Crooked I

With Slaughterhouse momentum in full force, a release from veteran West Coast MC Crooked I is undoubtedly met with high expectation.  On In None We Trust: The Prelude EP, Crooked I embarks on a lyrical quest to impart knowledge on hood culture, love of money, and most importantly, his bravado.

While maintaining his usual sharp wordplay and flow, the verbose Crooked I relies heavily on club-friendly sounds and predictable themes but falls short of innovative concepts or musicality.  If you’re a fan or've been privy to his catalogue history, you have a sense of Crooked I’s quality as an MC.  This project, however, forces the listener to dig optimistically for quality moments.

The redeeming qualities begin with the standout track on the EP: “Pocket Full of Money.” The beat and sample blend smoothly to produce a breezy West Coast vibe, while drums and cymbals work well to enhance the mood created by an effortless lyrical flow.  Crooked I’s expert flow is further displayed on tracks “Diamond in the Back” and “Drum Murder.” Gangsta-ripe “Goin’ Bad,” features a superfluous female addition but the tempo allows listeners follow Crooked’s flow where his lyrics are most enjoyable to listen to: “We combining all our energy to take over the industry/our synergy, symmetry, is finna be felt tremendously.”

The remaining tracks, though, struggle to match the quality of these.  “Roll Call” (featuring Glasses Malone,Jay Rock, Mistah Fab, Coniyac) easily commands high energy and showcases skillful lyricism, but a mundane beat hinders its full potential. A pop-heavy chorus on “Ssuutt x 2” detracts from the “hard” quality of the track. Regurgitating the overly-done competition motif, the aptly titled first single, “No Competition,” is a harsh blend of drums and board effects that are only further magnified by an annoying chorus.  Constantly teetering across the line of average, tracks are either plagued by over-production and mediocre beat-selection that distract from Crooked I’s verses...or they display proficient production but fail lyrically to develop linear thoughts beyond basic concepts such as being the “best,” “taking over,” and being “real,” without much contextual narrative backing.

In None We Trust sustains Crooked I’s reputation as a worthy emcee, but it certainly does not push Crooked I’s catalogue of material to the next level, nor does it give listeners hints that his musicality has progressed in any critical way.  The effective wordplay and occasional redemptive head-nodders carry the project, but still can’t save it from the fact that the EP is wrought with predictable motifs in substitute of deep content and beats unworthy of club-hit-sensation status. Fans will certainly find the flow and sampling of solid tracks enough to tide them over until the next release.

- Sandra Manzanares