They was like. “For real, we gonna wait and see what Death Row do, we gonna wait and see what Chronic 2001 does. So we went to Elektra and these other places who kept saying, ‘We love you. Your sh*t is hot.’ But they all wanted me to wait and wait, and don’t pay the rent. So they came with the Dogg Pound Records idea and we got on the radio and announced that we might be considering the Suge Knight thing. Dr. Dre immediately had somebody contact Big C Styles like, ‘Yo, bring Crooked over here.’ He just started Aftermath and everything, so we went and met with Dre. He was like I gotta finish the Chronic 2001 album, I gotta finish the Eminem album, and then I can f**k with you. We gonna make history! I was like, ‘Of course, that’s Dre. Let’s go,’ then at the same time, on the ride home, I was like, ‘Well, how the f**k am I gonna survive until then?’ Damn, I would love to do that, he’s the man and all, but I can’t do it. So I got on a plane and went to the penitentiary up North and seen Suge and that was an experience in itself.
AllHipHop.com: What was that conversation like?
Crooked I: Oh my God, n***s doing they record deals discussing record contracts with gun towers looking down.
AllHipHop.com: How does he conduct business?
Crooked I: Well he really doesn’t want you to know, cause he’s not supposed to [conduct business in prison].
AllHipHop.com: You know one thing that I found interesting about that movie that went behind the scenes of Death Row was when they went to the prison to interview Suge, and the warden had to get Suge's permission to be interviewed. If that isn’t backwards, what’s that all about?
Crooked I: Man, when you got 400 million dollars in the pen, that’s a whole other ball game. He can put money on everybody’s books; I heard he even got cable in that b*tch.
AllHipHop.com: In his cell?
Crooked I: No, I mean for everybody to watch cable.
AllHipHop.com: Well, at least he’s not stingy (laughs)
Crooked I: So I’m sitting there with him and he said I’m hearing good things about you. They had watched "Rap City" when I battled Chino XL and I got the upper hand on Chino - but it was a sabotage job but that’s another story (laughing). So we’re walking around talking, and he’s like, ‘Man, f**k all that other sh*t. I can get you Grammy’s and Billboard awards. I can get you this, that, and the other.’ And I said, ‘But can you make me rich?’ and he started laughing. So from day one, he really knew I was really about my business, and from that point on once we decided the terms and everything. I was up there once a month during his whole stay. I would go check in with him, let him know what was going on, and everything. I recorded a whole album letting him hear tracks over the phone and everything. And after I finished, he was like, ‘I’ve been thinking Crooked, I want to be there when you record the album.’ and I’m like, ‘I just recorded 22 songs, and you just want to scrap the whole album that you was all hyped about?’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I just wanna be there. Just kick back, I only got 12 months to go.’ It was kinda bad because I didn’t want to wait, but I was getting checks so I wasn’t hurting so I waited the 12 months and did a whole new album when he came out.
AllHipHop.com: Did you like that album better than the first one?
Crooked I: I don’t know. I liked the first one because that one I did when it was hard times, I’m negotiating contracts, I didn’t have no money. I’m staying in hotels for months at a time. I’m catching rides to the studio, you know. So I was proud of accomplishing it when we finished because we were up against all odds. The next one was cool, but everything was all laid out. But the thing I liked about the next one, was I never dissed nobody and all those fools over there wanted me to diss. But I was like, ‘I’m not gonna diss nobody till they diss me ‘cause I wasn’t trying to capitalize off n*ggas in the industry by sayin’, ‘F**k Snoop, or anybody else like that,’ and I was proud of that. It was good album, we had a lot of features. He still got that music, and he can put it out, I don’t care. Put that s**t out, especially if you feel like you invested money in me. Right here, where we’re at with my new deal, he sent cease and desist papers to my new label because he’s saying that my interpretation is that the contract is over that’s not his interpretation of the contract, so he’s gonna have a judge decide if its expired or not; or in other words, ‘I’m gonna make you dig into your pockets n*gga!’
AllHipHop.com: But why? What did you do to him? If he owns all the music, all the publishing and all that why cant he just put the music out to make his money back if its just about his investment in you?
Crooked I: I don’t know, because I never expected him to try to hold me back like this. Because I did everything I had to do over there. I stayed down. I stayed loyal, and when it was over, I had to bounce. I told him, ‘Man, in four years, n*ggas get college degrees, and I didn’t do nothing.’ I mean, my name got a little bigger but that ain’t what I’m interested in. I’m interested in makin music. But he sent a cease and desist order to my label and I wasn’t expecting that but I tried to set up a conversation with him and he was supposed to meet with my label rep that Friday, but instead, that’s when he sent the paperwork, and they talked to him, and he was like, ‘Y’all trying to steal my artist, and all that.’ So that made them stop everything. So here I am, brand new deal through Treacherous, which is a label that has distribution thru Universal. My deal is a company deal and my company is Dynasty so they’re distributing my label through their distribution deal with Universal, so I have the greatest deal of a lifetime. I’m in here making what a person should make off their album with all the distribution in the world and legally they cant do anything because of this order.
AllHipHop.com: Even if you have whole separate label deal that conflicts with your agreement with him?
Crooked I: Yeah he’s saying I can’t do anything, because technically he can do that. I told him before I left, I’d even give him a dollar off each album of my new stuff and I didn’t’ have to, but he invested money in me, so if I go platinum, you get a million just for doing nothing. But he had his people get back to me, and told me he’s gonna want some money because he got a million for Snoop. But I said, ‘The *igga didn’t even put me out. If he would’ve put me out and I sold a million records, somebody might give him a mil, but aint nobody about to put up a million dollars and I’m not about to be a slave to no company, because they put up a million dollars.’
AllHipHop.com: If you guys were so cool, why can’t you just eliminate all this middleman mess, and just you and Suge sit down like men and talk things out is that unrealistic?
Crooked I: Yeah, that’s unrealistic, because I see people affiliated with Death Row all the time, and they’re like, ‘It’s all good,’ but you never know what’s gonna happen in that room, and I ain’t never been no sucka. I just don’t know where his head is at or what he’s mad at, so you never know what’s gonna happen.
AllHipHop.com: Have you seen him since he’s been out?
Crooked I: No, I was gonna wait to talk to him face to face to tell him I was gonna bounce, but he wasn’t getting out before the new year started, and I wasn’t about to go through another year with them. So [December 31, 2003], I called the office, and told ‘em, I need to get at Suge. So when he called, they transferred him to me and I was like, ‘I gotta do, what I gotta do, homie,’ and he was like, ‘Man, you owe me. I did this, I did that. I invested money in you,’ and I was like, ‘Just put the albums out. I aint trippin’, do what you do, because I couldn’t go into 04 still under that.’ I didn’t know what the Hell I was gonna do really to tell you the truth.
AllHipHop.com: When did you sign with Universal?
Crooked I: Four days later, and that was the power of God. We thought we was all in the clear, and we start recording the album, and all of a sudden a magazine article comes out announcing my new deal, and now all this paper work starts coming. I would’ve rather he let me blow up and just release the music he has, but not to stop me in my tracks. But he didn’t think I had the money to get lawyers. But he don’t know.
AllHipHop.com: So what are you doing now?
Crooked I: I’m doing the DVD, "Leaving Death Row," its a documentary. He can’t prohibit me from doing that, because it’s film. It’s cool because I have people like Master P and Russell Simmons. P is in there talking about when people leave him, he don’t trip. I got the first person who ever left Death Row, which was RBX, all the way up to me the last person to leave.
AllHipHop.com: Is Daz on there? What’s he talking about?
Crooked I: Actually, me and Daz ain’t really cool no more.
AllHipHop.com: Ever since he got that $20 million from Suge?
Crooked I: Yeah the 20 million he never got, he signed all that over to his attorneys. If Daz got that money he’d have an album out by now.
AllHipHop.com: What else is on the DVD?
Crooked I: I talk about N.I.N.A., Left Eye. People are always curious what she was like while she was on the Row. Also Juve, some people don’t know that he spent time over there. But once he saw how things were going down, he wasn’t with it so he left. The DVD is really more about leaving a state of mind and not just about leaving the label. A lot of artists want to be fake ass thugs, I’m all about adopting a business state of mind.