Crooked I has changed who he wants to be as an artist. He wants to apply more substance and articulate himself in a more universal manner.
MTV News was just given a brand-new Crooked I song, fresh out of the studio. The track, called "If You Ever Hear Me," was produced by King Tech, who co-hosts "The Wake Up Show" with our very own Sway. The track has Crooked asking for MCs to bring back the great feelings that legends such as Kool G. Rap and Public Enemy used to bring in their golden era. The West Coast MC also calls for his peers to stop biting other rappers, talks about his plight in the music biz and promises to have major impact if he gets his big break in the game.
"Got my first deal and they pulled out my arteries," he raps. "Shot me in the heart, I mean they killed the best apart of me/ ... Last year, I was sick of the music/ Now I'm twice that."
Crooked recently sat down with MTV News to discuss, among other things, why he hasn't been able to parlay his buzz on the Internet and in the streets into a record deal. One of the problems he's had in the past few years is trying to shake the stigma labels perceive of anyone associated with Suge Knight's former powerhouse.
"Two years ago, I would have said the Death Row thing," Crooked said of his biggest issue. "Definitely. A lot of people didn't want to deal with me, even when I was on Death Row. All the shootout, all the negative publicity. ... I would come to a Summer Jam concert in my city and they would be like, 'You can't walk in the building at all.' I would be like, 'I'm by myself. What am I gonna do? You have all the security. I'm just here to perform my little song and leave.' Just being attached to Death Row, it was hard for me.
"I've been independent, doing my thing since 2004, but the clouds lingered," Crooked added. "Even two years after I left [the label], people thought Suge Knight was gonna jump out of the closet behind me. People was like, 'Should we do business with this dude, or is Suge gonna pop out of nowhere?' We severed ties in '04. I don't owe him anything, he doesn't owe me anything. Different labels wanted to work with me, but they didn't want to deal with that headache. I understood that."
Lately, though, Crooked said the main thing stopping him from signing a deal are the negotiations. He said labels don't want to pay what he's worth.
"These past two years, I think it's me," he admitted. " ... My fans online are begging for an album. People call my office and threaten to blow it up if I don't get the album out. I just did a show in Portland where dudes have freestyles tattooed on their arm all the way down. They want the album. But I can't walk in and willingly get [shortchanged] by a record executive. I can't do it."
At the end of the song, Crooked addresses being shot at recently. On the track, he tells the assailants that the shots didn't stop him.