Some would argue that it’s actually easier to get a death-row pardon in Texas than to wriggle out of a recording contract with Death Row Records. Just ask Crooked I, the decisive lyricist that emerged as one of the West Coast's finest. Last year, he announced that he had departed the influential label but the contractual constraints have anchored the Long Beach native’s recording efforts. Crooked maintains that he wanted to stay with the label, but his highly anticipated debut was continuously pushed back for a variety of reasons.
Moving on, Crooked I is now the CEO of his own Dynasty Records is ready to get it crackin’ for himself. But the struggle continues. AllHipHop.com caught up with Crooked to get his side of an untold story.
AllHipHop.com: Are you officially off Tha Row?
Crooked I: That’s a tricky situation, man. Here’s what happened… [The] contract expired [as of] November 2003, while he was back in jail. I signed in ‘99. It was a four-year deal and really after the four years, I don’t want to extend this. I had my lawyers some paperwork stating that I didn’t want to extend the contract, ‘I’m done, nice doing business with you, peace.’ Feel me?
AllHipHop.com: Did you get to keep your publishing?
Crooked I: Nah, I didn’t get to keep the music, you know what I did, I didn’t even try to fight for that, I just wanted to bounce. I did about four albums worth of material over there and wrote for numerous people. I wrote for Left Eye while she was here, I wrote for Kurupt, a lot of people.
AllHipHop.com: So why did your project really keep getting pushed back?
Crooked I: It was a lot of politics involved; people don’t like to talk about the real truth.
AllHipHop.com: Do you?
Crooked I: Yeah I’ll tell it. I don’t give a damn because it’s the truth.
AllHipHop.com: Why is it so hard for people to get let go from Death Row?
Crooked I: First of all Death Row started the whole record label/family or “street family” thing.
AllHipHop.com: Is that like the Italian family or the Black Family?
Crooked I: They’re the Soprano’s of the record industry. So once you get in there, it’s expected that it’s gonna be a long term thing. You know, you [literally] on Death Row. But my whole thing is from the beginning, I told him, ‘I’m gonna one day own my own label. This is cool and I’m gonna push the line over here and do everything that you ask me to do during the term of my contract,’ and that’s what I did. It could be three-in-the-morning and Suge would call me to come to the studio after I had just left, tired as Hell. And he’d call and be like, ‘Crooked, I’m gonna need you to come back to the studio, Man, these n*ggas is over here comin’ wack!’ So I’d drive my tired ass right back up there. So he knows what my commitment was.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s go back to the very beginning. After all the mayhem affiliated with Death Row, how did you even come to Death Row ?
Crooked I: I was on Virgin, and I left there because one of the head guys over there was doing some behind the scenes, under the table, type sh*t. So I started my own independent thing with a local football player here from Long Beach, my dude Chucky Miller and my other dude, Leonard Russell, who played for the Rams at the time. We did some indie sh*t trying to get it off the ground, then one day Daz and C Style knocked on my door in Long Beach. He was like the last one on Death Row, and they wanted to do a label called Dogg Pound Records; so they was like we wanna do the Dogg Pound records thing, and we want you to be the first act that we release, [then] Soopafly, then we wanna release other people. At that time, the West was dry as f**k. See, people don’t understand when the West was that dry and wasn’t no numbers being put up. Wasn’t no labels trying to hear from the West coast you could knock on doors all day, and they wasn’t answering.