Next Up: Crooked I


crookedi.jpgThree years ago, Dominick “Crooked I” Wickliffe came to a crossroads. His career was stagnant. He was signed to Death Row Records, but his debut album, Say Hi to the Bad Guy, was on indefinite hold. Making matters worse, his affiliation with Death Row CEO Suge Knight was leading to “a lot of gunplay, fights and brawls.” The Long Beach, Calif., rapper hit a low point in April 2004, when he was arrested after getting into a fight at a local mall.
“I just spent one night in jail,” says Crooked, 30. “But I was laying down on that floor, and I was like, You know what? I need to get off of this label and put my career in my own hands. Because police are going to mess with me for the rest of my life because I’m on Death Row… And I can’t even put my record out.”

So, in late 2004, after a four-year stint that produced more hype than results, the man once billed as the heir to the Death Row throne terminated his contract and set to rebuilding his career from the ground up. He started his own label, Dynasty Entertainment, and landed a joint-venture deal with the Cali-based indie Treacherous Records. Then, after releasing a critically acclaimed mixtape, Young Boss Vol. 2, and a DVD, Life After Death Row, in 2006, he devised the marketing plan that would propel him to his current pole position. “That’s when I thought of Hip-Hop Weekly,” he says of the eureka moment that came this past spring. Exploiting the Internet to its fullest potential, under a banner perfectly suited for today’s tabloid culture, Crooked started posting a new freestyle every seven days on his MySpace page. “Everybody is like, ‘I’m not a rapper, I’m a hustler.’ Nigga, I’m not that. I’m a rapper. I’m an MC. I can hustle, yeah, ’cause I’m from the hood. But hustling ain’t my calling. My calling is getting down on that mic and expressing myself with that ink pen. I just wanted to give them something free, ’cause they say if you love something, you’ll do it for free. So here you go—free, once a week. Download it, whatever you want.”

In less than a month, he had the Internet going nuts. Top-name producer Just Blaze gushed on his MySpace blog, calling Crooked “the best not-so-new artist I’ve never heard before.”

In November, after a full 12 years of setbacks (Crooked signed his first deal with Virgin Records way back in 1995), the long-suffering lyricist is finally going to release an album: B.O.S.S. (Beginning of Something Serious). “Right now is the time,” he says. “Everybody is talking about me, from producers, different artists, everywhere I go. I walk in the mall, and they ask me, ‘What beat you gonna rap to next week?’ Strangers and shit. It’s a beautiful thing. And I feel like it’s now or never for me, man. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.”
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  • exalted

    Yo Crooked is the man… cant wait for the album to drop….


  • SWAG

    i like this cat…hope he does well.

  • Gamma


  • mike p

    damn i can’t wait for crooked i’s album to drop. i hope that nigga blows up and this is coming from a florida cat.

  • dat dude

    Crooked I keep doin your thing youre a monster in the booth.

  • King

    I never know who this guy was until I kept seeing weekly freestyles…Now his plan worked out perfectly…good move

  • EFFeX

    Endless props to XXL for recognizing one of the greatest emcees that hasn’t dropped an album yet! B.O.S.S. (Beginning of Something Serious) is on the way and when that happens, you ABC rappers better act accordingly! That’s WEST Up!

  • Dubb Montana

    XXL get mad props for doing an article with the BOSS OF THE WESTCOAST!!! B.O.S.S. album later this year, hip hop weekly’s every week…. get ready for the take over bitches

  • booz

    CrookedI’s had my attention since the 19th street compilation. He’s as real as it gets and one can touch’em lyricly. Good luck crooked, you desrve all the success! WESTCOAST or NOTHING!

  • tha guy

    crooked I is super nice

  • westcoast g

    crooked is the best in the game right now no doubt
    well deserved to be on this list

  • September 7th

    Free Crooked I “Hip Hop Weekly” Mixtape available @, 19 weeks of relentless tracks, Vol. 2 droppin in November!!!

  • Q! tha Great!

    Crooked I is the real thing. nuff respect to everyone else on this list but to me Crooked is the front runner! hands down. His hip hop weekly’s are insane!!! I ain’t never been excited about a new MC to emerge since Eminem. This dude will make classics if he gets the rigt production and marketing push he needs. C.O.B.!

  • BFC

    Big props to XXL for recognizing real talent. Crooked I is definitely the illest from the West doing it. He’s that hidden gem just waiting to shine. One of the most humble, down-to-earth cats you’ll ever meet too. Don’t sleep, y’all.

  • http://n/a cisco

    man Crooked i is fucking dope, hope he drops his album soon. i hope all majors are watching this

  • ThaPrince

    the best westcoast MC since Pac…

  • KWayz

    Crooked is a beast, after you listen to him you cant deny that!

  • big sert self made

    whatz good crrok is da business, str8 scorching da hoods weekly keep it cracking my dude!! NEW WEST TO DA FULLEST BRAAAT BRAAAT BRAAAT!! SELF MADE C.O.B



  • DKE (A-Jaf)

    Yo, mad respect XXL for putting Crooked I on this list. Those hip hop weeklys are ridiculous…i doubt he freestyles them, but it is still incredibly ridiculous. He was dropping week 20 when I was still bumping week 15 non-stop man. Whenever I tell my friends about Crooked, or they hear any weeks, all they can say is “He’s the truth.” Real talk, XXL, this is probably the most respect I’ve had for you in a while. Good look.

  • Brent Barry

    Crook has been killing since the dpg days on deathrow with daz n kurupt. I hope he releases his album it will be a certified banger 4 sure

  • trigger08

    The REAL west kept secret. Fk that other shit,, yadi yadi ya… CrookedI is the hardest out right now. Thats for real.

  • Big Mike

    It’s about time Crooked I is gettin’ some National attention! I’ve been promotin’ his music for over 2 years!
    Westcoasanostra, Dysfunktional Family, Evolution Of A Boss Mixtape, Young Boss Vol. 1 & 2, September 7th: Hip-Hop Weekly, and shit I can’t even remember!
    I can’t wait for B.O.S.S. to drop!


  • bricks

    the nigga is the truth period!!!!!