While current chart-topping rappers like Future, Kendrick Lamar and Migos roar through locker room speakers before games, Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell vibes on old-school hip-hop.
But not 1980s pioneers like LL Cool J, Run DMC or Big Daddy Kane. For a 20-year old, songs from the late 90s are considered classics.
“I love Master P. That’s my favorite hip-hop artist of all time,” Ferrell said, referring to Percy Miller, the rapper, entrepreneur and innovator who founded No Limit Records in 1990.
Miller began modestly. He drove across the country selling music from the trunk of his car. From that trunk, he built a tank. He branded himself as “The Colonel” and assembled an army of artists. He earned a major distribution deal and became one of the most prolific record producers in the industry.
In 1998 alone, No Limit records released 20 albums, including Ferrell’s favorite, “MP Da Last Don,” Miller’s solo album that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold 495,000 copies in its first week.
Miller’s classic street anthems exude daring and defiance requisite of a self-made empire. And it all started less than two miles from where Ferrell will play his next game.
Miller grew up in the Calliope Projects in New Orleans. The public housing complex stood three blocks from the Superdome, until 2014 when it was demolished and replaced with mixed-income developments.
The Calliope became notorious for its high crime rate. Miller channeled the grit required of the environment in his lyrics. Occasionally, Ferrell writes references to those lyrics on his armbands before games.
“His thing was No Limit Soldiers,” Ferrell said of Miller. “So, I have that same thought process of ‘With God, I can do anything I put my mind too.’”
Approximately three weeks before the “Last Don” album was released, Ferrell celebrated his first birthday. Through the subsequent years, Miller ventured into sports management, filmmaking and even a brief professional basketball career with the Charlotte Hornets. He occupied the recording studio and the charts less frequently.
So, how does a young man from Richmond, Virginia develop such appreciation for Crescent City classics? They were hand-me-downs.
“I’m the youngest of nine,” Ferrell said. “My brothers loved Master P and all the No Limit guys. So, I grew up listening to it.”
Perhaps, Master P’s soul-stirring bass lines can be credited partially for the 29.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks Ferrell has compiled through two seasons at Clemson. However, Ferrell asserted that his admiration for Miller goes deeper than his recording catalog.
“It’s not just the whole music aspect,” Ferrell said. “Master P is an entrepreneur, a businessman. It’s the movie scene, the different clothing lines he has. He was a true come-up story, and I really enjoyed watching that as I grew up.”
Ferrell said he would relish the opportunity to meet Miller while he is in his hometown, but until then, he will try to embody that Calliope resolve in the Sugar Bowl. Clemson will need Ferrell to roll like a tank off the edge to get past Alabama and continue its pursuit of a second consecutive College Football Playoff national championship.
“We’re not defending nothing. We’re the attacking national champions. We might have the belt, but this team didn’t win that belt. It’s up to us to go back and get another one if we want one,” Ferrell said. “I have tunnel vision. I’m looking at what’s next. I want more.”