Rapper KXNG Crooked has shared his thoughts on 2Pac’s ‘All Eyez On Me’ to marks the album’s 25th anniversary today (February 13), as well as revealing to NME that he has an unreleased track that has a special connection to the legendary rapper.
Crooked, who has worked with the likes of Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg, called the Death Row Records album a “multilayered” project “packed full of all the messages we love hip-hop for”.
“‘All Eyez On Me’ allows listeners to experience hip-hop on a number of different levels,” Crooked told NME of the album, which features the hits ‘California Love’, ‘How Do U Want It’ and ‘2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted’. “From an underground level, to a mainstream level, to a cultural level, it’s such a multilayered album.
“It’s packed full of all the messages we love hip-hop for. The Public Enemy messages. The Ice Cube messages. It gives you rhyme and ciphering, with people like Method Man, Redman and Kurupt being on it. It gives you that slick talk that we love from the street corners. It has everything.”
He continued: “When I first heard it I felt like there was going to be no stopping 2Pac. He was so vivid with his words and that’s one of the reasons why we loved him so much. I thought he was about to make another 10 albums just like it and then be the biggest superstar we’ve ever seen.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t end up being the case. 2Pac was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas just seven months after the album’s release in September 1996. Crooked, who himself was once signed to Death Row Records years after 2Pac, revealed that he actually got the opportunity to meet his hero before his untimely passing.
“Him and Snoop [Dogg] were re-recording ‘2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted’ for a St. Ides beer commercial,” Crooked explained. “Because I’m from Long Beach I went to a lot of Snoop sessions, a lot of Dogg Pound sessions. It just so happened that 2Pac was at this particular Snoop session. I was blessed to be a fly on the wall that day and watch that man work.”
He went on: “They say if you shake hands with Frank Sinatra, you’re a made man in the music business. That’s how I felt back then with 2Pac. If you ever dapped him up then you were on your way to being a made man in the rap business. I definitely felt like a made man after that.”
Discussing how 2Pac inspired him to keep pushing on with his own career – even when he was homeless and sleeping in the back of a library in Long Beach – Crooked told NME that he has a song called ‘Dear Mama’ that he recorded before 2Pac released his famous track of the same name in 1995.
“When I was young, my mother left California for Oklahoma because the economy was fucked. Everything had turned super expensive,” said Crooked. “But I decided to stay. I wound up homeless and I started missing my mom so I wrote her a letter. I recorded it at this studio owned by two former NFL payers, Chuckie Miller and Leonard Russell, who took an interest in me. That song was called ‘Dear Mama’ and it was done before 2Pac did his.”
He continued: “About a month later 2Pac drops his ‘Dear Mama’ track. I said, you know what, I can’t use this song. I wasn’t even in a position as an artist at this time in my career to put music out. I was just making music for myself, for my soul and my sanity. But when I heard 2Pac’s ‘Dear Mama’ I realised I was on the right path because my favourite rapper of all time had created a song in the same vein as mine.”
“My record still exists,” Crooked added. “And just because of this conversation I’m gonna put it out. It’s a young Crooked, and you’ll definitely be able to tell.”
Meanwhile, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland recently revealed their hopes to do a 2Pac Vs. The Notorious B.I.G. VERZUZ battle.
Last month, ‘The Best Of 2Pac’ was released on vinyl for the first time.