If you think Mr. Collipark is just that bald-headed, cigar smokin’ folk who makes “Whisper Song” clones, you’ve got a lot to learn. The man born Michael Crooms got his start in the late ’80s Atlanta music scene under the name DJ Smurf, where he produced some of the South’s most seminal bass records and worked with the legendary MC Shy D. After recording a number of solo hits (including “2 Tha Walls,” the first song to use the hook that Lil Jon would popularize years later), Crooms switched his name to Beat-N-Azz, helped lay the foundation for crunk music and broke two unlikely stars from A-Town known as the Ying Yang Twins with their 2000 hit “Whistle While U Twurk.”
Six years later, after racking up a string of platinum and gold albums with the Twins, changing his name to Mr. Collipark and hocking his signature “intimate club music” sound to hip-hop’s biggest names, he’s ready for a new day. He claims that Ying Yang’s latest, Chemically Imbalanced, will be his last, as he switches his focus to his own labels. With deals on Interscope and Asylum for his artists Homebwoi, P. Stones and Kadalack Boyz, a new R&B group named Taurus and a bevvy of outside production for the likes of Young Jeezy, Daddy Yankee and Ciara, Collipark has plenty to keep his plate full. XXLMAG.COM spoke with the A-Town veteran about leaving his longtime partners, living in Lil Jon’s shadow and why he’ll never make another “Whisper” song again.
I was listening to the new Ying Yang album, you say, “This might be the last song ya’ll hear from us together for a long time.” Are you three finished collaborating?
The way I see it, I don’t know. I think it’s a “move on” thing. Everybody has something different that they want to do. That’s like asking Cee-Lo if he gonna make another Goodie Mob record. He’s Gnarls Barkley now, and who the fuck could have known? So with all the stuff that I have on my plate right now, Ying Yang will probably be doing another album next year, and who knows where I’ll be. I’m trying to give my other acts as much of a shot and as much attention as I gave them. They’ve had to watch me to do two Ying Yang [albums] and we haven’t even been in the studio. That’s very unfair to them.
How do Kane and D-Roc feel about this situation?
I think it’s a mutual thing. They been ready to move on for a minute now too. It’s like when you’re family, when they start getting older, they have their own idea of how they want things to be run. Internally, we all have our own vision of where we wanna go. The magic that we had was so special, I don’t want to see that go out bad. I’d rather them have the opportunity find another Collipark or whatever. Then I can go try some of the stuff I’ve wanted to try. If you don’t go 100% on something, you can’t expect 100% results. I’ve been giving 20 percent to my other stuff.
It seems like with all the Wyclef tracks on the new YYT album, they’re testing the waters with different types of sounds.
Ying Yang are very talented. The whole thing is to get them to do it. They don’t even know how talented they are in the ways they’re talented. If you get them in a room with somebody, then you can get to the magic. The problem is getting them into the room.
The Chemically Imbalanced album was originally called 2 Live Crew. Why the change?
It was a legal situation.
How did Wyclef get so involved in the album?
Wyclef sought us out for [Ying Yang] to get on a record that he was doing with Lionel Ritchie. This was right when TVT got at me about starting the new Ying Yang album, so when I met with Wyclef, we were talking about the whole 2 Live Crew concept. And conceptually, he got it from the start. So the next week we were up in New York recording the Lionel Ritchie record and we recorded like three records in two days. “Dangerous,” then a record that didn’t make it, and then “Water.” Some of the fans got it, some of the fans didn’t get it.
You’re known for switching up your style, changing up your sound. How do you think this chapter in your career will be musically different?
Rap music is changing. Back when I was rapping til the time I put Ying Yang out, I was making bass music. Straight booty shaking music. So Ying Yang came out right when the whole No Limit movement was coming down, and everything was slowed down. So it was like, “How do we flip this?” That’s where the whole Ying Yang sound came from. Now, music is very much street-oriented right now. Ying Yang’s sound right now is more commercial, more crossover, more pop. That’s how people view that sound.
Right now, the movement’s the streets. If you ain’t in the streets right now, you can’t even get to that level no more. It’s no such thing as a record on the radio right now. You could have 10,000 spins, if the street ain’t fuckin’ with it, you ain’t selling no records. You might not sell 2 million records, but if you poppin’ in the streets, you good for a gold, maybe a platinum album. You got more of a chance than somebody who just got a pop record with no foundation. I sit back and look at the game. I try to move before it’s too late.
So your new artists are more street-oriented?
My groups P. Stones and Kadalack Boyz are both making more street-oriented records. It’s more like the stuff I did for Jeezy, the stuff I did for BG. Now the R&B group I’m working with, Taurus, I can do more the type of stuff I did for Ying Yang, but with R&B on top of it. It’s got more of an appeal to it. And that was another thing—even though we had huge records, the subject matter always got in the way. As big as it was in the streets, when it got to a certain level, the lyrical content was always an issue.
What do you mean?
When you saw been pitched for Leno and stuff like that, they’re looking at their lyrics sheet. They’re like, “I can’t have this on my show. You said ‘Wait Til You See My…’ I can’t do that.” We always had an issue with lyrical content since day one. That was the selling point, but when the stakes get raised, how do you break out of that without losing your integrity to your fanbase? It’s hard in a case like the Ying Yang Twins. The stuff I’m doing on the R&B side, I don’t have that issue.
There are a lot of rumors going around about different label deals you have for Collipark Music.
I have deals with Interscope and Asylum. P. Stones are on Collipark/Interscope, and then Kadalack Boyz and Homebwoi are on Collipark/Asylum. I haven’t placed the R&B group that I’m producing, but they’re actually on a label called Landmine. I’m kind of overseeing the whole project, sort of like what Timbaland was doing with Justin Timberlake.
It seems like in the mainstream, a lot of people still associate the Ying Yang Twins with Lil Jon more than you, even though you’ve been with them since day one and have produced almost all of their hit records.
That’s because I was always in the back! I did that on purpose until—I’m gonna tell you the truth—the whole association with Lil Jon is why, when that “Whisper” record broke, I didn’t sit back and wait for somebody to come and start copying that sound, to claim that sound. We were doing records like “Get Low” before Lil Jon. “Get Low” was just the first record that caught the mainstream. That was one of the records that broke the whole crunk movement. A lot of people, before it got a video and all that a lot of people thought it was a Ying Yang record. TVT and Lil Jon took it upon themselves to put that more on Lil Jon and I think it could’ve been shared a little more. I’m not blaming, I’m just saying if it was me…”Get Low” was more like, Okay, Lil Jon did the beat, this is Ying Yang’s record. Even from how you’re treated on the set of a video. You don’t say, “Okay this room is for Lil Jon and everybody else go over here in this room.” You let it be known that this is Lil Jon and this is Ying Yang Twins. And I think if that was handled a little better, it wouldn’t be looked at like it is.
And a lot of people also don’t realize that you originated the “To the windows, to the wall” chant on your 1995 album.
I didn’t originate it, but I made the first record with it. But I don’t want to jump out and scream about it and all that and have no class, have no style. I knew my time was gonna come back around—I didn’t know how.
With the huge popularity of “The Whisper Song,” and then the similar hits with the “intimate club music” style, did you ever worry that people were going to associate you with that one sound?
That was my intention. I wanted to stamp that sound. I didn’t want it to be a question where it came from. But the flip side of that is, that’s all people started looking for. So it’s a double-edged sword. But I totally did that on purpose.
Is that a sound people are still asking you for?
Nah, I think it’s run its course. I won’t give it to nobody. That “1st Booty On Duty” is the last record I’ll ever do like that. The only reason I did that one was because when you have two records as big as “The Whisper Song” record and “Ms. New Booty,” people be looking for that. And you don’t want to have nothing for them.
This year has had the huge explosion of snap music in the mainstream. How influential do you think your work has been in the development of that?
For what it is now, I don’t really take credit for the actual D4L-type snap music. But I had two of the biggest snap records, and two of the first snap records, with “Wait” and “Play.” They tried to start making the beats outta that, when the “Laffy Taffy”s and all that started blowing up. But what they do and what I do are two totally different things.
In what way?
When I sit down, I’m not thinking about a dance, I’m not thinking gimmick, I’m thinking about sitting down trying to make a real record, whether it has two sounds or a hundred sounds. I’m not talking down on that music or nothing, but to me that was more gimmicky. The tracks that I did, they got me respect in the game. People were using the term “genius” for a dude who did a beat with three sounds in it. I feel like with “Laffy Taffy” and all that stuff, they weren’t even trying to be creative. But with me, even by the time I did “Ms. New Booty,” I was like, Damn, I gotta get on something else. It’s kind of hard when you’re getting paid. The long term, though, could wind up biting me in the ass. After you play out behind that sound, nobody want to hear shit else from you.
Atlanta club music has gone through so many different phases, and you have always been at the forefront. What do you think the next phase will be?
I don’t know. It’s sad to me that there ain’t no energy in the clubs in Atlanta no more. Everything is so laid back. Everybody trying to be cool and cute with their little dance. Which is why I love the DJ Unk record. Because he took the energy from back in the day and fused it with the shit that’s going on now. So I love that record. I’m trying to bring that energy back to the dance floor.