’t have to have money. I have a billion dollars’ worth of knowledge, so I feel I’m going to always be successful and I believe in that Man up above. If I can send that message to the next generation, then we are going to save so many young men and women that’s willing to have an open mind and show them the people that came before them—the change and struggles we had to go through, don’t make the same mistakes that we made.
Monarch Magazine: What are your thoughts on politics, the current administration are you Republican or Democratic?
Master P: You know for me, I’m not into politics. I believe in God. I believe in the people, he put in position. They just got to do the right thing. Because everybody is human. So, my whole thing is, it’s about getting the best man or woman in there for the job. And it’s short-term. If they don’t do right, then they won’t be there long. And somebody else will be there. And that’s how I look at it.
Monarch Magazine: What does the future hold for Percy Miller?
Master P: What the future holds for me is building Genius Minds Pictures. Starting from the ground up in what we’re doing now, taking these amazing films and just being able to make all genres of movies—and to be able to own and control it. I mean, that’s what the future holds for me.