About a year ago hip hop heads rejoiced when producer Statik Selektah and emcee KXNG Crooked (formerly Crooked I) announced their upcoming joint album Statik KXNG. Since the late oughts, Statik's stock has risen as a beat maker. His mixtape catalog is full of excellent emcee collaborations, with the creation of 1982 (the emcee/producer duo comprised of himself and Termanology) being the pinnacle of his duets. KXNG Crooked has been in the rap hustle since the 90s, but he has gained notable publicity since signing with Eminem's Shady Records label and joining the super group Slaughterhouse. The Long Beach emcee achieved longevity by setting his rap foundation on strong lyrics and a versatile flow. So how did the Massachusetts/California collab work out? Lets get into it and see what it is.
The intro I Hear Voices sets the tone for the rest of the 10 track album. Statik hits us with a soulful instrumental that starts off with his signature smooth R&B vocals. Statik also flexes his rap muscles a bit by providing the hook: Like we always do it this time/ I came to shine/ I came for mine/ This is Slaughterhouse showing off in its prime. The last bar gives an inception style shout out to Crooked's Slaughterhouse family. The first part is a literal enough, Slaughterhouse is the name of his group. But "showing off in its prime" could highlight a deeper connection. If we read "prime" as "PRhyme", we are now talking about another emcee/producer duo. PRhyme is a group formed by producer DJ Premier and emcee Royce da 5'9". Royce is also another member of Slaughterhouse. So Crooked could be giving a shout out his group as a whole, and to a single member as well. Crooked jumps into the track with lyrical precision and a clear theme. The track dissects the duality of having so many people love you, while so many others hate you. He paints contrasting images of his pre rap life and his current situation. Crooked is able to hit that perfect mixture of emotional lyrics and lyrical wordplay. While the rest of album showcases a good range of varied rap styles and beats, I think is was a good choice to kick off the album with a track that felt like a classic Statik/Crooked track.
Outside of the hip hop community, KXNG Crooked might be the Slaughterhouse member with the least amount of mainstream visibility. That being said, hip hop heads know that Crooked's career did not start in 2011 with his signing to Eminem's label. Crooked is a respected West Coast lyricist that has taken the long road. From Virgin Records to Death Row Records (didn't know that huh? and if you did..hit me..let's talk hip hop) to starting his own record label (Dynasty Entertainment), Crooked has put in his dues and then some. This road less traveled (especially in this YouTube/World Star/social media celebrity era) forges an emcee that is built for the long haul. As referenced in the intro I Hear Voices, PRhyme is another example of a solid emcee and producer duo. Both Crooked and Royce came up on albums that featured one emcee and one producer. From Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff, to Eric B and Rakim, to Gang Starr, the 80s and 90s were stocked with great duet albums. Just as many others things come full circle, I hope that the emcee/producer albums find their way back into the forefront of the hip hop landscape. Both PRhyme and Statik KXNG set the bar for what we expect from a single emcee and producer duo album.