Crooked I: Life on Death Row
What two songs did you produce for Pac?
One was Happy Home and the other one was Why You Hate Me. They were good songs. I was surprised on the outcome. To do work with Tupac is honorable; Pac is legendary of course. That was a blessing. I met his mother and I went to her house in ATL and chopped it with her. Its unfortunate that hes not around because sometimes I wonder what the music industry would be like.
Tell me about the Death Row situation?
Basically on The Row I was signed in 99 and I was over there for like 4 years and some change. I recorded a gang of music like 50, 60 tracks and I wrote for a gang of artists and he wouldnt put my album out. Im thinking because his distribution channel was Koch. Koch was his distributor and you know Death Row is known for having multi-million selling albums and projects. I really feel like he thought Koch was too small of a distributor and that he wasnt going to produce the numbers he wanted to do in the market and he didnt want to look like a failure. I think that would of sealed the deal on his executive status I mean even though a lot of people have been trying to black ball him and they dont wanna see him successful as it is. To put out a project through Koch that you been pumpin up in the media and it doesnt do good numbers youre pretty much finished. I think thats one of the main reasons he held back. I was over there for 4 years and he never put an album out.
The whole thing about it is, enough is enough homie, I was loyal and I stayed down. People dont understand being on Death Row is not like being on Def Jam or any other record label. In Cali Death Row is viewed as a gang. There are a lot of enemies of Death Row. They get stripes if they get a chain off me or if you get in a conversation with somebody it can escalate to a higher level of violence just based on your affiliation with Death Row. To go through all that type of shit on a street level and to go through all the black balling in the industry because of my affiliation. Im like Okay Im pinning down in the face of all this, but can we release the project? Ya feel me? Can we get the album out? You gotta at least release the music. Thats all I wanted.
I didnt mind the confrontations. To me its dumb. You gonna approach me on some bullshit because Im down with this label then Im gonna bring it back to you cause you ignorant and Im gonna bring it back full force. Its a health risk. I gotta fight all these idiots on the streets might even escalate to gun blare or something and I cant do concerts with summer jams because they dont want Death Row artists in the building and I cant get my records played on the radio and I cant advance in the game like I want to. Can you put my project out? It was time to go cause it wasnt hurting him, hes a multi-millionaire, its hurting the artists.
When you decided to leave, I know it had to be hell to be released from your contract. How did you handle that?
I signed a four year deal over there so I went to my lawyer and told him look its been four years tell them we dont want to exercise another term. We wanna go, we dont wanna renew the contract, we dont wanna do anything, send them a letter. We sent them a letter and put them on standby. I told Sugeover the telephone Im trying to do different things Im ready to bounce Im not feeling the situation he said okay. At the time he was incarcerated. Then the day after I told him I wasnt going to be on the label anymore and my lawyer sent the papers to his assistant, of course he was incarcerated, three days later I had situations on the table and another situation and another situation. So I went back to his assistant the guy who was running things while he was locked up. I told the dude, Yo, Ill give you a dollar per album sell you did help advance my career, heres a return for your investment, but Im out.
To me in my mind it was just a gesture because the contract was up. The dude said you know what, I talked to Sugeand he wants one million dollars. So I said Wait a minute man he aint ever put no album out on me. See, he got a million dollars off of Snoop, but Snoop was a multi-platinum artist. I said man aint nobody gonna pay a million dollars for somebody not invested in the market. I said Why dont you just take this dollar on the back end and if the project goes platinum youll make a million dollars with the beats or whateva? At this time I was communicating through his assistant and I wanted to go see him personally, but his assistant and all the people that worked for him kept giving me the run around like Okay we gonna get you on the phone with him, hes going to call the office at two oclock and were going to 3-way you, were going to get you on the visitors list. I could tell they were giving me the run around cause I was over there for 4 years and I seen them when they gave people the run around. I never got the chance to hit him about the whole situation so my whole thing was he wants a million dollars hes not getting a million because a million dollars for an artist that never put out an album is ridiculous so I was like peace.
We started on a new project. I started my own label Dynasty Entertainment. It goes through Treacherous/Universal. Treacherous is a company that had their own artists as well as a big distribution deal with Universal. Its easy enough for me to have my own label and theyre distributing my label through Universal. So Im moving along, Im recording, I aint tripping. Im like whateva it is what it is. Everything was cool until I got into a magazine kinda announcing what I was doing.
Soon as they read that magazine, Sugewas out of jail at the time; he called over to the Treacherous office and wanted to meet wanted to sit down. Okay, so lets sit down and talk because obviously he felt like I was still under contract with him. That sit down never happened. He sent over a cease and desists to stop the project. Then Universal came over and was like you have to deal with this. We cant go any further until you deal with your man over here. That stopped my project for about 9-10 months because now its a legal thing.
Now I have to get an attorney, now I have to go to court, now I gotta lawsuit on my hands because hes trying to block me from doing business with third party companies. We went to court, but hes a millionaire so for me to spend 50 and 60 grand at a time on an attorney is a whole bunch for me. Im tryin to start a new company and we started to fall under the pressure with legal financing and stuff. I went to court 8 or 9 months. The judge granted me a court order saying Suge cant be sending letters to third party companies he wants to do business with, cant be threatening anybody in the market place who wants to do business with him, let him do his business. Then my attorney said he may not be able to stop you from doing business, but he may put a lawsuit on you as a person or individual. Im like No that aint gonna happen and then sure enough they telling me thats what hes doing, but the project is still coming out he cant stop that.
After going through all that did you fear at all that Suge would try anything physically?
I knew that one day might come of me leaving before I even sign the contract with him. When youre raised in the ghetto it is what it is. You might get into it with the guy next door to you that might escalate into a deadly situation. I wasnt afraid. If I was afraid I would have hung around and my career would be in the dumpster. Im not an idiot. I know that if he gets upset he might react and if he reacts I have to be ready to react. I dont know how the streets would look at him if we got into on that type of level. I couldnt see him taking it to that level. I dont have any hard feelings against Death Row. I learned a lot. I feel like I have a degree in industry 101. Theyre the boot camp of all labels and you know if you go to another label youre not going to get any shit because you went through the school of hard knocks. Im not trippin, but I hear little things on the streets like they might flex on me, but then I hear the opposite they aint trippin they got love for me.
You mentioned you learned a lot of dos and donts of the industry. Can you share what youve learned?
One thing I learned is relationships are everything. The most valuable thing in the industry is relationships. Me, being myself and who I am, Im not going to be anybodys robot. If you wind me up and tell me to go beef with this person and I dont know why then Im not going to do it. I ran into Puffy at a party at the BET awards and I told him Look Puff, Big is resting in peace, Pac is resting in peace. This whole Row/Bad Boy shit we gotta set this shit to the future fast forward. So when you see me with this Death Row chain Im wearing you dont have to worry about a whole bunch of dudes coming behind me and trying to sabotage any type of show you have or any confrontations because Im the future of this label and whats in the past is in the past. He respected me for that.
I was damn near like Suge Knights Death Row publicist. I was out there trying to change the face of the label. I did a song on Dysfunctional Family soundtrack called Feel The Row. At the time I wanted to say some things I felt needed to be on TV. At that particular time 75-80 police officers had just stormed the office and took all the computers and pointed guns at everybody. They stormed the studio and I was like I needed to talk about some of the positive things that went on over here. In the song I shed light on the fact that we go to the hospital every Christmas and hand out 25-30,000 dollars worth of toys, we have a mothers day dinner in Beverly Hills, we rebuild churches and stuff that get damaged, we paid for funeral costs of family that couldnt afford it; I shed light on a lot of that. I did a lot of their PR work. I was even one of the guys that suggested we take the death off Death Row and just call it The Row. I can only do so much because ultimately its not my company. So I learned that relationships are everything and I learned that sometimes you have to be your own boss.
Well, now you have people like The Game repping the west coast. How do you feel about the fact that that was supposed to be you?
The thing about it is, if you have record deals as long as me, then hell Snoop was supposed to be me. Not like that, but if you come out, become successful, represent your coast you have to realize its enough room for everybody. What Im bringing to the table as far as me and my company were bringing organization to the table. When people do business me and my circle its less headache less drama were grown men about our business. Were not out here on that bullshit and I already know thats going to be something different coming from the west. We have a bad reputation for being over thugging. You cant come to the west without getting your chain snatched or robbed or something. When I see these other cats enjoying success thats good because it ultimately helps me if Game breaks down some doors then I can just walk right through. I think we need four or five major cats for the west to be back.
How do you find artists for your label?
We got so many big plans. I got the Onone Squad which is the Crips and Bloods mixture group trying to squash that beef. When it takes off the way it needs to take off Im looking to put people on. People that have talent and been going through politics and bullshit no matter where theyre from. Thats how music evolves.
Okay, how in the hell did you get the Bloods and the Crips in a group together?
Well, one is actually my first cousin and he bought the group to the table. I was like woo! because Im all for that. Im all about them uniting and having a peace treaty. We can co-exist and we can make money together. Its too many people glorifying that shit and Im not feeling them for that. Some people are not going to like it because they want the shit to go on forever.
Whats the name of your project?
Boss Music. On the west we got a lot dudes doing their thing. In the 80s we had a lot hustlers making millions in the dope game and in the 90s they took the dope Game from the blacks and we used the rap game to empower our people. We need to get together and unite instead of killing each other because the money trickles down. When you got a lot of money going through this camp and that camp then you can give somebody a job that may be doing illegal shit. Thats what Im talking about. Bossing up. I really admire the business men on the east like Jay-Z. He has a basketball team and hes the owner of a major label. We need that on the west. If I can do it and I came from a single mother leaving in the hood anybody can. Thats why I named it that.