Crooked I Interview
|Label:||Treacherous/Dynasty Music Group|
|Next Project:||Mr. Pig Face Weapon Waist EP|
|Twitter:||KXNG CROOKED on Twitter|
|Website:||KXNG CROOKED's Website|
As it’s been said so many times before, West Coast hip-hop is ready to make its comeback in a big way, and one of the most prominent – and hardest-working – figures in the ‘gangsta’ revival is street veteran Crooked I. Fresh off the success of lyrical supergroup Slaughterhouse‘s self-titled, Booth-acclaimed debut album, the Long Beach mainstay’s not resting on his laurels. In addition to cultivating such emerging talents as Horse Shoe G.A.N.G. (the up-and-coming crew who brought us the 100th entry in our exclusive freestyle series) as head of his own Dynasty Ent. label, Crook’s been busy crafting razor-sharp solo material behind the mask of his ”I don’t give a f*ck” alter-ego, Mr. Pig Face Weapon Waist.
With a lengthy, uniformly acclaimed résumé of solo features and countless blazing-hot guest appearances, Crook’s established himself as a hands-down favorite among our resident hardcore heads. Now, the seasoned rhymesayer is preparing to give listeners a closer look at his bloodthirsty, Dickies-clad Slaughterhouse persona with the Treacherous/Dynasty Music Group release of his hotly-anticipated digital EP, serving up raw, uncut lyrical carnage on tracks like reader-approved leak Guess Who’s Back (featuring none other than Snoop Dogg).
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Crooked I steps into the Booth to discuss the possibility of a Slaughterhouse reality series, what he believes it will take to rehabilitate both the West Coast hip-hop scene and the ailing music industry as a whole, and the full story behind his Mr. Pig Face character.
Listen to the Interview
KXNG CROOKED Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a West Coast veteran, one-fourth of Slaughterhouse, and the man behind the forthcoming EP, Mr. Pig Face Weapon Waist. Please welcome my man Crooked I – how you doin’?
Crooked I: I’m doin good, man, I’m doin’ good, hangin’ in there.
DJ Booth: We connected in Chicago this past summer, when you were in town for Rock the Bells, and I know that you have been doing nothing but working since then. What is the longest stretch of time, since June, that you’ve had to just relax and unwind from either touring or recording or promoting?
Crooked I: Probably like nine hours! [laughs] I flew home, we had one off day, but I had to be clear across the country the next day. I got my little nine hours of relaxation in, and it was time to get back on the plane and get back on this grind. You know how we do it, man: we stay hustlin’, we stay grinding, we stay working, man.
DJ Booth: I would imagine that being out on the road for so many months in a row can become very mentally taxing. How do you keep yourself motivated, energized and upbeat, knowing that the next time you’ll have to relax is so long away?
Crooked I: You’ve just got to stay focused, man. ‘Cause on that bus, I don’t care how state of the art that tour bus is, it begins to feel like the county jail, you know what I’m sayin’? [laughs] I don’t care about all of them DVDs and plasma screens in there; when you’re on that road there and you’ve got like six, seven dudes on there with you, and everybody’s hangin’ off the bunk… And Slaughterhouse, we’re an interesting group of people, so we dang near need to do a reality show, to be honest with you.
DJ Booth: You mentioned a reality TV show, but I’m having a hard time placing Slaughterhouse on any one cable network. Do you feel like you guys are meant for TV, or would that be some X-rated stuff?
Crooked I: You know what? You’re gonna have to put a Slaughterhouse reality show on HBO! [laughs]
DJ Booth: I was gonna say, VH1 will not air you guys.
Crooked I: Yeah, it’s probably not VH1 material, unless you want to hear a lot of “What the [beep]?! [Beep] you!” [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] Up to a certain point, that could be entertaining, but I think after a while everybody would get sick of you.
Crooked I: Exactly. It would be a real good experience for the fans, to just see behind the scenes, though.
DJ Booth: Thinking forward, though, when you finally do get the chance to take a break from music and touring, what would be your ideal one-week vacation?
Crooked I: Man… my ideal one-week vacation would be somewhere where you definitely need a passport, probably laid out on some white sand somewhere, enjoyin’ my favorite meal, lamb chops, sippin’ on some wine, grown-and-sexy style. That would be, like… it’s probably what I’m gonna do, to be honest with you! [laugh]
DJ Booth: I was just gonna say, you need to make that happen!
Crooked I: [laughs] Yeah, I’ll probably go and do that. You’ve gotta have those kind of things in your mind, man, to look forward to – that also helps you on these long stretches, man.
DJ Booth: Comin’ up right around the corner on November 10th, Crook, you are set to release the aforementioned EP, Mr. Pig Face Weapon Waist . Is the tactic here, “I am just going to scare people into buying my music?”
Crooked I: [laughs] Nah, Z… You know, it’s crazy how that came about. That name actually came about ‘cause we did our first show [as Slaughterhouse] in California, at the Paid Dues Festival. I actually came out onstage with a pig mask on, so people started callin’ me “pig face” after that. And then the “weapon waist” part came out of a verse that I laid on a song that leaked on the Internet. Royce likes to say that I’m Mr. Weapon Waist whenever I get drunk and start talkin’ sh*t! [laughs] So we just put ‘em together: “Pig Face Weapon Waist” That whole thing, the concept is, I’ve got different sides to me like everybody else do, but there’s a side of me that’s real rebellious, and rebellious against all types of things. I think that’s my rebellious side, right there, “Pig Face Weapon Waist.” Like, a lot of the stuff I’m talkin’ about on the EP is bein’ anti-whatever’ politically correct.
DJ Booth: So you’re saying this EP will be the Crooked I, “I don’t give a f*ck project.”
Crooked I: Yeah, basically! [laughs]
DJ Booth: OK, I figured since you didn’t wanna say it, I would.
Crooked I: Yeah, man – you took the words right out, man! It’s the “I don’t give a f*ck EP.” That’s what I’m gonna refer to it as, from now on – thank you! [laughs]
DJ Booth: You’re welcome, but here’s the thing: since your’ gonna use my coined phrase, I’m gonna need at least 15% of the digital sales on this EP.
Crooked I: Wow…
DJ Booth: Is that too much?
Crooked I: I was actually gonna give you 25, but that’s cool! [laughs]
DJ Booth: OK, I can take 25! It’s interesting – whenever I hear “Mr. Pig Face Weapon Waist” or I look at the cover, all I can think about is the animal masks from the Saw movie franchise. Do you know what I’m talkin’ about?
Crooked I: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I watch all those movies – when I was little, dawg, I used to watch Friday the 13th, Freddy Kreuger… And I was so stupid, as a young kid, I would go down the street, watch it at my homeboy’s house, and then I’d be scared to walk home! [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] The rule is, you can only watch horror films as a child in your own house.
Crooked I: I didn’t get that memo.
DJ Booth: Well, 25 years later, now you know.
Crooked I: Exactly! [laughs]
DJ Booth: Now, let’s say I wanna dress up as Mr. Pig Face Weapon Waist for Halloween this year. What essentials do I need to go out and pick up so that my costume is Crooked I-certified?
Crooked I: Man, you just need to go get the pig mask, you need to splatter some fake blood on it – or real, I dunno how crazy people are out there – and you need to get a black Dickies workman outfit, and you need to get some black gloves, you need to go get yourself a real or fake pistol, you need to shove it in your waist, and just go scare the sh*t out of whoever you’re trick-or-treatin’ from!
DJ Booth: OK, I’m gonna follow your advice. Of course, I’m gonna go with the fake blood and fake pistol angle, but I’ll let you know how it works out.
Crooked I: I like that angle, that’s a cool angle. [laughs]
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Obviously, you’re staying busy always, as we’ve come to find out so far through this interview, but how do you go about prioritizing your own personal career with that of your new collective career as one-fourth of Slaughterhouse?
Crooked I: I’ve always been able to multitask, so I just look at it as havin’ a lot on the plate, and just workin’ hard. I just look at it as hard work. I don’t run away from hard work, I run towards it. I just do it like that. You know, I’ve got the EP that I’m doin’, I’ve got my little brothers in the Horse Shoe G.A.N.G., they’re comin’ out with a full project, it’s called Gangsta MC, on November 3rd on my C.O.B. Digital label, basically just tryin’ to stay busy.
DJ Booth: What is a personal priority for you moving forward? Is it, studio albums, just Crooked I, is it a sophomore album for Slaughterhouse, is it overseeing your label? What is numero uno on your list?
Crooked I: Numero uno on my list, to be honest with you, is probably the new Slaughterhouse album. That might be really number one on my list. I mean, I’m gonna hit the game hard with my own solo album. All this sh*t I’ve been through, I’m tryin’ to drop a nuclear bomb on the industry, you know what I’m sayin’? I know that’s comin’, and when that comes I’ve gotta be very available – my time has to be strictly for that project. It’s been a long time coming, that’s coming. I think I might wanna go work on Slaughterhouse II first, but I’m not sure. Don’t quote me, because I don’t know, man. I get off this tour, I get back to California, start driving through the city of Long Beach, and I might say, “You know what? It’s time for me to blow the whole industry up real quick.”
DJ Booth: In a way, do you view a second Slaughterhouse LP as an assisting gateway toward more personal success?
Crooked I: It is a gateway towards more personal success, that’s for sure. But I work, man, so I could go and do a Slaughterhouse album and jump right back in the studio and do something solo. ‘Cause the songs that I did intend to come out, as far as the Boss project I was about to drop and all that, I’m just gonna load the web up with that stuff for free. I’m going in fresh for the solo [album]. But like you said, getting back to your point, it is a gateway, and I could probably walk in and get a more crazier deal, instead of turnin’ down – what’s up with the record industry these days, man? They offer you these deals, and I’m like, ”You serious?! I could do that myself!”
DJ Booth: That’s a two-hour conversation, you and I both know that.
Crooked I: [laughs] Man…
DJ Booth: And we’ll just go around and around in circles ‘cause, as a supporter of good music, I’m on your side. It’s sad, but I think it’s a hurdle that we’re going to need to clear in order to see success for artists like yourself digitally, in the future.
Crooked I: Yeah. That’s why I’m really trying to focus on digital distribution right now, man: because I know it’s the future, but it has to improve numbers-wise. I haven’t been highly impressed with digital releases, as far as numbers go. I’ve been impressed with what people, including myself, have been able to do digitally, without putting the physical CD out, but I’m not highly impressed yet.
DJ Booth: I think everyone needs to be on the same page.
Crooked I: Yeah, and I’m not mad at having physical CDs, I’m not mad, but nowadays albums come out and I didn’t even know they were out, ‘cause they were so poorly promoted by these record companies who are cryin’ about, “Oh, sales are down!” Man, get the hell out of here – you’re sellin’ iTunes like crazy, you’re licensing the music in f*cking movies, you’ve got 360 deals, you’re making part of what the artist is doing on the shows. Get the f*ck out of here with that, man! Put some money behind this sh*t. I think that’s one of the biggest problems, man. I’m sick of records coming out and not even knowing that record came out.
DJ Booth: I’m with you one hundred percent. The problem is that no one wants to pay it forward; everyone want to make their dime back immediately, so the idea that they’ll actually invest time and energy and money into an artist, they’re not sure if they’re going to see that return in the future, so they don’t wanna make it.
Crooked I: Yeah, it’s like, back in the day they used to build an artist. Even me – I got my first deal when I was very young, I was still a teenager. I remember having a plan set out in front of me, I remember, “OK, if this album doesn’t sell, we’re gonna go in that direction,” not, “If this single don’t pop as a ringtone, we’re gonna drop you!” [laughs]
DJ Booth: Yeah, you’re done! [laughs] It’s a way of thinking that is short-minded, and hopefully is short-lived, because, as we move towards the future, it’ll be a better future without that kind of mindset, we both agree.
Crooked I: Yeah, we’re gonna do it, we’ll be all right. It’s gonna take people like us to bring in more people like us.
DJ Booth: Absolutely – Crooked I and Z are trailblazers, and we are leading the way.
Crooked I: We’re gonna lead the way, take over the world…
DJ Booth: OK, one step at a time, Crook.
Crooked I: All right… I was gonna talk about the mall on the moon, but we’ll save that.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Let’s fix the music industry first, and then we can talk about things like global peace…
Crooked I: The Bono stuff! [laughs]
DJ Booth: Exactly. We’ve been talking about something that confuses us both and frustrates us, and I wanna bring this up. Obviously, at DJBooth.net, we feature artists from all across the country and all throughout the world, but it’s been in my experience that West Coast artists seem to be the laziest in terms of reaching out to me for coverage or exposure or freestyles. Now, I’ve been told by a few of your fellow West Coast natives that it’s the medical marijuana that’s doing it but, all jokes aside, Crook, why do you feel that artists from your region are not as motivated as people from mainly the Northeast?
Crooked I: Man, I believe that there was a point where we became spoiled in the West. There was a point where everything was handed to us. Hollywood is right down the street, you know what I mean? I could walk into Capitol Records. Take for instance the South; they didn’t have a lot of Capitol Records, EMI is over here, Interscope, they didn’t have that, so they had to grind and figure out how to get there, and they had to work. West Coast music sells globally real well, so there was a point where a lot of the companies were just cuttin’ checks and throwin’ money at everybody, and everybody’s sittin’ back, smokin’ weed and tryin’ to f*ck bitches, and come into the studio wastin’ a bunch of money and time, and goin’ to that motherf*cker for 12 hours and coming out with one song almost done. That was a problem on the West, man, and that’s why, I’m planning a 12-month attack right now, to really put myself in a position of leadership on the West.
DJ Booth: I think we need to get you a professor gig at USC. You should teach all of the new music classes what it’s going to take, moving forward. How does that sound?
Crooked I: That sounds great. You know, [I was] doin’ a new song today, and I say, “I coach players and I ball/ I’m like Lane Kiffin and Blake Griffin.” So it’s like, I can do that; I’ll go in there and I’ll teach a class. And you know what’s so funny about it? You know, we’re jokin’ about it, but I sit on panels at universities, when they do music stuff, and they invite me down and we talk about hip-hop and poetry and whatever. And one professor, he has a book out right now, I think it’s called
, his name is Professor Adam Bradley, and he said that same thing. He was like, “Yo, would you come down and do it?” I’m like, “Dawg, I don’t even feel like I can walk on a campus.” Every time I get on a campus I damn near feel nervous – I’m a dropout, man! [laughs]
DJ Booth: I’ll tell you what we need to do: we need to outfit you so that you feel more comfortable. We’re gonna get you a brand new iPod, a pair of sweatpants, some clogs, and an old baseball cap that’s all ripped-up and ratty and torn, and then you’ll fit right in, I promise.
Crooked I: I’ll fit right in, huh? I’ll just walk in…
DJ Booth: Yeah! If you trust me, that’ll work.
Crooked I: “Professor Pig Face…” [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] I suggest leaving the mask at home.
Crooked I: All right, cool. I’ll keep my “Weapon Waist,” ‘cause these days kids are crazy! [laughs]
DJ Booth: No kidding, especially on college campuses – you’ve got that right. Crooked, what the game needs is consistency and it needs quality, and those are two attributes that you and your brethren are certainly bringing to it, and so I thank you for that. Give everybody a website, a MySpace, a Twitter, something so they can find out more about you.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Well, Crook, I appreciate you takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth for the interview, and, as always, nothing but the best of luck, my friend.
Crooked I: Hey, I appreciate you havin’ me, Z.