Crooked I Jumps “In the Mix” [DJBooth Interview Exclusive]
While Crooked I's recent work as one-fourth of lyrical supergroup Slaughterhouse has been instrumental in raising his national profile, heads shouldn't get it twisted. At the end of the day, the Long Beach underground mainstay answers to one man and one man only: Crooked I. A 15-year veteran of the West Coast scene whose extensive struggles with industry red tape haven't stopped him from racking up a long and illustrious résumé of EPs and mixtapes, the rapper born Dominick Wickliffe is nearly ready to tell his Million Dollar Story on his long-awaited freshman full-length (planned to drop with an accompanying mini-movie). First, however, he's decided to school heads on his individualistic life philosophy with new EP In None We Trust: The Prelude, featuring braggadocious (and Booth-approved) lead single "No Competition" as well as the soulful "Diamond in the Back." Released today, the project is available for purchase directly from the artist's official site.
In an exclusive interview, Crooked I steps into The DJBooth to discuss the reasoning behind his latest project's title, why he wouldn't dream of abandoning physical formats for his debut set, and whether we can expect to hear him go in over any Dre beats on Slaughterhouse's sophomore album.
Your brand new EP In None We Trust is out today. How did this project come together?
I just wanted to give the people some music. I had the Million Dollar Story album I was about to drop, but I ran into some complications with the label I was dealing with. That’s been one the biggest problems with my career. When complications come about and I see that you’re not handling your business, I’ll bounce out and just give the fans some free music or sell it on my website. I’ll never allow myself to be put in a twist by a record label.
Will we eventually hear Million Dollar Story?
I’ve got people submitting scripts right now because we’re doing a mini movie as well. So, yes, that project is still a go, even if I have to do it all myself like I’ve been doing anyways. Some labels still operate the right way, but some labels don’t know what the f**k they’re doing and I’m not about to get caught in that mix in today’s digital era, where I can just give the fans a project directly. It’s really about the music to me and I just want to give the fans the music.
If it means only releasing Million Dollar Story digitally are you willing to forego a formal physical release?
I’m never gonna’ do that. I need Million Dollar Story to be in the fans’ hands as my debut album. They have to be able to hold that. I have to be able to go into the store like every other artist that I support and buy the whole shelf.
Explain the meaning behind the EP's title, In None We Trust: The Prelude.
You know how you hear trust no man? Trust no woman? Trust no b*tch? It’s coming from that philosophy of who can you trust? It’s a dirty game out here. Sometimes we reach a point in our life where we feel like we can’t trust anybody. C.O.B. has a movement and we trust each other before we trust anybody outside the circle. I’m sure people can relate to that. I see it every day; a fly b*tch with “trust no man” tattooed on her neck (laughs). I don’t really trust any of these snakes because there are a lot of haters in the game and the industry is full of suckers.
What message were you trying to send on the first leak, "No Competition"?
I needed to deliver something to the people that would get them hyped when they heard it. If you’re in the gym working out, you don’t wanna’ hear some soft shit – you wanna’ hear something that will pump you up. No Competition is that kind of music; you can ride to it or work out to it. I have a lot of fans that are athletes and they want that amped up sh*t.
Well, I’ve been telling people for years that no rapper can keep up with Crooked I bar for bar – there is no competition.
[Laughs] I appreciate that, my dude. And sometimes we as emcees have to get cocky like that; we need to let a motherf**ker know that there is no competition. I guarantee you that all of the emcees that are worth mentioning, they work f**king hard. Nobody wakes up as the dopest motherf**ker to touch a mic.
Post In None We Trust, what can we expect from the new Slaughterhouse album?
It’s going to be f*cking crazy dog. Sometimes I want to step back and not be one of the members, and put myself in the shoes of somebody listening as a fan of hip-hop. Since I’m one of the members, I get an inside look that people may be envious of, but I’m envious of the outside look y’all get [laughs]. I wonder how this sh*t sounds to a diehard hip-hop fan because Royce Da 5'9" is going to the hip-hop hall of fame of lyrically, and Joe Budden and Joell Ortiz are as well. When you put all of these people on one track, it’s incredible. I can’t describe what we’re creating right now; it’s on some other sh*t.
Have you guys begun brainstorming a title or tentative release date?
We don’t have a title yet, but I know we’re trying to do the first quarter. I think we have a surprise for the people coming towards the end of this month; something off the album potentially. They’re gonna’ be mad at me for saying that but I gotta’ give the people some little tidbits (laughs). On the real side of things, the album is incredible. With Eminem, I got the chance to really sit down and watch and learn how he does his thing in the studio on a producer’s level; not just on an emcee level. I don’t think the game pays enough attention to Eminem’s production skills. Everyone knows he produces, but he can mix the hell out of a record. He sat under Dr. Dre and we all know what his ear is like when it comes to mixing a record.
Speaking of Dr. Dre... has Slaughterhouse had a chance to get in the studio with the Doctor?
We haven’t because for the most part we’ve been recording the project in Detroit with Eminem. We’ve dabbled with a few things at my studio in California, but we’ve mainly been in Detroit. But trust me; anytime we get on the phone with anybody affiliated with Shady/Aftermath/Interscope, I always say “Yo, we’re not finishing this album without a Dre track, are we?” [laughs].
We appreciate your time Crooked; do you have any last words before we let you go?
I definitely appreciate you guys, I always see the email blasts and you guys constantly support my music. I have nothing but love for The DJBooth.