Crunchy Black: Crunch Time

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or Darnell Carlton, March 5, 2006 was supposed to be the payoff for over 15 years of loyalty and dedication. But, as Three-6-Mafia took home the Academy Award for Best Original Song, their performance marked one of the final times the man more commonly known as Crunchy Black would perform with the group. When remaining members Juicy J and DJ Paul resurfaced weeks later on HOT 97’s Summer Jam stage stating that their Oscar statue had replaced Crunchy Black, it merely confirmed the rumors that Memphis’ favorite rap collective was now a two-man operation.

Breakups are usually ugly, and the rap game hardly an exception. Despite claims from both sides that there is no bad blood, accusations of underhanded business practices have left a cloud of controversy surrounding Crunchy’s rationale for leaving the group at the zenith of their popularity.

While lines such as, “N***a I don’t rap anyway, N***a I rob,” have never caused anyone to label Crunchy Black a lyrical assassin, very few people would question his brutal honesty. After years of quietly playing the background and hitting fans with the occasional verse and his trademark “Gangsta’ Walk,” Crunchy Black sounds off on his newfound solo status.

AllHipHop.com: Most of us know how you got the nickname Crunchy Black, but who gave it to you?

Crunchy Black: Where I’m from, Scudderfield, which is in North Memphis, me and another dude used to run together. Both of us were dark as hell, and back then, in the projects, you didn’t really call people on the phone. We’d just stand outside each other’s houses and holler for the person we wanted. Me and the other dude’s nicknames were both “Black,” so when someone was standing outside yelling, “Black,” we never knew which one of us it was for and we’d both be standing at our door. One day he said, “God damn it, we gonna’ stop all this right here. We’re both black as hell, but your ass is crunchy, so I’mma call you Crunchy Black.” After that, people in the hood would holler out, “Crunchy Black,” and it just kind of stuck.

AllHipHop.com: What were you listening to back then?

Crunchy Black: We mostly jammed off of DJ Paul and Juicy J. Back then, they were just DJs and weren’t really rappers. They were actually the two crunkest DJs in Memphis. Whenever they used to get a job to do a party or something, we would just listen to whatever Paul and J had, then there this other DJ named Squeaky. He was jammin’ too.

AllHipHop.com: When we think of the Memphis rap scene today songs like “Triggerman,” “Armed Robbery” and, of course, “Tear Da’ Club Up” come to mind. What was it like to be around when those classics were being made?

Crunchy Black: Ahh yeah, “Triggerman.” [8Ball] and [MJG], them some good boys. All that was a fun time.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve become famous for “Gangsta Walking,” can you explain how that happened?

Crunchy Black: Basically, back in them days that we were talking about, we used to all go to this club called Studio G, the G stood for gangster, so that pretty much tells you what kind of spot it was. Later it changed to The Plush Club, I heard that it might be getting shut down. But anyway, everybody would come up there at midnight to hear Paul, J and Squeaky, and the club wouldn’t shut down until after three in the morning. Paul and J would let their beats run for a whole hour, I’m talkin’ about s**t that’s loud with a whole bunch of bass and noise in it. Even when the song started to go off, they’d either bring it back or mix it in with another cut.

So during that time, everybody is getting buck, getting crunk. We used to have this thing called, “Last Man Standing.” That’s where you’d try to invent a new dance, even if the s**t was bad. This one dude was doing it, but he was f**kin’ it up. We all knew that he was doing it wrong, but he just kept on dancing. So, I really didn’t invent the “Gangsta’ Walk,” but I was so tough that I became the champ at that s**t.

AllHipHop.com: Would you say that winning the Oscar last year was your highest point?

Crunchy Black: Yeah, but there was a lot that led up to that point. People were always buying our s**t, but when you get that award it exposes you to a whole different set of people so you can sell more records. Paul and Juicy are smart like a motherf**ker, so throughout this whole time dealing with Sony they were doing the right deals.

I think they outsmarted Sony, because it got to a point where they didn’t really need the label and they threatened to leave. That was the whole thing behind Most Known Unknown, ‘cause they was going Gold or still getting good paper no matter how many records we sold based off how the deal was. Now with this record, you see three videos and n***as on 106 & Park, ‘cause [Sony] wanna’ put them out there and see how much they can get.

AllHipHop.com: That’s some pretty high praise for your former group members, so it doesn’t seem like a beef thing. What led to you leaving the group?

Crunchy Black: Part of it was that, besides Project Pat, I felt like I was the only real n***a. If you look at Most Known Unknown, that really was most of my s**t. I had made an album called From Me To You: 1 The Hard Way, and they used some of that material for this new album. It’s my ideas, but I’m one whose verses are getting cut on “Stay Fly” and “Poppin’ My Collar.” For me to be down with them n***as for 15, 16 years and be a real n***a, I felt that I deserved better than that. And when I say that, I don’t want people to think that it’s beef or no s**t like that.

A lot of other people had left the group because they didn’t feel like they were getting taken care of as far as the money was concerned. I was tired of my [solo] album getting ignored, so really I was gonna leave before this album even came out, but I stayed for one more year. When it came time to get the record ready, Paul and J come telling me that I need to pay $50,000 for an entertainment lawyer, so I gave them the $50,000. When we get there to have the meeting with the lawyer, everybody’s telling me I have to wait outside.

AllHipHop.com: So all that time your money wasn’t being handled correctly?

Crunchy Black: Yeah, but I’m a real n***a so I just have to charge that one to the game. You can take my songs and each get $150,000 off of it, but I can’t see no royalties? When I got home, I hired my own lawyer and he told me that for $50,000 he’d represent me for life! To look over a contract is only about $75 and for an entertainment lawyer, [$2,000] is really too much to be paying, let alone [$50,000] -you feel what I’m saying?

AllHipHop.com: Was that when you decided to leave?

Crunchy Black: Nah, the last straw was that whole time that we touring, I’m having to come out of my pocket and get my own hotel rooms and rent cars and s**t. We had got pulled over ‘cause the n***a that was driving was doing some crazy s**t. Since we were by the border of Mexico the police searched the car, they had the dogs and everything. Now I was sleep this whole time before they searched the car, and I had some weed on me but they never found anything. All of a sudden, when we get to the venue Paul is talking about I almost got us locked up. How? The cop ain’t pull us over because he smelled weed, he pulled us over because the n***a who y’all had driving was f**kin’ up. So after that they come sending one of my boys to tell me that I have to find my own way to the next show; they didn’t even come tell me themselves and we’re supposed to have been tight for 15 years. They’re the ones with the tour bus, and I’m coming out of pocket to get myself to the venue and getting there before them! Sony’s sending them money, but I’m checking myself into the hotel every time and paying for my own room.

People had left the group ‘cause of their money not being done right and other stuff too, but if it’s only three n***as in the group there’s no excuse not to pay a n***a. So while we were in New York, I called Sony and told them that I was leaving the group. That next day I got on a plane and left. And it ain’t no beef, I’m not about to make a record talking about I want to kill Paul and J or no s**t like that. I don’t appreciate that s**t they did as far as my money and taking my songs, but I learned a lot about the business from them. If you’re a fan of them, stay a fan, don’t jump over on my bandwagon ‘cause of what happened between me and them.

AllHipHop.com: There were originally quite a few members of Three-6-Mafia. Now that you’re a soloist, do you talk with them?

Crunchy Black: I’ve got my crew called The Real Hard Hitters. LaChat tried to do some f**k s**t and come out with a crew called The Hard Hitters, but that’s just some copycat s**t. If you look on my website which is www.myspace.com/crunchyblackandtherealhardhitters then you can tell the difference. On our CDs, it looks just like the Tennessee [license plate] and the logo is in the corner.

I had Gangsta Boo down in the studio at my house one time, but she was rapping some old Three-6 stuff. It ain’t nothing personal, but this is something new so we got to leave all of that old stuff behind. If we’re going to do something you’ve got to come with some new raps and s**t, don’t nobody want to hear that old s**t. And Lord Infamous was just lost, lost in the sauce on them drugs, so I can’t do anything with him.

All this time I had my real n***as from back home telling me, “Come on Crunchy, open up a studio or something so we don’t have to be out here selling this s**t!” I’m down to help anyone who’s down to help themselves. I told them that once they got their act together we could do something. These are my same three boys who’ve been down with me this whole time, Pharaoh “The Prince of The City,” Explosive and Buck 4 Luck.

AllHipHop.com: Are you still affiliated with Sony or are you independent?

Crunchy Black: I’ve been talking with Ruthless Records and Ruff Ryders. I’m leaning toward Ruff Ryders because when I sat down and talked with them, they just kept it real with me. Plus, it makes more sense to go with someone who can get me out to that area where they might not be that familiar with me.

AllHipHop.com: Any last words?

Crunchy Black: We’re coming to every city. If you need studio time and you’re trying to do something positive and get some money in your pocket we’re going to see you. When I came home I didn’t know what to do. I just prayed that if God would help me then I’d put this good word out. We’ll help you get that paper, but if you’re on that bulls**t, we can’t do anything for you.

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