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Crooked I.

TRUE, IT'S BEEN A MINUTE since West Coast hip-hop had its shine. We're talking early- to mid-'90s. Big Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre rolling down Crenshaw, laid back, sipping on gin and juice; NWA launching gangster rap and scaring the shit out of the Feds; Ice T hitting back at the LAPD's racist brutality with "Cop Killer;" rap revolutionary and legend Tupac Shakur reaching out to single-parent moms in the 'hood, while repping thug life and spitting at the paparazzi. Ten years latter in '05 there's an optimistic buzz going round the West Coast again. The world just witnessed Compton back on MTV with the Game, Bay Area ballertician E40 just signed to Lil' Jon's label, Dogg Pound founders Daz and Kurupt are back together again--so we decided to find out exactly what's popping out here on the Left Coast. And who better to ask than Boss Man recording artist and ex-Death Row rapper Crooked I?--LAX

What have you been doing since you left Death Row?

I got lots of things going on. I got Dynasty Entertainment, my own company. We putting out the first project Boss Music. The Day After Court is coming out the first week of September. We going buzz mania all through the summer. I got to be a household name before the first single drops. We on mixtapes, radio, live in the club, on the street. We everywhere, just grinding.

You're on Sway and King Tech's new album Back to Basics?

Yeah, Chino XL, Common, Sly Boogie, Royce Da 5'9", Cannabis--the list goes on. It's a host of MCs from different walks of life coming together to make dope music. I got two joints on there. Shouts out to Sway and Tech.

Let's talk about the Row.

I went over to Death Row, did my lil' Death Row thing. I was approached by my man Big C Style and Daz Dillinger, who started the Dogg Pound. They asked me to come over to Death Row, so I went over to Death Row. I was over there four years, man; I did everything you could do on Death Row. I made all the music I had to make; I fought all the fights in the street I had to fight. I did all black balling and jumped all the obstacles you have to jump when you on Death Row. I did it all. But the album never came out so I had to bounce.

Suge blocked your album from coming out for a minute. Is that album going to drop now?

Boss Music is coming out. We got our own production company, Dynasty Instrumental Group (DIG). We did some joints on there. I fucked with Rik Rok; he's a new hellfire producer. He did Jay Z, Busta Rhymes, Mariah Carey. He is a very underrated producer, so look out for Rik Rok in the future. I did three with Scott Storeh. I am still recording and mixing it right now. I'm 85-percent done. It's a daily struggle just to get this project done right. I don't have Interscope behind me, ain't no Jimmy Iovine or Def Jam. I got to get out everyday and grind. I got to shake hands and kiss babies all across America. I got to put in work.

Did you ever kick it with Tupac while you were at the Row?

I was in a few sessions with Pac. The one I remember is the one where him and Snoop Dogg made a St Ides commercial. That was a crazy time. You had two dudes on the same label, like the twin towers. Both of them were hot. And they made a St Ides commercial? That was when the West Coast was hot. I was just saying yesterday I miss that shit. That was a fucking beer commercial. Now we ain't got none of that shit. We ain't hot like that, the West ain't back.

The West ain't back?

The West is not back. It's nowhere near back. I deal with corporate music industry people everyday. Back in the day when the West was popping in '95-'96, I could write a rap on a paper bag and get a record deal for a million dollars, because the market was so over flooded with success and it was the place to be. Now, hell no, muthafuckers still starving. Cats can't get funds to shoot videos. They shooting videos with digital cameras and they got a major record deal. Not everyone is eating out here from hip-hop. Muthafuckers are starving.

What's it going to take, in your eyes, to get the West back?

It's going to take five generals repping five different camps, never hating on each other, always endorsing each other. Staying peaceful and getting the business done. 'Cause no one wants to do business when they think they going to get their chain snatched or they going to get their head blown off. Who the fuck wants to do business with a company when your life is in danger? I talk to people like Russell Simmons who run big media; it ain't like they don't love us. They love us. It's just there's too many knuckleheads out here in control. Beef got to be squashed. We need unity. Quit the hating on each other. Pressure radio. LA radio don't support LA rappers. Please Dre, if you're reading this, go up in KDAY and Power 106 and ask them to play LA hip-hop. You're Dre, they going to listen. Snoop too.

The Yayo's E40 got to be one of those generals.

How the West back if the Bay Area isn't? You never see a Bay Area artist on 106 and Park. Bay Area represents, they buy mixtapes from artists. In Southern Cali they look at you like if you ain't in Sam Penny, you ain't shit. Too Short was slinging mixtapes on the bus--Bay Area supports. See, in LA we got a gang bang culture. In the Bay they got the Panthers, Bruce Lee, they're revolutionary with discipline. The Crips started out as a revolutionary movement but they ended up on some fuck-everyone, wilin'-out-on-our-'hood shit.

Being a Crip, how do you feel about the Feds going after the Crips, Bloods, and Esses in the same way they went after the Mafia, but under the new federal terrorist law?

That's all bullshit. They really saying we going after hip-hop. You see, the mob was making so much loot doing things that are legal now. The mob sold liquor and cigarettes, now you can go to any store and buy all that stuff. It's like, what the fuck? With the gang thing they trying to classify gang members as domestic terrorists. And when you are a terrorist, you have no rights. I can roll up on your ass, throw you in a police ear, lock your ass up, and deny your rights to a phone call and keep you there as long as I want without anyone knowing. The police don't know who is gang-banging and who ain't. My little brother doesn't gang bang but he dresses hip-hop. Hip-hop's our fucking culture. You know cops look at him like he's a gang banger, but he's hip-hop. So then they profile us, then we got tickets up the ass. 'Cause once they find out he doesn't gang bang we get tickets for busted tail lights or some crap. So now we in court 'cause we hip-hop? That's profiling, that's bullshit. They got a federal crime bill; it's 966 pages long. And it's full of ways to lock us up, trap us, and keep us in the hole. Drug war, that's a joke. They spending two billion dollars on drugs they letting into the country. Spend two billion on jobs. Lot of shit going down and that's why I'm going to be in their ass. I'm letting them have it. I did a joint called "They Ask Me What I'm On." It's some spoken word shit, but heavy. I'm talking fuck the presidency and everything. I'm going hard 'cause my whole thing is those muthafuckers don't care. They don't care about us.
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Date:Nov 1, 2005
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