There's this thing called the internet, you may have heard of it. It's fundamentally changed how we communicate with people and navigate the world and shop and get our news and read and, of course, how we listen to music. Where once music was a finite resource, a physical, expensive object taking up three-dimensional space, now it's ethereal, a resource so expendable and abundant it can be brought to life or killed off with a single haphazard click.
From Beyonce's surprise album to Taylor Swift keeping 1989 off Spotify, artists are maneuvering like fighter pilots to regain that feeling of the album release as an event, but they're really just using the internet to solve the problems of the internet, merely re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic. If an artist truly wanted to recreate that feeling of holding an album in your hands, unwrapping it, knowing that you possessed one of only a limited amount of albums in the world, they could always just - now stay with me here - only make physical copies. As in only. As in no Spotify streams or YourTube videos or iTunes links. Only...physical...copies.
It's an idea that 15 years ago was a simple, everyday reality but now seems almost shockingly revolutionary. What artist in 2014 would have the courage to do something like that, and the confidence to believe fans would follow their lead? Motherfucking Crooked I, that's who.
When I spoke to Crook last week he described himself as an independent savage, and really there's no better term to describe the west coast emcee. By remaining fiercely independent for years he's built a devoted community of fans, he's insistent on referring to them as family, and without the bureaucracy of a major label weighing him down, he's flexible enough to feed his "family" what they want to eat when they're hungry. He can release a song like "I Can't Breathe" because he believes in the message without worrying about meeting with disapproval from the marketing department. And when he wants to give his fans that physical-only experience, he doesn't have to convince a room full of executives to do it. It's already done. And that's why today his new album Sex, Money and Hip-Hop is available in the real world. There is only a real, actual thing that you're going to have to find and grab with your hands if you want it.
Of course, in many ways Crooked I is in, or I should say has put himself in, a very unique position. At the same time that he gets to enjoy all the benefits of being independent, his membership in Slaughterhouse - a collection of other indie rappers seeking refuge from their major labels experiences - and Shady Records has allowed him to see how a marketing machine operates. In all likelihood he'll have a platinum plaque on the wall of his home studio thanks to Shady XV. And while he's currently attempting to regain some footing in the physical world, the internet has fueled a significant portion of his indie success. Let's not forget who one of the founders of the now ubiquitous weekly series was.
So really, who else is more equipped to try an experiment as bold as the Sex, Money and Hip-Hop mixtape experience? Who else is a better candidate to launch a My One Shot show alongside Sway and DJ King Tec that will give aspiring emcees a chance to impress the judges and perhaps win a record deal with SMH Records? Who better to continue to push hip-hop into the future while remaining true to its roots?
Those were rhetorical questions. Motherfucking KXNG Crooked. That's who.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]