Master P appeared, and the crowd exploded like an arsenal on fire. The outburst was sudden and frenzied and uncontrollable. The parking lot outside Iverson Mall in Marlow Heights hadn't seen this kind of excitement since . . . well, probably ever.
Rap's faithful and members of the hip-hop generation--more than a thousand strong--tried to scale one another to get a better view. Girls broke down in tears. The crowd barged through a police line, mobbed Master P and flung themselves against the windows and doors of his limo. He barely managed to slip in, even with a bevy of bodyguards and police officers forging a path.
All this was a little too much for Christopher Tapscott, 4, who demanded, "Who's that?" from his seat on his grandmother's hip. When she replied "a singer," he put his head down and went to sleep.
Little Christopher may have been the only one unimpressed with Master P that day. Percy "Master P" Miller, a rapper, an entrepreneur and a multimillionaire known for his generosity, founded and owns the nation's top-grossing rap label, No Limit Records.
He came to Prince George's County last week to promote the latest album by Tru, a rap trio of himself and his two brothers, "C-Murder" and "Silkk the Shocker," otherwise known as Corey and Vyshonn Miller.
Last year, Master P's $56 million income exceeded the likes of Celine Dion, Garth Brooks and Will Smith, placing him in the top 10 among entertainers on Forbes' annual list.
The Tru trio arrived at Iverson Mall about 3 p.m. June 23 and was escorted to a table in the back of the Kemp Mill Music store, where the members greeted the first of a thick line of people who had been waiting--some since 9 a.m.--for a moment of Tru's time.
Most had heard about the event from radio advertisements and through word-of-mouth. WPGC radio and Kemp Mill Music sponsored the event.
Tamika Baker waited on the asphalt under the bone-baking sun all day, and as she neared the front of the line, the excitement was almost too much.
"I'm dying, I'm dying . . . my heart is beating so fast, I think I'm about to hit the ground," the 15-year-old from Alexandria said. "I've never been to anything this big in my entire life. I can't believe it."
Master P had been in Washington before heading to Prince George's last week to announce his partnership with World Championship Wrestling--not an unusual marriage, given the wide scope of his domain, which already includes films and videos, a sports agency, sports clothing and basketball shoes and real estate, among other things.
Joncea Dixon, a hairstylist from Clinton, thought him so great, she proposed right in the music store.
"When I told him I wanted to marry him, I don't think he believed me so I'm going to the back of the line and I'm going to ask him again," she said.
People in the line described Master P and his brothers as inspirational. They were born in a tough part of New Orleans. Master P's grandmother raised him and 11 other children in a three-bedroom project apartment.
Later, a medical malpractice payment after his grandfather's death funded a trip to Richmond, where he opened a rap music store. He paid attention to what flew off the shelves and used his earnings to produce his own album.
He sold compact discs from the back of a car and didn't have videos on TV or air time on the radio. But his customers liked him, and he became an underground superstar.
Eventually, a big name--Priority Records--approached Master P to distribute his work. He broadened his lineup to include gospel and R&B, and No Limit began its ascent.
Back at Kemp Mill, after indulging hundreds of people who wanted a hug, a picture, an autograph, Master P got an unusual request. John Patterson, 23, rolled up to Master P in a beat-up wheelchair, the back of his seat held in place with a large stick.
"I said, 'Can you help me out, man? My wheelchair's falling apart,' " said Patterson, a student from Southeast Washington.
And just like that, Master P said, "Sure," telling Patterson that he would make some phone calls and see that he got a new wheelchair.
"This is a real blessing!" Patterson exclaimed.
Recently, Master P donated $250,000 to a struggling Catholic school in his old neighborhood. He also gives community parties and sponsors youth activities.
Said Master P: "I never forget where I came from and whenever I feel I can help people I will. I came from the ghetto, so when I travel around to different cities, I try to give something back."
CAPTION: Percy Miller, also known as Master P, is a member of the rap trio Tru.