Long Beach, California rhyme-slayer Crooked I is no stranger to this site, as he has appeared numerous times and given several epic interviews – and it's about that time for another one.
The Slaughterhouse member sat down with AllHipHop.com out at the Treacherous Records studio in Glendale to talk about his newly-released mixtape, Psalms 82:6, the upcoming group album on Shady Records and working with Eminem.
Crooked I also tells us what his terms are in order to do business with WIDEawake Entertainment, the company that purchased the label he was formerly signed to - Death Row Records. He says if they want his support for the release of his old album, Say Hi To The Bad Guy, it's not going to be cheap! Check the interview:
AllHipHop.com: Psalms 82:6, the scripture about the "gods"... Why did you choose that for the name of your new mixtape?
Crooked I: Slaughterhouse had this one song that we did called "The Illest". I said a line that went, "Crooked I was born in a California manger/ God of the West Coast know the flow nice/ when you're signed to Shady Aftermath." A lot of people questioned me about that line, because they were not sure of what I was trying to say. Some thought it was blasphemous. I had to let them know that there's a scripture that backs that up, and that's Psalms 82:6.
At first, it was just to let people know that I wasn't trippin'. No, I am not God Almighty. The dope thing is that there are a lot of people who haven't picked up a Bible that now have just to look up that scripture. Sometimes you've got to educate people. I know that a lot of rappers educated me back in the day. Artists like Scarface, 2Pac, and Public Enemy had me researching the things that they were saying. I think this is a good thing. Send them to the book, and have them look up the reason why I referred to myself as a "god."
AllHipHop.com: There really isn't a lot of that in rap anymore. You are right. We used to have to go research what some rappers were talking about.
Crooked I: That's because they are just putting everything right there in front of us: b*tches, get money, smoke weed, drink, ride fancy cars, and chains. That's all stuff that's right in your face. It's over-saturating the game right now. Me personally, I like to drive nice cars. I love jewelry, even from back in the day when I would see dudes like Eric B. & Rakim and Ice-T with big chains on their album covers. I go to the strip clubs. Everything that's being rapped about today, I partake in. But even I get tired of it. Somebody needs to say something different, dog. There's a lot of sh*t going on in this world.
AllHipHop.com: I listen to Slaughterhouse songs, and you guys just hit us right on the head with rhymes that deserve a rewind. How is it in the studio with each other? Do you guys compete to see who can out rhyme who?
Crooked I: We all know that on any given Sunday, anyone of us can get our a** busted in the booth. Any one of us can get washed up. We like to say that we bring our A game, and that's what we do. I approach the song by saying, 'I know three other monsters are going to get on this song with me, so I'm going to do the best that I can do.' If I get caught slippin', then I know that I'll get smashed. I won't change my verse, too.
AllHipHop.com: So, there is no going back to the booth?
Crooked I: The only time we go back to the booth is when there is something that we've done that we are not comfortable with. If I'm not comfortable with a few lines, then I will go change them, but it's never a change due to someone else coming in and wiping me out. When one of us is in a zone, there is probably nothing that can be done about it anyway. We go in there and give it our best on our first try. In the end, Eminem is the one that's going to listen to it and decide if it's dope, or if it could be better.
AllHipHop.com: I was proud to see you there with Eminem at the BET Cypher last year, because I remember the Crooked I that couldn't even get into his own shows because of the industry blackballing of Death Row.
Crooked I: [laughs] I couldn't get in to my own scheduled performances. But thank you, bro, it's been a lot of work to get here, and we've got a lot more to do. I always tell upcoming artists to put their hard hats on and to tie up their bootlaces. It's been a long road and sometimes you take the scenic route in this industry. Some go straight out of high school into the league. You can never tell what your path is going to be, but I wouldn't change mine for the world because I learned a whole lot.
AllHipHop.com: It's been quite a journey. Just the other day I was listening to some of your songs from the 19th Street Compilation from the late '90s.
Crooked I: I was a kid, man. I listen to some of that sh*t, too. The other day I sounded like a chipmunk [laughter]. Damn, I was young on that sh*t. I could hear the hunger, though. My homeboy Big C-Style put that compilation together. He is one of the founding members of The Dogg Pound.
I was walking down the street with my homeboy Dice who is now in The Horse Shoe Gang. We were going down Atlantic Avenue on the Eastside of Long Beach. Big C-Style pulled up on the side of me, and he was like, "I've been looking for you. I've got this 19th Street compilation that I want you to get down on." I asked how many slots he had available, and he told me that he didn't have many left, so I went to his studio, and we did about 10 songs in one day. When you hear that CD now, I'm all over it like I was there from the beginning, but I actually came in on the tail end. It was all hunger.
AllHipHop.com: When you listen to those old songs, do you ever tell yourself that you need to get back that same energy and hunger?
Crooked I: No. We evolve. I feel that now I can appeal to more fanbases. Back then, my mindset was simply to just destroy microphones. I'm still on that, but that's just one side of me. Now, I like to paint a picture and tell stories. Talk about my life. Talk about the lives of people that I see. Talk about things that affect the neighborhood and the community. I like to talk about a lot of sh*t now, and that's the maturity. Back then, it was just straight 'f*ck the world and destroy mics.' That was my attitude.
AllHipHop.com: And you did do that. Those freestyles on the "Wake Up Show" are legendary.
Crooked I: Thank you. I'm glad that I'm cut from that cloth, because when you get a chance to be in a cypher with Eminem, you don't look too bad [laughter]. There's a lot of dudes who don't have those bars, and they shouldn't be in a f*cking cypher. If you can make a club hit, then that's what I want to hear from you. You don't need to be in a cypher. I don't want to hear bars when I'm in a strip club, but at the same time I don't want to hear club rappers in a cypher. It just doesn't match. But it's a good thing if you are really able to do both.
AllHipHop.com: Some of the cyphers were cool, but when the Shady cypher came on, it was game over.
Crooked I: It was a beautiful thing. We went on tour together, so we kind of expected everybody to know the cypher, so when that music comes on everybody goes crazy. Even in Europe - when the cypher music came on, they all lost their f*cking mind. I salute BET for allowing us to do it. Eminem showed me what being a superstar is really about. He didn't have to do the cypher for one, and he had about 50 bars memorized. That alone is too much work for a lot of these rappers. Here you have the highest selling artist in the last decade, and he still has the tenacity to get inside of a cypher and spit 50 bars. That's something to look up to.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me what it's like working with Eminem. What has he taught you?
Crooked I: I think I can speak for the entire Slaughterhouse group when I say this, because we talk about this. Eminem gave us a lot of confidence in what we already do. He listened to the first Slaughterhouse album that came out on E1. He told us, "I listened to the first album, and I'm a fan. I want you to do that same sh*t."
He told us to do what we do, and he would come in with things here and there towards the end of the project. When you are in the booth working and he's sitting at the mixing board, and you spit some sh*t and he goes, "Whoa! That's crazy." Then you watch him record, and you see that he does things similar to the way that you do it, it gives you that confidence and lets you know that you've been on the right page all of this time. If one of the greats tells you that you killed a verse, it really is an extra vote of confidence. To have an MC be the boss of the company, is great.
AllHipHop.com: It's a perfect fit because if your group was in someone else's hands, I don't know that it would work. If anybody can make this work, it's Eminem.
Crooked I: That's the whole thing. Me and Royce had conversations when we were on E1. We were like, "The perfect fit would be Shady." We knew that was the perfect fit. A lot of other record labels might not get or understand what Slaughterhouse is.
AllHipHop.com: I don't think they would know what to do with you guys.
Crooked I: They wouldn't. One executive once told us that we should set up a website and have us all battle each other every week. We were like, "What the f*ck? Yo mother*cker, we don't want to battle each other. We want to make music." So, you are right. They wouldn't know what to do with Slaughterhouse.
AllHipHop.com: I do like that you guys haven't really tried to change yourselves. I don't see you guys rushing out to make ratchet dance tracks.
Crooked I: Right. We have the opportunity to. We are on a major now, so if we wanted to make songs in a different way we think would appeal, we could. Take for instance the song, "My Life." The video just debuted on BET's 106 & Park. It's a celebratory song, but it's still Slaughterhouse if you listen to it. I'm talking about being able to be successful and still having skills in my verse. You have Joell in his verse talking about his Grandma that passed away, and how he's going to make her proud. Then you have Joey talking his son that he hadn't met and then finally did. Royce is talking about things that relate to his family.
It's still a Hip-Hop song, but some people took it the wrong way, saying that the sound is crossing over. We aren't crossing over. Listen to the music! Everything is not always going to be some dark, wicked-sounding beat. You have to show many shades on a project. I'm glad that we chose "My Life" as one of the lead singles, because it's a celebratory song about our lives. We've come a long ways. Cee Lo murdered that sh*t, too. Everybody should check that video out for sure.
AllHipHop.com: It's not often that we get a project from you. What made you decide to drop a mixtape now?
Crooked I: It was just time for me to just drop some sh*t. While on tour, I saw people wearing the C.O.B. shirts, and they would ask when I was going to do something new for myself. I decided to drop something for them until the Slaughterhouse album comes out. It came out real good, and I've gotten some good reviews from the people - and that's what I really give a f*ck about.
AllHipHop.com: I saw something on the Internet a while back that said your Say Hi To The Bad Guy album on Death Row Records was going to be leaked.
Crooked I: Bits and pieces have been leaked. I know that the people that bought Death Row Records put out some sh*t called Hoodstar, and they used a few songs off of that album. I've seen a few songs pop up on pirate websites. I'm not even tripping on that sh*t back then - I'm looking forward. I was watching Dysfunktional Family the other day, and I had nine songs on that soundtrack. It took me back listening to those old songs again. That was like in 2003. But I'm looking to the future.
AllHipHop.com: Can they put that out without your consent?
Crooked I: They called me and they wanted me to support it. I told them, 'If you want me to do some sh*t, cut me a check for $1 million, and I'll come over there for some solo sh*t." I told them if they weren't going to do anything like that, then I wasn't going to support anything. It's reminding people of a past that no longer exists. There is no real Death Row Records anymore. Once Suge was removed from the picture, there was no Death Row. You can't be Death Row without Suge. My terms were to have me do a brand new album for a $1 million. They gave me the run around, and I told them I was cool.
They are trying to put out old sh*t, and they don't know how to market it. They just think that the catalog is going to sit around and sell itself - and it will - but not the part of the catalog that people haven't heard. You have to market that. You can sell All Eyes On Me forever and a day. What about the unheard music, though? That has to be marketed to the people. They don't know how to do that in my opinion. So when they read this, all I have to say is $1 million [laughter]. As a matter of fact, it was $1 million back then. I want $1.5 now.
AllHipHop.com: The price just went up.
Crooked I: The price just went up, motherf*cker.
AllHipHop.com: What's next for Crooked I?
Crooked I: I'm just focusing on Slaughterhouse. These guys are phenomenal and Eminem is like the fifth member, although he's D-12 for life. Em has put in so much work on the album itself. Whenever there is a debate about Hip-Hop producers/rappers, you never really hear Eminem. You hear about Kanye and others, but never Em. He produced “Lose Yourself.”
AllHipHop.com: That track is a commercial now.
Crooked I: You feel me? People need to understand that he's a talented producer, and he's studied under the best. He's in there producing and arranging songs on the Slaughterhouse album that are f*cking phenomenal. I'm just focused on getting Slaughterhouse off the ground. I mean, we are, but we want to be in a position to tell the next generation, "That's how you are supposed to make records."
AllHipHop.com: I think as far as major labels are concerned, you guys are like one of the last of the Mohicans. There is a lot of straight pure Hip-Hop independently, but not so much on the major labels anymore.
Crooked I: That's crazy. How many of today's mainstream artists will go onstage with a DJ and a beat boxer and go for 45 minutes just off that? You are not going to really get that. It's cool being in the strip clubs on your songs, but what if I strip all of that away from you? Do you have MC skills to rock a party? We have done that over and over again. If a sound system f*cks up, that's nothing. I'll rock that sh*t still. Are you an MC at the end of the day? I'm never running away from that title. Some will say this is that backpack sh*t. No it's not. It's that Hip-Hop sh*t.
AllHipHop.com: Want to leave us with anything?
Crooked I: Pick up that Psalms 82:6 mixtape, and the Slaughterhouse album when it drops. Oh yeah, Dr. Dre, holla at your boy.
Follow Crooked I on Twitter (@CrookedIntriago).