Statik Selektah and KXNG Crooked are formidable Hip Hop acts by today’s standards. Statik has dropped a slew of albums and frequently collaborates with some of today’s most popular artists, like Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$. Crooked, on the other hand, is still tearing it up as a member of the supergroup Slaughterhouse, slowly but surely standing out amongst the others. With the first quarter in full throttle, both artists are just now kicking off 2016 with a joint project, Statik KXNG.
One reason this partnership is so exciting is the near-perfect fit. Both are no-nonsense types, with catalogs that back up any clout they’ve accumulated along the way. They’re in the business of working fast and efficiently with confidence. “If somebody’s tough to work with, I don’t like working with them,” explains Statik Selektah in a recent interview with HipHopDX. “That’s why I stick to working with like Joey [Bada$$] and Action, Crooked, and Term[anology]. It’s just people that we just have a natural workflow.”
While Statik and Crooked had plenty to say about Statik KXNG, they didn’t shy away from other topics, like the current state of the game, the Horseshoe Gang and Funk Volume beef, and crowdfunding albums. One thing for sure, though, they are optimistic about the potential of this pairing. “I would encourage people to really start buckling down, ‘cause if you listen to some of the greatest albums made, there was like one or two producers in there cookin’,” says KXNG Crooked.
Statik Selektah & KXNG Crooked Are Anti-Mainstream
HipHopDX: This is for both of you. Statik, you mentioned that the release of the PRhyme album played a role in the creation of Statik KXNG. Between you two, and Premier and Royce, and others like El-P and Killer Mike, do you think we’re witnessing a legitimate revival of the MC and DJ duos?
Statik Selektah: Absolutely. It’s not all DJs, Run The Jewels is more like a producer, even though El-P does both. But I mean, what Preem did with Royce definitely inspired me to reach out to Crook ‘cause we’d been talking about it. I mean, I’ve done a lot of albums with another MC, I’ve done albums with Termanology and Freddie Foxx, Freddie Gibbs, Freeway, but this one is kind of different ‘cause me and Crooked, we kind of decided to follow that formula as far as the time table, like, “We’ll do ten joints and knock it out,” but I think it made sense.
KXNG Crooked: Yeah, I mean my whole thing is the DJ and the MC, that’s vital, like you said. To see that coming back to the forefront like it is right now is dope because it’s a lot of wack shit out here, and I think a lot of these kids out here–especially in the mainstream–I don’t think they give props to the DJ/Producer like they really should, I think they feel like they can just get on a computer and get some weak-ass sample-loop program that they got and just make a beat of the laptop and go plug that shit in and do a show. The element of the DJ is Hip Hop, and you can’t replace that ever. The DJ created Hip Hop really [Laughs], you know what I’m saying? So it’s a vital part of Hip Hop and I’m just glad that we’re continuing in that essence of real Hip Hop shit. I hate to say real Hip Hop shit, ‘cause it sound kinda fuckin’ lame and phony, but it truly is real Hip Hop.
DX: Right along with that, both of you guys are contemporary artists, but your styles and inspirations are rooted in the real Hip Hop like you were saying. You two make a great pairing, it’s very unique and original. Can you tell me a little about the evolution of Statik KXNG? What was the sequence of events leading up to this album?
Statik Selektah: Me and Crook, we probably did like four or five joints over the years, and then every time we’d see each other we’d be like, “Yo, we need to work.” But really it happened from collaborations happening and I think both us–I’m trying to say this without sounding so biased–but I think both of us are like two underdogs in our industry as far as the skill we bring to the table and how much we keep our morals with the culture really. We both got a statement to make with it. It’s basically skills over bullshit, you know what I mean?
KXNG Crooked: Word, perfect. He said it perfectly.
DX: So you guys have the underdog element, but at the same time you’re definitely respected as the producer and the MC. I love the “Magic & Bird” idea that you have on the album, representing Boston and L.A. In what other ways would you say you two like Magic and Bird, besides the obvious?
KXNG Crooked: I mean, that’s it, man, you know what I mean? Once you mention Magic, once you mention Bird, it’s epic, it’s history, it’s well-noted great careers. Those dudes are legends and you know how that go, we just stand out in our respective audiences that we’re coming from–
Statik Selektah: You know what I think? I’m gonna talk my shit real quick. Me and Crook are both dudes that like might not make the year-end list and all that shit, or make the bullshit industry talk and all the hyphy shit, but at the end of the day no DJ wants it with me and no MC wants it with Crook, and that’s it. Period. And that’s saying it out of respect for my peers and for Crooked’s peers, but at the end of the day, that’s what it is, you know what I mean?
KXNG Crooked: Talk that shit!
DX: Crooked, on “Dead Or In Jail’ you say: “I’m sayin’ cat, get away from me with them Gucci sneakers / You ain’t fashion forward as Kanye, I guess we do need Jesus.” You also mention the lack of role models for the youth in “Good Gone Bad.” Do you think Hip Hop is doing a good job inspiring the youth?
KXNG Crooked: Nah, I don’t. I don’t like to be the voice of bad news and shit, and I’ve got a lot of peers in this game who really try to focus on strictly the positives and shit, and I believe that in life you should focus on positive shit, but you also gotta understand reality, and the reality is that the majority of the shit in the mainstream. Hell no it ain’t setting an example for nobody, and yes, we’re here to set examples and be role models, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it reflects the times. If music don’t reflect the times– we got crazy shit going on with ISIS, we got fuckin’ police shooting dudes with their arms up, unarmed dudes, left and right. Every time you turn on the fuckin’ news on you see that shit. It’s just shit going on in the world, but when you listen to the music, it does not reflect what’s going on. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. We’ve always been a voice of reality, Hip Hop, you know what I’m saying?
Hell no, it’s too much “turnin’ up” and not enough of the real shit out there.
DX: Why do you think the industry/mainstream is so hellbent on turning up rather than staying true to the roots?
Statik Selektah: I mean, I think a lot of these people want to live in fantasy world and get by til the next day ‘cause a lot of them are just living lives, man. That turn-up shit is cool, and everybody likes to have a good time, but at the end of the day, there ain’t no substance in that shit. And honestly, they’re gonna look back on it five years from now and be like, “What the hell was I doing?”
KXNG Crooked: Exactly! Yup. I think it’s in the corporate interests [to] keep the mothafuckas stupid as hell and blinded, ‘cause that’s how they do it up top: they make sure that keep mothafuckas in a fog, a haze. Just keep partying, just keep doing everything you’re doing and you’re gonna look up and be broke as shit one day, like Statik said, five years from now, and you’re gonna be wondering like, “Why the fuck did I do that shit, man?”
I don’t know, dog, I just like to look back on my body of work before I die and say, “Yo, I put this powerful shit out.” And like you said it’s cool to turn up. I turn up. Shit, I turnt up last night, I don’t give a fuck. It’s just like, at the end of the day, what do you want your body of work to say when it’s all said and done? What do you want that to look like, the body of music that you’re putting out?
DX: Statik, when you dropped Lucky 7 this past summer, you said it would be your last compilation-style album. You said earlier you worked with one MC on numerous occasions, but at the same time having a gang of dudes rapping over your beats is something you’ve done a few times as well. So why did you decide to make that announcement, and is that still the plan going forward?
Statik Selektah: Yeah, I mean, especially on my last album there was a couple records that I felt like worked better on those artists’ albums than my compilations. It would just mean a lot more to the culture. So, I feel like through these years I’ve kind of been giving away some big records on my albums. Especially with like “Beautiful Life,” that record did good, it got 250 spins on Hot 97, it got 400 spins at Shade45, it’s being played all over the world. It got like a 10 Million audience in radio. But it was on a compilation album, whereas– the funny thing is, it was actually for Action [Bronson]’s album, and at the last minute he was like, “You know, I don’t know if it fits the album,” but at the end of the day I think he wishes it was on there now, looking back on it.
But my point is, records like that could be really big when they’re on an artist’s album as opposed to just on a compilation, so that was really the reason I said that, and as of right now I’m sticking to that. Who knows what the future holds? But, I’d rather do a collabo with someone and make a real album as opposed to just putting a bunch of…I’ve done it seven times now where I’ve put like 40 rappers on albums, I’m sick of reinventing the wheel, you know?
DX: Would you ever do an album where you spit and produce all the way through?
Statik Selektah: Where I spit? You ain’t hearing my rapping no time soon, bro.
DX: [Laughs] Word.
KXNG Crooked: He put it out there, though. Trying to get it going, I’ll give him props for that.
Statik Selektah: Yo, if Interscope comes through with a couple [million], I’ll do it. It’s all good.
DX: There it is! Crook, On Apex Predator and Sex, Money and Hip Hop, you branched out and got a gang of producers to get down on that with you. Was working with just one producer something you intended to do for your third LP?
KXNG Crooked: Yeah, no doubt. To me, that makes it more cohesive, like, we get to listen to it from the first track. It has a better energy to me when a rapper does a project with just one producer, or two producers max, you know what I mean? It just feels better to me, ‘cause I like to listen. I’m so old school, man, like, I listen to the intro all the way through the album all the way through to the outro. I don’t just skip over joints, I don’t shuffle much. When I’m riding in my car, my studio like an hour away from my crib, so when I’m driving to the lab, I like to put in a project that I know from the front to the back is gonna be dope, and that’s what I think Statik was able to craft as far as the production, because it has his signature sound from beginning to the end. I just think the project gels better that way. I would encourage people to really start buckling down, ‘cause if you listen to some of the greatest albums made, there was like one or two producers in there cooking.
DX: Crooked, you once said you’re not trying to hear “super lyrical” rap in the strip club. When you create, how do you balance being lyrical versus making a song that’s not meant to be super lyrical?
KXNG Crooked: I let the music talk to me, man. I really absorb the music, whatever the music is saying to me, I take direction from that, you know what I mean? Sometimes it calls for multi-syllable rhymes, sometimes it calls for double-time spit, sometimes it calls for a real slow flow with air pockets in the flow. I just let the music talk to me, dog, and pretty much go wherever it takes me, you know?
DX: This one’s for both of you: what track off of Statik KXNG would be best suited for the strip club?
Statik Selektah: Ha! “Brand New Shit.”
KXNG Crooked: Aw yeah, I gotta agree. Especially if we go to one of them hood strip clubs, where them gangsta bitches be dancing and shit, you have that bitch on some good gone bad [Laughs].
Statik KXNG Talk Funk Volume Spat, Crowdfunding Albums
KXNG Crooked: I kinda thought it was a publicity stunt, to be real. I didn’t think it was real, I still don’t know if I believe it. But as far as with the Horseshoe Gang, my little brothers are just like me, they hungry. They don’t give a fuck. If you think you rap better than them, they gonna try to push you to that limit. That’s just what it is.
But as far as Funk Volume goes, I would say to Hopsin that he might want to rethink that move of leaving, ‘cause one thing I do know is that [Damien Ritter] of Funk Volume, he’s a smart guy. He’s real savvy, he’s a smart guy, and he’s got q great business head on his shoulders. They actually make a cool team. Sometimes you bounce when you have to. I don’t know what the personal issue really is over there, but if it’s something they can get past, I would suggest that they try to get past it, ‘cause they make a great team actually.
DX: So having said that just now, when all that stuff was going on in August, did you ever think it was anything more than friendly competition, or did you think it was getting out of hand?
KXNG Crooked: Nah, I wasn’t trippin’, dog. Hopsin texted me, sent me a long text and was basically like, “Yo, I’m chillin,” and, “You know I got respect for you,” type shit. So I never thought it was nothing more. That’s why I didn’t get into it; I didn’t feel the need. I’m more OG in the game than he is, and it don’t even look right. In my eyesight, it don’t even look right.
But like I said, though, I’m just the realest, man. So whether I like a person or not, you ask me a question, I’ma answer it the way I really feel, and I think that Dame is a very smart dude, and I think that they make a good team, and if it’s something that they can move past, I think they should move past it.
DX: Crook, what are your thoughts on crowdfunding for albums, like Elzhi and others have done? Is that something you would do?
KXNG Crooked: Yeah, I would. Because, I’ve thought about it, and not because– social media is a dangerous place sometimes, because they’ll tell a rapper that he must be broke if he’s seeking crowdfunding, and then you get that cloud over you, and then you start taking stupid-ass pictures on Instagram of all your cars and shit, trying to combat that bullshit. But nah, I’ve thought about it seriously, because I love to cut out the middle man. I love to give my product directly to the consumer. I love the idea that I can say, “Fuck Donald Trump,” and nobody at the label is gonna give a fuck, because there is no label. Or I can say whatever I want to say and put it directly into the fans’ hands uncut. Now I do that anyway, but sometimes we get pushbacks. With the creative process and the business process, there can be pushbacks sometimes, but not with crowd-funding, and that’s the element I like. I also like the idea of fans helping to create something that could last forever.
KXNG Crooked & Statik Selektah On The Futures of Their Solo Careers
DX: Are you two planning to take the act on the road and tour?
Statik Selektah: Yeah, definitely. Just lining it up. I think South by Southwest we’re gonna do as many impressions as we can and everything, but we would love to do a tour.
KXNG Crooked: Statik KXNG Tour, know what I’m saying? Breaking the static, know what I mean? We now interrupt your wack shit with real shit. Feel me?
DX: Given your mutual admiration and working relationship, can we expect more music from Statik KXNG, or is this a one-shot deal?
KXNG Crooked: I don’t think it’s a one-shot deal, but my thing is, we got all these heads, or so-called Hip Hop purists, out here. I see ‘em in the barber shops and on social media. They feel like they’re not being represented, and when we drop projects like this, we need all them to go out and get the shit. Buy one, buy two, buy three. Fuck it, make a statement for Hip Hop. Buy a couple other Statik joints, post it on your Instagram, I’ll repost it. Let’s make a wave out of this shit. Let’s make a movement out of this shit. Let’s make a statement, because I don’t know why they think dudes like me and Statik are gonna be around forever and ever. If we didn’t stand up and do what we do, man, the industry woulda been rolled over real lyricism, and real beat-makers and real producers, you know what I mean. I just say, it’s kinda in the fans’ hands if there’s ever gonna be any other projects– from me personally, you know what I’m saying? [Laughs]. You gotta support this shit, you gotta make a statement, and say, “This is the type of shit we want to hear!” And you’ll hear more. If you make your statement, we’ll make our statement.
DX: Statik, for all of your collaborative albums, how often are you creating specifically for an artist, like Crooked I or Termanology, as opposed to just on your own time?
Statik Selektah: Nowadays more and more, ‘cause I don’t have time to waste with shit now, so if someone wants something specific, I go in and I make it for them. Definitely now more than ever, but with this Statik KXNG album, I’d say like half the beats I literally made for him, and the other half were just stuff I’d sent him. When you hear “I Hear Voices,” or “Dead Or In Jail,” shit like that, that was made for Crooked.
DX: Okay. So that’s a quick glimpse of the creative process. How (if at all) does that creative process change when you’re working with different artists?
Statik Selektah: I mean it’s always different, really. It just depends. Every artist is different, sometimes the artist will sneak in the studio, other times it’ll be over e-mail. It depends who it is, man. I don’t like working with people who take too much time with shit or over think shit, I like to just knock shit out, do it the way I feel it. Depends who it is.
DX: So you’d say it’s pretty split between e-mail and being in the studio together?
Statik Selektah: Yeah, it’s different with every person. But if somebody’s tough to work with, I don’t like working with them. That’s why I stick to working with like Joey [Bada$$] and Action, Crooked, and Term and everything. It’s just people that we just have a natural workflow.
DX: That’s dope. Last question is for both of you: who is your all-time favorite MC and producer combo?
Statik Selektah: Gang Starr.
KXNG Crooked: Oh, man! I don’t know, dog, that’s so tough, ‘cause the combination of Dre and Snoop when they were really cooking–
Statik Selektah: I was just gonna say that too.
KXNG Crooked: Man, when they was really cooking that was an ill combo, man. It’s very hard, man. It’s very tough, ‘cause you know, I’m a huge Tupac fan, and Johnny J and Tupac, yup, that combination is crazy as well. Then you gotta say Eric B. & Rakim, you know what I’m saying [Laughs]? Man, it’s just too much, man. I think I love Hip Hop too much to ever have just a singular favorite. If I do today, tomorrow, I’ll change my mind.
It’s tough, but those are some good ones: Gang Starr, Dre and Snoop, ‘Pac and Johnny J, and Eric B & Rakim. That’s great, man. Shit I wish– that’s the music I want back in the forefront. Hell yeah, man, that shit was so musical and fuckin’ had so much emotion in it. It’s like when you surpass metaphors and punchlines, you know how to write something that hits people in the heart, you’ve gone past the level of witty, clever punchlines and metaphors. And they was in there cooking, a lot of them dudes. Rest in peace to both of ‘em, man.