Crooked I has been around for a really long time. He was originally signed to Death Row in the Post-Snoop years and after the label fizzled he disappeared for a minute as far as the mainstream is concerned though he was still on the West Coast until reappearing nationally after mixtapes and his inclusion into lyrical powerhouse group Slaughterhouse. While Royce da 5'9 and Joe Budden seem to make the most noise and be seen regularly, Crooked I and Joell Ortiz tend to blend more in the background. That doesn't mean it's safe to sleep on either and Crooked I is out to prove that with his new independent album "Apex Predator".
Crooked starts off spitting with "Yodo" or "You Only Die Once" where in his first verse he talks about a potential ending for fake rap thugs and gangsters and what can happen to you. The beat is a serious head nodder too and is relatively simple. "Vegas on Biz" is a solid song where Crook shows his ability to paint a very detailed picture while talking about getting business done in the city of sin and why it's a good move both for practical tax reasons and the lifestyle that it affords. K-Young who also featured on the Slaughterhouse album handles the hook. Tech 9yne features on "Let Me Get it" and the flows on here are on point with a rapid tic and it is a welcome change yet it feels perfectly natural.
The title track "Apex Predator (My Gun Go)" has him incorporating politics and news items with street talk in a credible way to describe how he carries himself. The hook is catchy along with the beat. This song is pretty hot as it also straddles the popular 'gun talk' that Wayne and Jeezy use successfully. More introspective is "Nobody Cares" with Tena Jones as Crooked shows he knows whats going on asking if we pay attention and care to whats going on directly around us. "Crowns" is a 'brag rap' with Crooked letting us know about how he runs things but once again he is also very descriptive with his bars. "A Lady Fell in Love" is about the issues he finds dealing with his woman, from infidelity to his woman's reaction to it which I didn't expect at all to hear on this album.
"No Sleep Gang" isn't anything deep or special but it's solid. The 'single' or at least first video I saw was for "Crook 'n Porter" which just has Crooked spitting over one of Denaun "Mr. Porter" of d12's production. "Sumthin From Nothin" is a creative little track which is designed throwback style with simple sounds that can be made without actual 'production' techniques. The bars are also pretty solid. The album ends with "Tell Them MF's We Made It" with Crooked doing just what the song describes to his haters/critics.
The album is pretty short but I prefer to be left wanting more than wondering what happened. I was pleasantly surprised because while I know Crooked I can spit, I would question his ability to put this album together. There are some surprises and he does a good job with weaving in some different topics and directions without getting confused with who he is or straying from his lane. The production is more than solid and he uses different styles of rhyming from similes, metaphors, alliteration all seamlessly without overdoing it. If you like that 'real' hip-hop you should definitely check out Apex Predator soon.