Crooked I is fighting for his life. After almost a decade of being promised to be on the horizon, Crooked I finds himself there still, at the top of 2005. Caught between a lawsuit with Death Row Records, Crooked is on the fringe of controlling his own destiny. He’s being especially proactive, and told AllHipHop.com all about where his head, heart, and time is.
Big things are promised. Hear the story of a man who’s given it more tries than Master P’s basketball career. Unlike P, Crooked still may be very well ahead of his time. Feel the struggle of the rapper held back for too long.
AllHipHop.com: How far along in the release process are you now with the DVD?
Crooked I: Hey man, I’m editing right now. This my first DVD I’m puttin’ out. I didn’t know, that editing, man – that’s no joke. I’m thinking like March or April.
AllHipHop.com: I can see an RBX being very specific about Death Row. But what’s Master P gonna say about Death Row or that experience he knows nothing about?
Crooked I: Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s got several different aims. One is to document my times on Death Row, and [working] with Left Eye, just different things that I went through over there. But the DVD’s aim is also about transitions. It’s about people growing in the industry and giving their story. It’s about my transition – moving on from Death Row Records. It’s about Master P’s transition moving on from the streets to the corporate world. And he does touch on a few Death Row related issues since he signed Snoop Dogg and all that. I got Loon on there, when he left Bad Boy. I’m hoping that it’ll be inspirational to young cats coming up in the industry trying to grow.
AllHipHop.com: One thing that I heard really blew me away. Carl ‘Butch’ Small, the longtime percussionist for all the Death Row great records helped you out recently. That dude is an unsung hero of Hip-Hop for his percussion, but also his charity. Can you tell us what happened?
Crooked I: Big up’s for Butch. Butch really came through for me, man. There was a time where he just extended his hand as a homeboy, as a friend, and he came through [and paid some bills for me]. I’ve known Butch since before I was on Death Row. He had done percussion for my album on Noo-Trybe.
AllHipHop.com: What’s your day-to-day life like now?
Crooked I: My day-to-day is on the business side way more. I put as much energy into learning the business now, as I did as a young dude trying to learn to freestyle. My phones ring all day. Meetings meetings meetings. I love it though. I get to be my own boss. I think I’m gonna break in a new era on the West Coast as far as new kids in the game. I’m bossing up on both sides of the mic.
AllHipHop.com: There seemed to be a popular perception that as you were building this label of other artists, because you had contract restrictions. What merit is there to that?
Crooked I: I do have other artists, and the deal is going through Treacherous, which is distributed by Universal Music Group. But no, man. By no means am I putting myself in the background. I’m like WC and [DJ] Aladdin – Low Profile. I got a throw something out there for the people, no matter what. I’m trying to put together a project that you could put next to the classics.
AllHipHop.com: Looking at Game’s breakout success, does ‘coulda been me’ enter your mind as you watch that unfold?
Crooked I: I’m happy for Game, man. He’s been put in a position that, s**t, n****s would kill for in certain places. Game’s a young dude. Jimmy Iovine, a monster. Dr. Dre, enough said just saying his name. G-Unit, they got that cap on fire. The position that he’s in is a very blessed position. I’m very happy for him. That’s a good thing. I was never in a rush to be the first to bring back the West, or try to. That’s what a lot of MC’s talk about out here. My view of the West Coast being where it needs to be isn’t one person doing what they doing. At least three to four different camps, rollin’! When ‘Pac was alive, it wasn’t just 2Pac dominating the charts. It was ‘Pac, but E-40 and Sik-Wid-It Click was holding down the Bay. Snoop and The Dogg Pound had at least three or four different groups within that camp – Nate Dogg, Warren G, Dogg Pound, Snoop, Westside Connect. I think it’s gonna be a thing where we got a Murder Inc and a Ruff Ryders and a Roc-A-Fella all at once, when they were doing their thing. We really gotta unite with each other. When I say unite, I don’t mean do sixteen on my mixtape. I mean sit down at the roundtable and talk on how we can push this business-line together as well as make music together.
AllHipHop.com: Girls all the time talk about ‘reclaiming their virginity.’ They regret who they slept with. As an artist, you’re proven – but you’re an album virgin. How does that feel?
Crooked I: Man! That’s a reality that I gotta live with. And after you’ve been in the game as long as I have without putting out an album, – it does f**k with you, mentally. There’s ups and downs. The maturity is there. Honestly, there’s so many things missing in the Hip-Hop game. I think I can add different perspectives. Everything happens for a reason. I’m happy, man.
AllHipHop.com: Some of your fan-base was attracted to you by way of your work with Sway and Tech, and the more underground artists you worked with. Death Row probably wouldn’t have had you collaborate with a Chino XL. Will you do that now, since there are no restraints?
Crooked I: That’s the thing, man. People have this perception of me from the Sway and Tech days. That was just something I knew how to do. I’ve always been a songwriter who wrote about life. When it came time to go up there, I had to move into that battle zone. It’s something that every MC can do, who’s a real MC. Yes, there will be a mixture. Because I can get down on that playing field. It’s fun to me – to verbally destroy another MC, that’s fun. I think I want to represent the whole circle of Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: Daz dispelled this rumor a few months ago. But, we had heard a rumor that you were officially let out of your contract recently?
Crooked I: That’s not the fact. Call me back in about…[laughter]. My lawyer about ready to wring my neck. But the time is coming near. With Daz, he couldn’t answer any questions on my behalf. I haven’t even spoken to him in 12 or 13 months. I left several messages on his phone, because I did want to speak to him about some of the things that went on while I was over there.
AllHipHop.com: Have you witnessed that since you’re no longer on Death Row, things are good with you and certain individuals?
Crooked I: Uhh, I saw Snoop at USC at one of the Hip-Hop Summits. We spoke. We shook hands. It was all good. Also, a couple other cats [too]. I was one of the dudes on Tha Row that really didn’t have too many problems with cats. I gotta fight my own battles. I was plannin’ on being the future of the label, not the past. But even when I was on the label, I talked to Dre, I talked to different people, I even talked to Puffy. So that wasn’t no big deal for me. But where Daz is concerned, he – he tends to think that when he left, I should’ve left. That makes him bitter. But we were in two different positions. My whole thing was, I lived on Long Beach the whole time I was on Death Row, so you can imagine what type of things I went through. It’s all good though, I’m still here. [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: So with that order in place, how can you communicate with your fans in the meantime?
Crooked I: Artistically, the mixtape game is cool. Across the country! That’s the way. We puttin’ something serious into this album though. And, it’s gonna be out before the summer. That’s the thing, dude.