There are some things you don’t see, behind the cameras, beneath the surface. For instance, you likely saw Slaughterhouse on BET’s 106 & Park. You may have caught Crooked I, dipped in Dodger blue everything, pinky ring shining and three shimmering chains on, standing next to his Slaughterhouse brethren as young fans clamored after every response. But what you didn’t see or hear was the phone call that followed. After the show, Crooked I received a call from his mother, smiling while telling him how proud she was of him. Those are the moments that the public doesn’t always get to see but those are the moments that make the emcee.

Dominick “Crooked I” Wickliffe’s life has been filled with important moments like this, significant places in time that molded the artist he’s become. Those moments have also forced him into difficult decisions, like deciding how he can help loved ones in times of crisis. Those moments have allowed him to pull others out of “the life” of crime and they have given him lessons about joy, success, love and more. Important moments have even provided him with the insight he needed to face his father for the first time after feeling abandoned for 20 years.

Recently, in the wake of his mixtape Psalm 82:V6 being released, Crooked I sat down in his Treacherous Records studio to speak about all of these moments. Sporting a red and black Slaughterhouse shirt with a Long Beach hat to match, he appeared comfortable and he answered every question accordingly, delving into candid details to take readers behind closed doors and behind the cameras, into very important parts of his life. He spoke on redefining success, reciting rhymes as a six year old and other fond stories of his youth, setting booby traps for his brothers and riding bikes with his friends. He spoke on the balance he’s struggled with between understanding a criminal’s mind state while also knowing that there’s more to life than the street hustle and of course he spoke on Slaughterhouse, sharing the moment that he realized the crew became more of a brotherhood than a Rap group.

Crooked I Speaks On The Police, Racism & Leaving “The Life”

HipHopDX: On this disc, you say you want everyone around you to get out of “the life.”  That’s something that resonates with a lot of people but what made you decide to push that message for those around you?

Crooked I: When it comes to people you love, who you care about, you don’t want to see them do time. You don’t want to see them locked behind bars like a caged animal. If you care about somebody or you’re doing business with somebody and you genuinely feel like they’re a friend or family member, you just don’t want to see that because there are so many other options in this life. When I was young, I hung out with a lot of older guys who, for a lack of a better term, were criminals. They always used to refer to their criminal activity as “the life.” That’s something that kind of stuck with me. We all know somebody. We all know somebody who is doing something illegal, an outlaw. I just want my people to be cool. I don’t want nobody to have to look over their shoulder or to spend time in the penitentiary. Nah. Not now. Not in 2012. Let’s just all do what we have to do. We all have talents. Everybody in my crew has talents that deserve to be recognized and rewarded. That’s all I’m asking for.

DX: When you have people who are deep in “the life,” it has to be hard for some to respond to that message.

Crooked I: Well, some people are never going to respond. It’s like, “This is what I know. It’s all I know. I don’t feel like I fit into a normal society.” That’s with a lot of people I know who live in that life. They don’t feel like they fit in with a normal society. They feel like outcasts, black sheep and like, “This is how I’ma get mine and advance and this is what I see as successful.” So that’s what they do. You can’t really argue with them because it’s not like society has open arms for people like that or people like me. I could easily be one of the biggest criminals in America simply based off how society has treated me my whole life. They didn’t roll out the red carpet like, “Yo! You’re from the ghetto! We want to see you advance! You could be the next [President] Barack Obama.” There was no Barack Obama when I was a kid. Instead, they were just like, “Follow him! Chase him! Handcuff him!” So, I’m in the middle when it comes to that, bro. I want my people that I love and care about to be good, to not have to look over their back for the police, feds or other criminals. At the same time, I understand what makes a criminal because all the ingredients were put in me so I understand that. So, it’s a trip, bro. It’s…It’s weird [laughing].

See, if police look at you like a suspect your whole life – from the time you’re nine years old or ten years old – and they treat you as such, who’s to say what you’re gonna become? You might become that person. It might be a rebellious thing like, “All my fuckin’ life, these mothafuckers have fucked with me. Fuck them. Whatever they say is right is wrong.” That’s my problem when it comes to the police. Every police officer is not bad but it’s in the way they construct this shit. They don’t allow people who understand a particular community to police that community. They switch it around like, “If you hate minorities, we’re putting you in that community! If you love minorities, we’re putting you in the majority community.” You know what I mean? They don’t try to make it to where we can actually talk our problems out and solve things as a community. They make it to where [they say], “Don’t fuckin’ move, you Black ass nigger because I’ll blow you away.” It’s like, “Yo, wait a minute.” You know what I mean? [That happens] when you’re too young to have a gun shoved in your face. It just is what it is, man. I think a lot of that shit needs to change. I think it does. But will it change? Who knows? So, we just live in the world that we live in and we do what we fuckin’ think we need to do to get by.

DX: They say that when you’re told you are something many times you tend to start to believe that as well.

Crooked I: Yeah. If you keep on telling a kid, “You’re no good. You’re no good. You’re no good. You’re no good.” Words are powerful. We know that in Hip Hop. Words are powerful. You can’t keep telling a kid that he ain’t shit because one day he’s gonna believe it. So, I salute people who go into the community to uplift the community. I salute those kinds of people. I wish more police officers would really look at different communities and figure out the best way to reach the community instead of being this “monster.” See, in the hood, seven-year-old kids don’t like the police. That’s crazy. In the suburbs, they see a police officer’s car go by, they’re fuckin’ waving at them like, “Hey! Those guys are here to protect us.” In the hood, [kids say], “I don’t like them” and you’re seven or eight years old? That’s a problem. There’s a problem there and they need to fuckin’ fix it. They need to stop ignoring it.

DX: I’d like to go back to earlier. You spoke about being in the middle, knowing you don’t want your family to live in the life of crime but that you also understand the mentality so you’re stuck in the middle. How hard has it been to be stuck in the middle, trying to balance those sides?

Crooked I: It’s hard because I know what I was born to do. I was born to be an emcee, period. Everybody is born to do something. Everybody has a purpose, a service they’re supposed to provide for the world. I know my service. I was born to be a Hip Hop emcee, period. Now, my life took me down different paths, which I had no control over. But at the end of the day, I know what I’m supposed to be.  That goes back to what you’re saying, balancing it out. It’s like, “I know I’m supposed to be an emcee but people that I care about are drowning. The only way that I can get them out is money. So, what am I gonna do? A check from McDonald’s ain’t gonna cut it. I might have to go out here and do some real shit right quick to get this bread.” Those are the things we’re challenged with daily. The balance is the love. I love my people and I love Hip Hop. So I’m gonna figure out a way to make it happen no matter what.

Crooked I On Emcee Influences

DX: You talk about knowing you wanted to be an emcee. When did that realization hit?

Crooked I: I started rapping when I was about six. Six years old rapping, writing rhymes. I did my first studio session when I was eight. I always knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. Always. Some people say, “At least you knew what you wanted to do with your life. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. You’re lucky.” Well, it’s not so lucky when you know what you want to do but it doesn’t happen the way that you want it to happen. [Laughs] It’s a two-sided coin, but I always knew that this is what I wanted to do and that I had to stay true to it. Now, when the corporations tried to take over Hip Hop, that’s when I found out what kind of emcee I was. I could have easily went with the corporations. They had all the money. They had all the exposure. They had everything. I could have easily said, “Cool. I’m gonna go over there and rap how they want me to rap.” But when I continued to rap on this side of the fence, being cut from the cloth of N.W.A., Ice Cube, Rakim, Public Enemy, Kool G. Rap, Big Daddy Kane all the way up to Black Star, Mobb Deep, Nas, Jay-Z and Eminem, when I decided to stay on that side and not the gimmick side, that’s when I found out, “Oh shit. I really love this shit. I really don’t care about the money.” They gave me a chance to do it.  Every record label that I was at gave me a chance to so-called “sell out” for money. I’ve had those opportunities many a times. But I’ve always stuck to, “This is what this shit should sound like.” That’s when I really found out that I’m not gonna sell out and that Hip Hop is my culture and that I represent that culture to the fullest.

DX: I know you don’t write anymore but when you look back at being six years old and writing rhymes, what do you remember about those days? Not necessarily the topics that you wrote about but what do you remember about the…

Crooked I: Writing is better. Writing is better than not writing. A lot of rappers will sit here like, “I don’t write no more. Who gives a fuck about writing?” But writing is the best because if you write, you can edit. It’s just like writing a book. Who writes [the] book [equivalent of a] freestyle? It goes to an editor. Magazines go to an editor. You can say, “I don’t know if I like that part right there. I’ma change that to say this.” The non-writing shit? Jay-Z said it the best. Not to try to be on his coattails but it’s the truth. When you out there hustling, bro, you don’t have the time. You don’t have all the time you used to have to sit at the crib like, “Yo, I’ma write some crazy shit.” You have to be out there hustlin’. When you hear a beat, you’re like, “What would I say to this shit? Boom! This is what I’ll say to this shit.” Then you just go in. It’s not about being better than other people who do write because a lot of times people who do write are the best. It’s just about the lack of time and your particular life that you’re going through. The life that I had, I didn’t have too much time to write. I had to be hustling, hustling, hustling and hustling, getting money, paying for this and paying for that. I had to get money. I couldn’t sit down to write shit because if somebody like my mother needed their rent paid, I had to be out there getting money to pay my mother’s rent. But, I actually always believed and I will always believe that writing is the best. That’s for all these new dudes coming up like, “I don’t write rhymes.” You know what I don’t like? Those mothafuckers that be like, “Yo, I did that in one take.” Man, you have technology now.  You can punch on ProTools, so punch. Once it’s on a CD or iTunes, it’s forever. You can’t change it anymore. Get it perfectly the way you want it to be. Don’t think, “If I don’t do this shit the first take, I ain’t ill.” No. Do the shit the way you want to do it and get it right.

DX: How often do you go back to old stuff like, “I wish I would have done that differently?”

Crooked I: All the time. I don’t even listen to that shit because I know I’ll be like, “I wish I would have done this differently.” So, I don’t even listen to that shit. I don’t listen to a lot of my own music, period. I’m a fan of Hip Hop itself, all kinds of different artists but I’m not no big fan of myself like that, where I’m like, “Yo! Let me listen to what I did.” I got homeboys who rap and they listen to their shit all day. They get a bitch in the car and they’re like, “Listen to this shit I just made!” I’m like, “Yo, dog, it ain’t even that serious.” So, I don’t listen to a lot of my own shit but when I do hear it, I always hear what could have been better. But the iller shit is when I listen to other peoples’  raps, I hear what could have been better. If I hear a mothafucker deliver a punchline and I’ll be like, “Yo, he could have said this, this and this and then that punchline and that shit would have been iller.” So, I’m a critic. I’m my own worst critic but I’m a critic of all of Hip Hop. I don’t care who it is. It could be Jay-Z. It could be anybody. They could say a fucking line and I’ll be like, “Yo, if he would have put this word here, that shit would have been iller.” That’s not to take nothing away from them because I’m a fan but it’s just my mind. That’s just how my mind works.

DX: Going back to writing as a kid, I was more referring to what you see when you look back at those memories. Where were you writing, what kinds of thoughts did you have while you were a kid writing and who was around you, influencing your work?

Crooked I: The first thing I wrote was a poetry book when I was like six. That’s one I remember writing. It was ABC type shit but my moms put it together and made a booklet out of it and kept it in the family. That’s the reason I know now. You know? It was called Poem City. The shit I used to write about is still the same shit. I used to just write about my life. I had a poem in there:

“We get on the bus
The bus driver cussed
People looking at us
Getting to school is a must”

That was like the poem I wrote when I was like five or six but it was about my life, waking up and going to school. It’s always been about life. I can’t write about somebody else’s life even though sometimes I think that I’d be a more successful rapper if I wrote about a fictitious life. A lot of rappers rap about fake lives. I just do the best I could do with my life.

Crooked I On Fake Rappers, Psalm 82:V6

DX: On “Never Forget” off the new mixtape, you say, “I want to make an album about my life but in this music business, tell me who would listen? What you wanna hear, truth or fiction?”

Crooked I: You feel me? That’s the whole thing. Personally, I don’t have a big ol’ problem with fiction raps. That’s just me as a fan. If you didn’t go out and rob a bank but you made a damn good song about robbing banks, I’ll bump that shit. [Laughs] I don’t have a big problem with that but as an artist, I can’t write a song about that and have no knowledge of that type of shit. I’d rather be me and if you accept me, you accept me and if you don’t, you don’t. I think it’s good to have somebody that’s totally honest just like it’s good to have somebody who makes up all these imaginary stories but makes good songs with those imaginary stories. There’s good on both sides.

DX: You speak on sadness you had as a kid. On “BBBB,” you say,

“It’s a new day. Look at my life path.
Even though there’s melanin in my pigment
I grew up living equivalent to White trash
Why ask the reason I buy Jags
Without blinking an eyelash at the price tags
My past is so fucked up, it’s quite sad
But I went from homeless to property on the white sands.”

You’ve talked about the hardship of growing up in our past interviews. But what are some of the more fond memories you have of growing up?

Crooked I: Aw, man. Fond memories, dog? You know, I used to be a big wrestling fan so watching wrestling. You know my little brothers got a group called The Horseshoe Gang. When they were young, I used to set a lot of booby traps for them and shit. I’d have the fuckin’ bucket of water at the top of the door and then knock on the door a little bit and then when they’d open the door, all the water would fall on them and shit. [Laughs] I used to also ride bikes with all my BMX homies. We tried our hands at skateboards and shit but we got so banged up we were like, “Nah, we can’t do that shit [laughing].” I got a lot of fond memories of growing up. It ain’t all bad. The music especially, like I could hear a song right now that will take me back to my childhood. I can’t complain about that. No matter how poor we was, my moms and my auntie – rest in peace – they supported us with whatever we wanted to do. Since I was a young rapper, they were like, “You wanna go to a talent show? Come on. I’m gonna take you there. You need some clothes? I’ma dress you up.” It’s a bunch of good memories, dog. I don’t want people to get that twisted. I hate rappers who try to act too hard. What do you, bro? You just eat your fuckin’ pancakes and eggs with a mean mug all day? What the fuck are you doin’? You just get in your car like, “Fuck this world. I don’t give a fuck. I’m backing out of my driveway! If anybody wants to say something about it, I’ma kill that mothafucker!” I hate that kinda shit. [Laughs]. It’s not real. We are mad sometimes and we’re happy sometimes. We’re sad sometimes. You know? This is life, man. I’m all about life. Whatever shades of life there is, that’s who I am.

DX: People don’t often see those fond moments when they hear emcees sometimes. It’s good to share the other side because that’s part of a life as well.

Crooked I: That’s why on the new tape I did the “It Feels Good” joint. People need to understand that it does feel good for me to be interviewing with HipHopDX, one of the biggest websites online when it comes to Hip Hop music and you’re sitting in a house that I helped build right now. It’s not like we gonna go to Hollywood to meet up and all that. Nah. We built this house, me and my partners, with blood, sweat and tears. There’s a lot to be thankful for in that. You know what I mean? You can never overlook what you’re thankful for, dog. Sometimes people think you forget where you came from, especially in this industry.

Hip Hop is a m’fucker. Hip Hop fucks a lot of shit up. I’m just gonna tell you that right now. We fuck up trends. We fuck up everything. A perfectly good car will be played out in two months because of Hip Hop [laughing]. That mothafucker is still a great car! You know what I’m saying? We fuck up all kinds of shit. We get tired. We have ADD. “We off that. We off that shit.” So a lot of people don’t actually talk about where they came from because right now, in Hip Hop, everything is about jewelry, bitches, the strip club and cars. So, sometimes we overlook where we come from. That’s where some of my songs come from as far as being honest. See, we ate Top Ramen. We was on food stamps. We was stomping on roaches and shit in the house like, “What the fuck is this?” We were setting up mousetraps and shit, heard a noise behind the refrigerator and put a mousetrap back there. Sometimes you have to bring them back down to what the fuck is real. Not everybody is driving a Rolls Royce. So that’s where those kinds of songs come from. That’s not to say our whole childhood was fucked up. That’s just to say, “We got some shit right now but don’t act like [we weren’t poor].” Because if you did have a silver spoon, then why are you so gangster right now in your video? You know? You have to tell the whole shit.

Crooked I On Support From His Mother & Meeting His Estranged Father

DX: We just mentioned the properties on white sands. When was the first time you bought something or were in a situation where you realized, “I am successful?”

Crooked I: The first time, dog? I’ma be totally honest with you. My father, he didn’t raise me, he left when I was like five or whatever. The next time I saw him was like 20 years later. I always had some negative thoughts about him. Whatever. We were standing outside of my uncle’s house in Carson, California and we were talking. He didn’t recognize me, by the way. When I was inside the house, he didn’t know who the fuck I was but once he realized that I was his son, we went outside and we were talking and shit. Now, I always thought that I would be on some bullshit like, “You know what? I’ma snuff this nigga as soon as I see him.” I looked in the driveway, bro. I had a white BMW on some rims and shit. I was like, “Damn, I got this. I have my own house in a cool neighborhood now. I’m taking care of myself and of the people I love. I did alright without dude.” I think that’s the first time that I felt successful. Before that, my idea of success was 10 million sold, seven mansions all over the world. That was my idea of success. But when I took a look at it on some real life shit, I was like, “Damn, I did okay for myself without a father.” That was the first day I realized success is what you think success is. It’s not what other people tell you. People hit me on Twitter like, “Do you feel bad because somebody else is more successful than you? Do you feel bad that you’re not successful?” Hold on. I had one job when I was 16 and that was my only job. I haven’t had a job since then. All I’ve done since then was hustle and make music and I can’t say that I’m not successful. I can’t even name one fuckin’ car that I haven’t bought. That’s my definition of success. That might not be their definition of success. Their definition might be somebody like my boss, Eminem. One hundred million records sold? Hey, that is success but I’m just saying. Me coming from nothing and now being able to take care of myself and being able to say, “Hey mom. You okay? You need something?” That’s successful to me and I won’t let anybody else ever define what success is to me.

It was an epiphany, dog. It was like, “All the shit you’ve been complaining about in your life? Fuck that. You made a way. You’re not fuckin’ begging on the streets in front of 7-11 [liquor stores] right now. You got a fuckin’ house, you got a car, a truck and this and that and you’re doing what you love to do and you’ve worked hard.” Like I said, I just had to redefine what success was in my own mind. Whenever you can see the man who helped bring you to this world, who left you at five years old, you see him 20 years later and you have more than him? Not to talk no shit but I did something right. The only thing I did right, in my opinion, was work hard as fuck. That’s it. Just worked hard as hell.

DX: You talk about calling mom on the mixtape, too. “I call my mama on the cell like, ‘Hey it’s me.’ You raised a G. I owe you everything, A to Z.” Then you say you got it all from her. What are you most proud of in the qualities that you got from your mom?

Crooked I: Music. I got music from my mother so, music and spirituality. My mom is real religious. She would ask us to read The Bible when we was young and we didn’t want to back then because it’s not cool to read The Bible when you’re young. But growing up, I realized how important it was. Whether you believe in The Bible or not, there are important life lessons in that book regardless. So, the spirituality and the music and just having her to have my back no matter what, I’m thankful for that. We could be dirt poor, bro and if I walked in the house from the 6th grade and be like, “Mom, I just started this new song.” She’d say, “You did? Sit down on the couch here with me. Rap it to me!” Having that? I know people who didn’t have that. I know people who had a dream to do music and their parents were like, “That’s a pipe dream. That’ll never happen.” And I know people that were disowned for having the dream. So having my mom meant the world to me. There’s nothing she could ever want. If I have the power to give it to her, she’ll have it. There’s no questions. I don’t give a fuck if it’s some dumb shit. She could be like, “I need a 50 foot banana.” I’ma go find that God damn banana. [Laughs]

DX: I’m assuming she’s smiled every time you’ve rapped to her. When was one time you remember seeing her smile the most. What moment do you think made her the most proud?

Crooked I: My mom always saw me being independent and owning my own shit. So, one of her most proudest moments was seeing this DVD, Life After Death Row. I financed it. I put it together with the help of my dudes here at Treacherous [Records]. We marketed it. She was just so proud that I put this thing together myself. She wasn’t mad that I was on Death Row [Records]. She wasn’t mad about it. She’d say, “I’m praying for you. Gun shots are flying all over the place but I’m praying for you, son.” She wasn’t mad. She kind of liked Suge [Knight]. She never met Suge but she liked him because he did something for her son. That’s all she cared about. When I put that DVD together with the Young Boss Vol. 2 mixtape as the soundtrack, with DJ Skee hosting, she was real proud to be able to walk inside Best Buy and buy something that her son executive produced and put together. A close second is probably last time we was just on 106 & Park with Slaughterhouse. She called me up like, “106 & Park, huh?” I was like, “Yeah.” She said, “I seen you!” She’s proud of everything, man. My mom keeps magazines. She’s delighted about the whole situation. Music is our family business. She’s so happy for me and now she’s ready for the Horseshoe Gang to get their props. They’re starting to. A lot of people are starting to recognize them so they’re up next for sure.

Crooked I Talks Eminem’s Reaction To “Move On”

DX: We have to ask about Slaughterhouse. We’ve spoken about the fulfilling sides of working as a group. What has been the most frustrating aspect of recording this project, welcome to: Our House?

Crooked I: The most frustrating thing, bro, to be honest with you, is that some people, not the fans, but some people show resistance when Slaughterhouse doesn’t do 80 bars, seven-minute songs. We all have individual lives. We all want to create music that reflects our lives. We can’t just go in and do 60 bars apiece every time. You can’t do that on every song. With certain people, if you give them a song that reflects how we feel in life or whatever, just some regular shit, they’ll say, “Nah, this ain’t Slaughterhouse! I want to hear you slay sucka emcees in a battle rap.” No, dog. We are artists. We make music for people to relate to. That’s the most frustrating thing, when people try to put Slaughterhouse in a box. “This is the only thing we want to hear from you guys. If you don’t do that, fuck you.” That’s basically how some shit is. They really feel like that. Why come I can’t express how I feel? I go to strip clubs. I can’t make a song like [Tyga’s] “Rack City?” I’m in strip clubs all the time. I’m a fuckin’ strip club aficionado. I’ve been in clubs all over the world, not just in America, and they know who I am when I walk in. I have fun. I can’t make a song about that? That’s part of my life. I thought I was rapping about my life but “Nah, we don’t want to hear that from Slaughterhouse. We want that lyrical, miracle.” That’s the most frustrating part.

DX: On this mixtape, there is a lot of diversity. How do you approach the group album and then this solo project, in terms of what you want to provide for the album?

Crooked I: The group album is about four people coming together saying, “What if we do this?” If we all agree, we do it. “What if we do this?” If we don’t agree, we don’t do it. Solo shit is like, “What if I do this?” And you do it! You hit and miss. It ain’t all gonna be fly shit. With the group it’s much easier for me too. All I have to do is contribute to 33.3% of the song [laughing]. I don’t gotta do 3 verses, possibly my own hook, an intro and outro. I just have to come in, we figure out what we want to rap about and bang, I go and do my job. If it’s not up to par, I go back and do it again. Still, that’s only two verses. Even if I have to redo some shit, that’s only two verses! Opposed to when you’re solo, the pressure’s on you to make that shit hot. You have 3 minutes and 45 seconds to keep the listener’s attention, solo. If you don’t, they’re gonna fry you on the Internet [Laughs hard] So, I love being in Slaughterhouse.

DX: Creatively, that’s gotta give you a different perspective too. That has to keep things interesting.

Crooked I: Yeah, because in your own mind, you have created your own world. You know what you wanna rap about and what you wanna do. But in the minds of four different people, what if this guy says, “Let’s make a rap about this,” and you’ve never thought about doing that in your whole life? So, now you’re sitting there like, “How would I approach this?” That’s the challenge but that’s the dope shit. I think artists should challenge themselves. I think everyone should challenge themselves. But it’s a beautiful thing. Slaughterhouse is one of the greatest things to ever happen in my career. To me, I’m a Hip Hop fan, first and foremost and I believe that Slaughterhouse –the group itself, fuck the music – the group has brought Hip Hop together. You have different regions together, unified. That symbol of unity is big in itself. Before we even make one fuckin’ song, you’re tellin’ me there’s a group with east and west in it? That itself is big. Then the music is coming out the right way so I’m like, “This shit is dope.” As a fan, sometimes, when we’re doing a show, I just wish I could be in the crowd, bro, to just watch that shit as a fan of Hip Hop. It don’t have to be Slaughterhouse but as a fan to see people coming form four different cities, grouping up together, unifying, having a good time on stage and representing one thing: Hip Hop. I would love to see that shit.

DX: What has been the most challenging cut you had to sit down and analyze before writing?

Crooked I: Well, “Move On” was challenging. It challenged us to say some real shit that was uncomfortable. It was early on in the group. Right now, if somebody said, “Let’s do this concept,” we’d be like, “Alright. Cool.” Right now, we’re brothers. We started off as people who respected each other, graduated to friends and graduated to brothers. But at that time, when “Move On” was introduced, we didn’t know each other like that to just go in the booth and spill our hearts out and shit [laughing]. That was very interesting. When we did the XXL cover with Em, they played the “Move On” joint. I think that was the first time Em heard that shit. He had heard the album and all that but I think that was the first time he heard that shit. You know, there’s some sensitive things being said in “Move On.” I could catch him looking. I was looking at him. He was like, “Yo! I love that song!” You know? That’s the dope part. If you express yourself for real, for real, people will receive it, even if you think you’ll offend somebody. I could have easily offended people with my verse. I said something about people waiting on Detox and Interscope [Records] and now I get my checks from Interscope. You know? That’s how I was feeling at the time. I always say, “Go with your feelings. Don’t be disrespectful. Just be truthful and honest.”

Crooked I Describes How The Wu-Tang Altercation Brought Group Closer

DX: We’ve talked a bit about moments. When was the moment you realized you guys graduated from friends to brothers?

Crooked I: I know that [Raekwon versus Joe Budden altercation] moment was a moment, when that shit went down between Wu-Tang [Clan] and [Joe Budden]. That’s because I knew people from Wu-Tang before I knew half of Slaughterhouse. But at that exact moment when that shit was going down, I didn’t want to see my brother take an L. So, I said, “I’m gonna do everything I need to do so that he doesn’t take this L today.” That was one of the moments that I found out, I really love this dude and I really love these dudes and I’m not willing to back down and I’m ready to go to war for him if that’s what it is. That was the day that showed me that. Like I said, I have so much respect for Wu-Tang and many of the members in Wu-Tang and the fact that I was willing to go all out, that’s when I found out that it’s a brotherhood. This is more than a Rap group.

DX: I’m sure that meant a lot to them as well.

Crooked I: I’m sure it did. I hope it did. It was all heart. It wasn’t thinking and it wasn’t strategic. It was all, “No. This is not going down like this. Not at all.” That’s the day that I found out. I took a lot of slack for that. But I felt me and my team handled it in an appropriate way. But we still took a lot of slack for the way it went down. A lot of people that are important didn’t like the way that it went down. But that’s the day that I said, “This is my brother. You’re not finna disrespect my brother. Well, you can if you want to but there’s gonna be some kinds of repercussions.”

Crooked I Shares Appreciation For Kendrick Lamar, TDE

DX: Finally, I want to ask for a response regarding Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar. I don’t know if you saw how they gave you guys props in an interview.

Crooked I: Yes, I did. I saw that.

DX: That was interesting because not a lot of emcees will give it up like that. They said you guys are “hands down the illest.” How’d it feel to hear that kind of respect from emcees who are definitely on the rise in the game?

Crooked I: I’ve always been honest about my opinion on rappers. If somebody asked me about any emcee, I’d always give my true opinion. I’ve been talking about [Top Dawg Entertainment] for a minute. Jay Rock, to me, spearheaded that whole shit. He did a great job doing that shit. Kendrick [Lamar] followed up and fuckin’ smashed the world. ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul are tearing the industry a new asshole. My thing is, it always feels good when your peers give you respect for what you do and the respect is likewise. Those dudes make me proud to be from the west coast and I mean all of them. They all have shit. There ain’t just one. They all have shit. The whole TDE movement makes me proud to be from the West Coast. Them and Bad Lucc, Problem, Glasses [Malone], Locksmith. Locksmith is on my tape. He’s one of the illest lyricists on the West Coast breathing today. There are so many of us out here. It just feels good when you’re not trying to ignore the next movement but you’re saluting the next movement. That’s always what I’ve done. I always believed in that. I salute TDE and what Problem and Bad Lucc are doing. There are too many to name but we need more of that on the west. Five, six years ago, you wouldn’t have got that. People wouldn’t talk about nobody so I salute that. They’re doing a great job and like I said, they make me proud to be from the west coast. It’s always good to be proud of being from here because a lot of people in Hip Hop used to act like we didn’t have no bars over here. Let’s just keep it real. I’ve seen interviews with people on the east coast and they’ll be like, “You kinda got bars because you know the West don’t be having bars. What do you think about that?” What the fuck do you mean the West don’t be having bars? It’s just something that we have to work to change but if nothing else, we need to stick together. I would like to hear more collaboration on the west coast. We don’t hear the collaborations I want to hear sometimes, especially between the old and the new, the bay and L.A. and there’s disconnection when it comes to west coast music. I think that’s some bullshit. I don’t know why certain mawfuckers don’t reach out to certain mawfuckers to make songs. Why not? Even if it’s just a leak for HipHopDX, do it. Do the shit. It’s only gonna take a couple hours out of your day. Do the shit. The fans want to hear the shit. I guarantee you every west coaster that’s relevant right now, on his Twitter, fans are saying, “Why don’t you make a song with this guy? Why don’t you make a song with that guy?” Well, guess what rappers? Do the shit.

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