Crooked I has seen a lot of come and go during his 15 years in the commercial music industry as an artist. Label, New Tribe (distributed by Virgin Records), kicked open the doors of his career at 18. He went indie a few times and along the way signed to Death Row Records and now, Eminem’s Shady Records with Slaughterhouse crew (Joelle Ortiz, Joe Budden and Royce da 5’9”). While some things change, others stay the same. One thing is true: being about this life is no cake walk! Slaughterhouse is gearing up for another U.S. tour in early 2014.
MzHanaG: What are some of your memorable experiences with Death Row Records?
Crooked I: Being with Death Row was definitely an experience: it was everything you would imagine it to be – I’ll just put it that way. Shug Knight really allowed me to soak up the game. I attended a lot of meetings with him, Kevin Liles, Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen. I also worked closely with the same engineers and producers as Tupac. Them telling me that I worked just as hard as Pac was an eye opener for me. But, things happen. With Shug in and out of jail a lot of my material didn’t get released. It was a learning experience. I’m the type of person to turn a negative into a positive.
MzHanaG: In between your label deals you pursued music independently. What is your advice for the independent artist?
Crooked I: Indie artists have to build a buzz to the point where they don’t need a deal. That’s when the labels start looking at you. A&R’s wait around until artists build a foundation for themselves. Sometimes it’s about who you know, too. It is a lot of hard work though, and your work ethic has to be above average.
MzHanaG: With their being more indie artists than mainstream, what kind of impact do you think mainstream artists have?
Crooked I: Mainstream rappers are playing it safe. There are a lot of worldly issues going on right now, but I keep hearing about parties and I get tired of hearing the same thing. Fans are being robbed of knowing our real perspective on worldly issues. Fans think it’s all about turnin’ up and poppin bottles and mollys. But, we’re coming out of a recession and the job market is still bad. In reality, a lot of people don’t have the money that these rappers write about.
MzHanaG: What is your opinion of the ladies in the game?
Crooked I: There needs to be more of them: I remember when you could hear Eve, Foxy, Lil Kim and Lady of Rage on the radio at the same time – and even before that – you still had MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shanté and Salt-N-Pepa out at the same time. Now the spotlight is on one woman. Nikkie Minage is very talented, but there needs to be more female emcees in the game.
MzHanaG: As a West Coast rapper (by way of Long Beach), how have things progressed or digressed musically in your community over the years?
Crooked I: Every time that I feel like it’s changed, I see that it hasn’t much changed. Musically it seems more fun, but there’s still a lot of craziness going on out here. I’d like to help reshape and change the reputation of the city – to a city with people, who are focused on their goals.
MzHanaG: Now signed to Shady Records, how is it working with Eminem?
Crooked I: Eminem is a very down to earth dude. His entire catalogue is on Billboard 200, so he has a very strong work ethic. Its dope to be around someone who understands us as emcees. Shady Records is not just a label, it’s a movement.
While Crooked I continues to work his projects and prepare for the 2014 Slaughterhouse tour, he does a radio show every Wednesday from 5pm – 7pm (Pacific time) on www.skee247.com, by way of DJ Skee.
For more information on Crooked I, visit http://planetcob.com/ .