This is your first week not having to do a freestyle for your Hip-Hop Weekly series. Does it feel weird?
Yeah, it is. It’s kind of weird. I became really attached to the series. It was a way for me to express myself weekly with the things that go on in the world. Now I just have to sit back and look at all this crazy stuff going on and I can’t even talk about it. It is a weird feeling. But the weirdest part about it is that you would probably think that I would be chilling right now, but I’m on the way to finish a mixtape and I got different features that I gotta finish up for underground artists. It’s business as usual, but it’s weird not to do the Weekly’s.
Why did you want to stop after a year?
Basically, man, I just didn’t want to do too much because when I first started the series, everybody thought it was dope and I got to 20 and they couldn’t believe that I was still going. I said around 22 or 23 that I would just go a whole year and people couldn’t believe that I could go a whole year like this. After a whole year, I think I proved to the industry that I could do it and I opened myself up to new fans. I think the series is proof that I’m an MC at heart and I’m down with the consumers. I gave them something free once a week to download and I think I proved that I’m pretty nice on the mic.
Did you think the series would take off the way it did?
You know what? I didn’t think that, man, at first, because you just never know who’s going to grab onto something you’re doing or who’s going to like what you’re doing. I expected it to be something different. I expected it to be something innovative. But I didn’t expect it to go as big as it went and I didn’t expect it to inspire as many artists as it has, from up-and-coming and from guys who got their seat in the game and just want to create a new buzz or just want to reinvent themselves. I see a couple dudes trying to do Weekly’s and it’s cool with me. It’s like they saw a trend that was working with me and they said, “Yo, I need to do something like that too.” It’s all good.
And when I’m on the streets from Cali here to New York, they say, “Yo, that’s Mr. Hip-Hop Weekly right there!” I love it.
When you started the Hip-Hop Weekly series, we were one of the only sites supporting you, but by the end everyone hopped on.
Man, it became a viral series. It was just growing. It’s a trip because there are sites that started getting down with me that I don’t even know about. The crazy part of it is that I got educated in the process because there’s a lot of sites out there, man. But for HipHopGame to be one of the first sites to post them weekly, all I can say is hats off because HipHopGame, you guys rocked with me from the intro to the end and that’s real big, man. I think at the end of the day, it was 300 sites, be they smaller or bigger, that were posting the freestyles. They were all posting them weekly and it started off with one or two, so I look back on that and I can’t be mad at that. It inspires me to keep coming with something. I’m a pro-internet artist. I will never shit on the internet.
Was it a challenge coming up with a new freestyle every week?
It wasn’t a challenge. The only time it was a challenge was if I was physically sick. I might have had the flu or something. There were some rocky moments in my personal life. There were times when I lost family members and I had homeboys who got killed and homeboys who had to cop out to 15 year sentences. There were just some things in my personal life that happened and when you use your personal mind to create, sometimes there’s a blockage.
I can’t even say it was writer’s block because I didn’t write any of the Hip-Hop Weekly’s. No piece of paper exists that says “Hip-Hop Weekly” on it. I would still get blocks on the creative process sometimes and that was the thing that was the stumbling block at first. But then when I started to realize that I could use the booth as therapy, it became much easier to express myself with that stuff as well. It never bothered me and I went in and did my thing every week for the fans who left me messages and emails and talked to me in the streets. I fed off of their energy and just kept smashing it.
How did you select your beats for each week?
The process for making the Hip-Hop Weekly’s is real simple, man. I usually released them on Wednesday. I would go in my studio, the Treacherous Studios, and I would go in there on a Tuesday night. We would just listen to beats and I would decide on the beat I wanted. I didn’t have anything in mind. I didn’t have anything preplanned.
I would go in on Tuesday and listen, knock it out on Tuesday night and send it out on the next day. I always had in mind that I wanted it to be something dope and I wanted the beats to be from different regions so that people could realize that hip-hop is one and that we need to stop dividing it into different regions .That’s a way for us to divide each other. And if you’re a real MC, you can get down on everything. Hats off, if you’re a real MC, you can rock on anything. That’s how I was brought up. That was definitely in my thoughts when I picked the beats.
I think you definitely proved you could rap on any beat with all the beats you went through on the last Hip-Hop Weekly.
Yeah (laughs), for the last one we went through a lot. And the thing I did that for is because there are a lot of new hip-hop fans who are just now putting their hip-hop hat on and getting into the artform and they need to see who I’m talking about, like Scott La Rock. Google that. They’re going to ask who I’m talking about and I want to keep the memories of the legends and the soldiers alive and the people who paved the way for the people who you are listening to today. So that was one reason why I picked all those beats and it was fun because the tempo switched. It was like juggling. We had a lot of fun and it was dope.
Was it a challenge doing the last one?
DJ Skee put it together. Skee is masterful with what he does. He put his love into it and he gave it to me, man, and I was like, ‘Okay.’ I just kept listening to it over and over and figuring out what I wanted to do. Plus it was the last Weekly and it all came together. It was one of those things where you think you got a big job ahead of you, but then boom, it all came together. I knew that was going to be a historic piece of hip-hop memory right there, man. And we even added people who were relevant to hip-hop like Aaliyah and Left Eye. Left Eye was my homegirl, Rest in Peace. And Aaliyah was relevant to hip-hop and Nirvana, everybody knew Nirvana was relevant to hip-hop. So we even tried to throw in those kind of guys and end it with James Brown. Everybody used to use those breakbeats in the old school. We went in on some real hip-hop shit, man. Straight up.
I don’t think anybody can say there’s a beat you can’t rock on.
Man, you know, and that’s one thing that I did want to prove because all too often on the West Coast, we don’t get the type of respect that we should get lyrically. And there’s a lot of dope, dope dudes out here that’s going in every time we give them a chance. I was reading some of the comments and the people were saying they’re going to go check out other dudes from the West. There’s still some people out there, believe it or not, that will not listen to a cat just because of where he’s from. So that right there, just opening that door just a little bit, makes me real happy. I feel like I did my job.
Do you consider the Hip-Hop Weekly freestyle series a success?
Yeah, I do. I most definitely do. When I’m walking through New York, I’m getting asked what I’m doing next week. When I’m in Miami, people tell me No. 32 was their favorite and the dude checking my luggage in Cali is telling me No. 50 is his favorite. And I put in a service to hip-0hop. I believe we have to provide a service to the world. It ain’t all about what Crooked I wants. I’m here to provide a service to others.
I didn’t make no money off this. We paid the light bill at the studio and the engineer had to get paid. We paid for Hip-Hop Weekly and to give it to the fans, man, who may never be able to see a Crooked show, that was rewarding right there man. That let me know that I did my job, man. And to do it for a year, I showed a commitment to this artform that nobody can ever take from me. 10 years from now I can say that I showed the world that I was committed to the artform and gave away freestyles weekly for a year. That’s something that I can take to the grave. I gotta say the job was well-done, man.
Would you ever consider doing the Hip-Hop Weekly series again?
You know what? I might later on because the more busy you get, the more your name gets out there and the more you guys see the albums and that means that more people think you can’t do something like that, and I’m the type of dude who wants to prove to people that no matter what is going on in my life, I will rock a microphone, homie. I will jump back on that level. That’s something that could happen.
This summer, I’m thinking about releasing The Dream Tapes because I sleep, man, and this is real. I sleep and I dream verses, hooks and song ideas. I keep a recorder by my dresser so when I get up in the middle of the night, sometimes I remember the verses that I dreamt and I put them on the recorder. Some of them are more abstract because I’m dreaming, obviously, but I do this in my sleep! And I’m going to put those tapes out online, raw. There’s not even going to be beats. Just as I put them in the tape recorder, that’s how I’m going to put it out. I know that’s going to be more for the heads who are completely interested in the artform.
That won’t generate the buzz that Hip-Hop Weekly did because I won’t be rapping on “Lollipop”. Some people might have only jumped onto the Hip-Hop Weekly’s because they liked the artists whose beats I was rapping on. I know HipHopGame is a real site and it’s not the people on there, but I did interviews with a few people and they were only on the series because I did a Jay-Z beat. But The Dream Tapes will be totally accapella and raw and I’m going to see what the world thinks about it.
How do you put your songs together?
The Dream Tapes isn’t going to show my main process. That’s just some weird shit that I never viewed would come out. I’ve used lines in the Hip-Hop Weekly’s that I dreamt. I was never going to make that a real thing. Since I’m on the go so much, I construct all my verses in my mind in my car because I gotta go here and I gotta go there and I have meetings because I’m on the business side now. I’m really hands-on and I’m micro-managing my career.
This is what happens now, dog. As soon as I get in the song, I start thinking of songs and of rhymes because I’ve been doing that for the last year and a half, where I’ve really been busy and on the go. It’s almost like I’ve been brainwashed to where I can’t even write a rhyme anymore. I can’t even do it! I have to jump in the car and that’s the main process right now, is just jumping in the car, putting some instrumentals on and just riding out.
How is the Crooked I album coming?
Man, I got about a hundred songs right now! (laughs) It’s going beautifully, man. The Hip-Hop Weekly buzz has definitely changed the terms of my contractual agreements. What was going to be $2 a record on the distribution, now it’s more. We’re getting the five, six bucks that you’re always hearing about and we’re getting the backing that we need and the contracts are looking lovely. The album is a banger. It’s going to take the West Coast to another level and raise the bar back to where it used to be. It’s going to put it back to where it used to be because the bar is not where it used to be and I’m not just talking about The Chronic album.
Of course The Chronic is a classic album, but I’m talking about the N.W.A. albums and Ice Cube’s Death Certificate record and MC Eiht and DJ Quik and Compton’s Most Wanted. These dudes’ albums were classics too. They might not have gotten as much publicity as the Death Row albums and they definitely sold records. They’re classic albums. Check the loop selection on some of these albums. They was digging. You’re going to hear a lot of dope rhymes. I want to raise the bar back up to their because people on my Coast ain’t on their jobs. When they hear my album, they’re going to have to step it up. I’m not saying I’m the only dude who can take it to that level. There’s dudes that can, but I’m going to force them to.
The album is dope. I’m happy and confident. I’m looking at the summer right now. The series made the contracts beautiful but we’re pushing independent right now because we have to show the world, the labels, the fans and everyone else what we’re doing. We’re a company and we can stand on our own two legs and we can be successful. And once you do that, man, that’s when these majors and these other companies, that’s when they really have to sit down with you and make the right moves. So that’s how we’re pushing it and we’re looking at sometime this summer and I’m trying to make a big impact.
And presently, we’re pressing up, shipping out and moving everything on our own. It’s working for us. I have contracts with different distribution companies on the table right now and I haven’t finalized any one of those because I don’t have to finalize a contract with a distribution company to put out a single and to put out a single and to package my album because we’re already doing all of that. I haven’t finalized anything, but once it’s time to push forward with the album, then we’ll make the decisions on whether we’ll go totally independent or snatch up one of these contracts and let them help us push it. That will be a decision once we already got the single and the video out there.
Is your album overdue or right on time?
Man, let me tell you something, dog. I was in the studio when I was 8 years-old and recorded my first song. I thought that my first album would drop when I was 9! (laughs) It’s way past overdue in my mind. In my mind, it’s so overdue that it amazes me that I still have the passion and the drive. Sometimes I hop outside of my body and I look at myself and I say, “How do you wake up every day and do this? You must really love this shit, homie!” I was supposed to drop an album when I was 9 years-old. I was going to shows and I was rapping in the studio. I’m dead serious. I wanted to be on Yo! MTV Raps when I was a kid. Man, it’s overdue, dog.
What’s it going to take to get the West Coast really back on the map again?
Man, some key players are going to have to change their way of thinking. We have some leaders out here who are key figures out here on the West, but they have to shift their mentality. You can’t think that there’s not another everybody. We can’t be divided. We can’t be separate. We have to be unified. We have to know that there’s enough money for everybody so there’s no need to hate on somebody and there’s no need to block somebody.
We have to make good music and we have to do better business. All those things have to come into play, so in order for those things to come into play in my eyesight, there has to be new leadership because the present leadership, maybe that’s not in their interests. Maybe they’re cool where they’re at and maybe the whole coast is not in their interest. Maybe it’s just their camp that they care about and we gotta change that. The West Coast is one body and if you do something that’s counterproductive, then it’s going to hurt me down the line somewhere, but they don’t understand that. The leadership has to change and people have to stop acting like it’s all good on the West Coast and that we’re united. That’s all bullshit.
We have a gangbanger mentality where I don’t have to know you to know I don’t like you because of where you’re from. Then we carry that mentality into the business too and you can’t do that. You can’t do that. And then we got a lot of dudes who don’t want other dudes to outshine them. They want to be the main dude from that city and the biggest dude to ever do it from this city, so everybody who tries to come from this city, I’m going to hate on them and I’m going to block them and I’m going to use all the power I have to stop this dude from coming up. We gotta stop that!
Just think if that was the case, where there was only one great artist per city. Do you know how small hip-hop would be? Do you know how many legends came out of Brooklyn? Out of Harlem? Look at Atlanta. Imagine if there was only one artist popping out of Atlanta. So we gotta come out of that mentality and that mentality is very strong. It has a strong presence on the West. So we have to change the leadership, man. The people elect the leaders and that’s why I’m dropping this new mixtape, The Block Obama. We need change on the West Coast just like this whole country needs change. It’s that fucked up.
So we need change for real and the people elect the leaders so I gotta get on my job and drop hits and make moves to make people understand that they would rather ride with Crooked because he’s going to come back to the ‘hood and do shows and he’s going to come back to everybody’s ‘hood to do shows and he’s not going to hide behind 37 security guards and be scared to come to the ‘hood when he raps about the ‘hood every day. He’s going to help other artists come up and that’s something that’s going to be very big and it’s something that I’m very vocal about. Some people are scared to talk about it because they’re scared of being blackballed, but I’ve been hustling my whole life and that’s not a fear of mine.
What’s going on with your group The Horseshoe Gang?
Man, The Horseshoe Gang is working on a mixtape right now. They just started. It’s called Gangsta MC. They’re working on that mixtape right now and you know the Horseshoe is straight spitters, man. When I hear them rap, I’m like, ‘These dudes need to be heard.’ They’re straight spitters and they’re dedicated to their artform. Right now I guarantee you they’re somewhere putting together songs and analyzing certain artists. They love it. They got a mixtape coming called Gangsta MC.
And I’m going to drop my mixtape and then their mixtape is going to drop and then they’re going to start working on their record. That’s the order of things right now, man, and we’re just moving and working.
What’s the next move for Crooked I?
The next move for me, really, is to elevate myself to a position to where I got a lot of say on the West. I need to move across the whole globe, no doubt, but one of my main objectives right now, man, is to try to get this main hip-hop scene back together. Two, I’m trying to unify the so-called gangsta rappers and the so-called backpackers. That’s one of the things that’s really a big issue for me because dope is dope and wack is wack. You could be a dope gangsta rapper and you could be a wack gangsta rapper. You could be a dope backpack MC and you could be a wack backpack MC. I hate those titles but those are the titles that are out there.
I’m trying to be the dope MC and unify their consumers in their markets. So that’s one thing that I’m trying to do, man, and I’m just trying to brand C.O.B. That’s why in every Hip-Hop Weekly, I said that. It stands for Circle of Bosses, Crip or Blood, Cash Over Bitches, Conducting Organized Business. I’m branding that everywhere I go because our organization is humongous. It’s growing and it’s not just rappers. And I think once that’s branded, people will know that hey, it’s okay to be Crip or Blood and rock together and make money and do business. It’s okay to be a boss and not be either and to do business. It’s okay to conduct organized business where we don’t have to always be looked at as a coast that’s trying to snatch somebody’s chain or shoot at somebody. So I’m trying right now to reconstruct everything and I’m doing a cool job I see, not to pat myself on my own back, but the way we’re moving and spreading right now, it’s working and I just want to keep moving in that direction.