Crooked I Biography
Last updated: 07/13/2012 12:00:00 PM
When one is asked to name their top five emcees of all time, it would not be surprising for the name Crooked I to be mentioned on their list. While industry insiders have labeled the West Coast emcee as one of the greatest to never do it, there is no denying the impact he has made on Hip Hop during his rollercoaster ride of a career. Without releasing a proper debut album, the self-proclaimed "Boss of the West" has grabbed the attention of fans across the globe in his conquest to restore Hip Hop to it's truest form. Although this legend has faced many obstacles, there is no doubt that his chapter in the encyclopedia of Hip Hop has already been written.
While his professional career in music did not officially start until the age of seventeen, it is fair to state that Dominick Wickliffe was born with music in his soul. It would appear that Wickliffe was destined to create music as his mother was working on her own singing career while pregnant. Music had such an impact on Wickliffe's life that he wrote his first song by the age of ten and titled it Microphone Controller. It during this time that Wickliffe adopted the Hip Hop persona of "Crooked I", a name that was bestowed to him by his brother. Dealing with the challenges of poverty, Crooked I still managed to perfect his craft without the use of professional recording equipment. In fact, Crooked I's songs often paint powerful visuals of the emcee writing his earlier material in complete darkness due to the lack of electricity. While these obstacles were discouraging, Crooked I continued to follow his dreams in order to survive and provide for his family.
During his years as a teenager, the struggling emcee made his first endeavor in the music industry by linking up with professional football players Leonard Russell and Chucky Miller. The trio launched a short lived record company called Muscle Records and went on to record several independent records. However, this was only the precursor to bigger things to come. In 1995 the highly skilled rapper signed a deal with Virgin Records' Hip Hop division Noo Trybe Records. The label was home to legendary acts such as The Luniz, Geto Boyz and many others. During this time Crooked I was approached by Big C-Style of 19th Street Records to appear on several upcoming releases. The projects included the critically acclaimed 19th Street Compilation (1998) and Straight Outta Cali (1998). Crooked I additionally appeared on the soundtracks to films such as Caught Up and Ride which introduced the emcee to a much wider audience. While it appeared that the up-and-coming rapper was on the path to success, he was derailed by an unfortunate road block. Due to poor business practices, his deal was short lived as Virgin closed the doors to their Hip Hop division. Although this turn of events was discouraging, Crooked I continued his journey by seeking out additional opportunities.
While searching for a record deal, Crooked I and Big C-Style joined forces with rapper and producer Daz Dillinger to kick start their own label. Dogg Pound Records became a sub-division of the infamous Death Row Records and offered Crooked I twenty percent ownership. Unfortunately, business between Death Row Records, Big C-Style and Daz Dillinger turned sour as the mega-label started to crumble. As a result, Daz Dillinger decided to pursue an independent route which left Crooked I with several arduous decisions. As word spread of Crooked I's talent, the emcee decided it was time to part ways with Dogg Pound Records. In an interesting turn of events, Crooked I was blessed with the opportunity to sign a contract with super-producer Dr Dre and his record label Aftermath Entertainment. While the deal was intriguing, Crooked I recognized the disadvantages involved. Crooked I was to be placed on the backburner while the label focused on the release of Dr Dre's album 2001 and Eminem's sophomore effort The Marshall Mathers LP. Because such a move did not compute financially, Crooked I shopped his talents directly to Death Row Records. Crooked I signed a contract to Death Row Records while visiting Suge Knight, the label's former CEO, during the time of his incarceration.
It was the start of a second dynasty at the newly reborn Tha Row Records. Crooked I was joined by an incredible roster of talent which included Kurupt, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Danny Boy and several upcoming artists. Interestingly enough, Crooked I was signed as not only a recording artist, but a part of the Triple 7 production team as well. The trio consisted of Crooked I, his "god brother" Jim Gittum and Tha Row's former head of production Darren Vegas. During his time on Tha Row, Crooked I recorded over four albums worth of material including the titles Untouchable and Say Hi To The Bad Guy. A notable song from Say Hi To The Bad Guy was Crooked I's single So Damn Hood which featured an appearance from R&B singer Sisqo of Dru Hill. Unfortunately, after legal altercations, Suge Knight was never able to properly restore his record label and neither album was ever released. However, Crooked I's time on Tha Row was not wasted as the emcee released an assortment of music. In 2003 Crooked I and Darren Vegas joined forces to release the Westcoasanostra Volume 1 mixtape. Crooked I also appeared on several notable projects including the soundtrack to comedian Eddie Griffin's film Dysfunktional Family (2003). The soundtrack was designed to showcase Tha Row's entire roster and while it was recognized by Hip Hop enthusiasts, the project flew under the radar. Due to Death Row's ailing relationship with mainstream media, Crooked I's music video Still Tha Row was banned from television. Crooked I then realized that while his music did not lack in quality, his record label was on the path to destruction. After four years on Tha Row Records and no album on store shelves, Crooked I opted out of his contract with Death Row Records.
Due to the trials and tribulations that Crooked I encountered in his past, the emcee decided to control his own destiny. In 2004 Crooked I launched an independent record label called Dynasty Entertainment. While Crooked I was the label's main attraction, he recruited several additional upcoming artists. Crooked I was joined by his brothers the Horse Shoe G.A.N.G. (formerly the U-Gang) and the On One Squad, a group consisting of his cousin Sauce The Boss and a rapper known as Adolf. Being the most highly sought after emcee on the West Coast, Crooked I was quickly able to secure a business relationship with Tico Khrimian's Treacherous Records as well as a distribution deal with Universal Records. Treacherous Records offered Crooked I not only state-of-the-art recording facilities, but a brand new assortment of collaborators. Artists who Crooked I joined forces with includes the lyricist One-2, R&B sensation K-Young and super-producer Komplex to name a few. During this time, Crooked I began to record a new album titled Mama's Boy, which was later re-titled Mama's Boy Got A Loaded Gun. Unfortunately, he was unable to escape his past venture on Tha Row Records and was forced into litigation that lasted for an entire year. Without the ability to release an album commercially, Crooked I did not let negativity slow him down and decided to record a mixtape titled Young Boss Volume 1. Music was not the only focus on Crooked I's mind during this time. He accepted a Senior Vice President position at Treacherous Records and expanded into other business ventures such as Roller Coaster Rims and co-ownership of a jewelry store called Khrimian & Co. Crooked I had now realized that he was "boss" of his own destiny and decided to never fall victim to label politics again.
With the past behind him and the future looking brighter than ever, Crooked I continued the path to his dreams. He chronicled his legendary career and venture on Death Row Records by releasing a documentary in 2006 titled Life After Death Row. The release was bundled with a project that many fans consider to be Crooked I's first album, the Young Boss Volume 2 mixtape hosted by DJ Skee. Notable songs from the mixtape included Crooked I's singles Boom Boom Clap produced by Jim Gittum and Cali Boyz produced by Scott Storch. A music video was filmed to accompany his song Boom Boom Clap, but received little attention from media outlets due to sexually explicit content. However, Crooked I gained mainstream notoriety by making a cameo appearance in the video for Chamillionaire's smash hit Turn It Up. Crooked I continued to record his debut project which he re-titled Boss Music and later B.O.S.S. (Beginning of Something Serious) to reflect his new outlook on life. Unfortuntaley, due to the fact that Treacherous Records had broken their ties with Universal Records, the project was put on hold as Crooked I and his label searched out new opportunities for distribution. In the mean time, Crooked I started to recognize the impact he was making on the World Wide Web. In April of 2007, Crooked I began a series known as Hip Hop Weekly. The series brought his popularity to an entirely new level as he released tracks over commercially recognizable instrumentals each week for an entire year. In fact, the series was so popular that many other artists in the Hip Hop community went on to emulate the movement, but never achieved the same results. Throughout Crooked I's musical career with Treacherous Records, he has gone on to release two additional mixtapes titled The St Valentine's Day Bossacre and The Block Obama in 2008. Crooked I has also released an E.P. titled The Block Obama II which commemorated the 2008 presidential election. The E.P. included Crooked I's single Dream Big which features an appearance by R&B and Hip Hop sensation Akon.
As his popularity reached an all time high, Crooked I had decided that it was time to prepare for the release of his highly anticipated album. However, an unexpected door was about to open that would entirely change the direction of his career. At the end of 2008, Crooked I was invited to appear on Joe Budden's digital album Halfway House. Crooked I recorded for a song titled Slaughterhouse in which he was joined by rappers Royce Da 5'9", Joell Ortiz and Nino Bless. After releasing the critically acclaimed record, the collection of emcees realized that they had created something special. The Hip Hop world had officially been introduced to a new "super" group. Although Nino Bless appeared on the group's first song, he was never offered an official position. The decision was not meant as an act of disrespect, but simply reflected his dissimilar musical history to the other artists. The group literally took Hip Hop by storm and was offered a distribution deal with E1 Entertainment (Koch Records). Slaughterhouse gained mainstream attention by releasing a music video to their first single The One, which recieved airplay on both MTV2 and MTV Jams. On August 11th Slaughterhouse restored the culture of Hip Hop by releasing their critically acclaimed debut project. The album sold out across the nation in a matter of hours forcing fans to turn towards digital retailers. Since the album's release, the super-group has gone on to collaborate with artists such as Blink 182's Travis Barker and film an additional music video to their song Microphone. The group's rise to stardom occured so quickly, that music industry insiders could not turn a blind eye.
While Slaughterhouse continued their rise to fame, Crooked I decided that it was time to showcase his own artists. In 2009 Crooked I officially launched C.O.B. Digital, a label that is titled after his Circle of Bosses movement. The label's first releases included the Horse Shoe G.A.N.G.'s debut album Gangster M.C. and Crooked I's E.P. Mr. Pig Face Weapon Waist. Crooked I's unusually titled project was a joint collaboration with Gracie Productions and marked the launch of C.O.B.'s official line of merchandise. The project featured a highly publicized collaboration with Snoop Dogg which ended the two rapper's long-standing friction. Additionally, Crooked I and director Chris Le filmed a music video for the project's second single titled Mr. Pig Face. Due to Crooked I's newly found fame, the project received much attention and proved to be a success. In fact, Crooked I was so proud of the project's success that he decided to release an extended version titled More Pig Face Weapon Waist. Crooked I expanded his movement further by launching the Planet COB website, which offers fans exclusive content and t-shirts. Due to the website's success, Crooked I released a digital E.P. titled Planet COB Vol. 1 in August of 2010. The eight track project featured completely original production as well as the emcee's highly popular single Everythang. Interestingly enough, the E.P.'s release coincided with the launching of Crooked I's Hip Hop Weekly: Reloaded, a follow up to the original series. Although critics were skeptical of his ability to recreate the magic, Crooked I grabbed the attention of several major news publications in less than one week.
Once again Crooked I and his Slaughterhouse family grabbed the industry's attention after announcing their historical signing to Eminem's Shady Records in 2011. The record deal instantly propelled Slaughterhouse into the mainstream and presented them with brand new opportunities. While the group recorded their sophomore album on Shady Records, they released a self-titled EP through E1 Entertainment which marked the ending of business negotiations with the label. The positive attention that was created by signing to Shady Records benefited Crooked I's solo career as well. In March of 2011, Crooked I released a preview to his long-awaited solo debut album through Gracie Productions. The Million Dollar Story digital E.P. featured four brand new songs by Crooked I including his hit records Villain and Everyday. Due to the record's success and popularity, Crooked I teamed up with director John Colombo who filmed Everyday's music video. Crooked I then took the Circle of Bosses brand to new heights after officially launching the C.O.B. World Order website. The website presented fans with the opportunity to buy high quality and authentic C.O.B. clothing online. Additionally, Crooked I went on to release the Planet COB Vol. 2 compilation as a follow up to the previous installment's success. While the first installment soley featured records by Crooked I, the sequel focused on introducing the rest of C.O.B.'s roster. The project received positive reviews among fans and grabbed the attention of several notable Hip Hop websites. As Crooked I's popularity reached an all time high, it was finally time to make his dream a reality as he prepared to release his legendary album.
After nearly fifteen years in the music industry, this veteran's hard work has finally paid off. There is much to be said for an individual who has been through such a struggle and continually held his head up high despite so many set backs. With such an inspirational story still being written, Crooked I has managed to change the life of his fans forever. Interestingly enough, Crooked I has stated on more than one occasion that he prefers not to use the word "fan" and would rather use the label "supporter". In fact, the support that Crooked I has received over his career has become so strong that he considers listeners to be extended family. The West Coast icon plans on giving back to this family in 2011 with the release of his official debut album Million Dollar Story. Crooked I has already started to prepare the world for the album's arrival through a series of viral videos. In July of 2011, Crooked I once again recruited John Colombo to film the uncut visual's to Million Dollar Story's soulful title track. The emcee would later announce his plans to unleash several additional music videos prior to the album's release date. While critics are skeptical of his ability to deliver, Crooked I has proven time and time again that he is able to overcome any obstacle. The world continues to wait patiently for Hip Hop to finally be restored to it's truest form when Crooked I achieves what once seemed to be the unachievable.