The color of money... Anyone waiting for front-row seats to Gulf Coast hip-hop's final showing might want to take a number: Master P's No Limit label empire is expanding like a balloon on a helium tank. Come December, he'll have upward of 15 releases in stores, a good number of them, no doubt, taking up space on the Billboard charts. It couldn't get any easier for P these days. The New Orleans native is a magnet for talent of all levels, and everywhere he goes, it seems there are rapping rookies in his face itchy to prove they've got some.

As it turns out, Houston DJ Mean Green was party to one of P's latest finds, grade-school rappers Lil' Soldiers. Friends for almost a decade now, the two stumbled upon the youngsters in an airport. Green headed to a cocktail lounge for a beer, and by the time he returned P had made a decision.

"It was his call; he saw something," says Green, whose evening shift at the Box (KKBX/97.9 FM) is one of the most popular radio shows in the city. "Next thing I know, these little guys are telling me, 'We're gonna be on your album.' I'm thinking, they're just talking."

Hardly. Green's Major Players Compilation -- made up of groups hand-picked by Green and P -- is out now on No Limit, and Lil' Soldiers' "Close 2 You" is its next single. Though the compilation is thin on the Houston end, Louisiana acts such as Silkk the Shocker (P's brother), Prime Suspects and other Gulf Coast acts share equal billing with well-connected West Coasters such as Too Short and Mac 10.

Green's ties to Master P can be traced back to around 1991, when the latter was casing radio stations all over the South looking for any opening he could find. At the time, P was a struggling artist/producer trying to crack the business any way he could. He had already spent some time in Houston to escape hard times in the New Orleans ghetto, and by the time he met up with Green, his emotional condition was just this side of desperate. The way Green remembers it, P was pitching Houston DJs and program directors with the same coolly aggressive tactics that would eventually make him a wealthy hip-hop magnate years down the line.

"[P] was just bouncing back and forth -- wherever he could get some love," Green recalls. "He just came through, and we hit it off. You could almost hear pleading in his voice, that if this didn't work for [him], [he] was in trouble. It wasn't even No Limit back then; it was just Master P with a tape. Everybody wanna hear the overnight story, but it didn't happen like that."

Like Master P, Green made his way to Houston from Louisiana. Unlike P, though, the 19-year-old radio veteran wasn't running away from anything. When he heard that Rush, the 1991 true-life druggie-cop drama starring Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh, was being shot here in Houston, he showed up on the set. He worked as an extra in the film, and got to know the city and its radio market. Soon enough, Green came to a realization: "I missed being on the radio," he says.

Quickly, Green landed a job at rock station KLOL/101.1 FM, where he did character voice work on the Stevens and Pruett show. Just months later, he came aboard at the Box.

So much for California. But, hey, who needs Hollywood when you've got the No Limit army on your side? "He got a system, and once he got it down he just kept on going," Green says. "God knows, he's tying up the Billboard charts. If you're a new artist, you're in trouble. You don't want to compete with No Limit."

Green ought to know: Major Players debuted at number six on the Billboard R&B charts.

Etc.... KPFT/90.1 FM graveyard shifter and club DJ Tim Murrah recently unveiled his new Internet "publication," Good Stuff (http://members. xoom.com/good_stuff_1/index.html). Really a fan web site posing as an on-line magazine, Good Stuff is just what you'd expect: glowing reviews on a bunch of stuff Murrah happens to think is good. Conveniently enough, a lot of it is good, and most of it falls loosely under the Brit-pop heading.

Certified loons Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds continue the long tradition Saturday of weirding fright-night revelers into submission. Their 13th Halloween appearance at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar is dubbed "Night of the Living Ped." The kids wouldn't understand.

-- Hobart Rowland

Have a comment, tip, compliment or beef? E-mail Hobart Rowland at hobart_rowland@houstonpress.com.

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