KXNG CROOKED has found his purpose in helping the next generation of artists find their platform. What started as people asking to spit bars for him while he was grocery shopping has now turned into a program on BET, a competition called “One Shot.”
He came up with the idea a while ago and just needed time to put all the pieces together. He took the initial steps to get the show rolling, including approving the idea with the Writer’s Guild.
“When they sent me the registration paperwork, I put it on my wall and framed it in my bedroom,” he says in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. “I kind of just looked at it every day like you know what, I’m going to make sure that this concept comes to life. It meant a lot to me to build these platforms for these up and coming artists so I was going around talking about it with different people who I was trying to see who I wanted to partner up with it.”
This included talks with the people who created “American Idol,” but that partnership wasn’t meant to be. Crook continued bringing the idea to his friends, getting Sway on board to host the competition and King Tech to serve as a judge. He found another piece of the puzzle when he brought “One Shot” to Mike Smith, a country singer who has written for countless artists across numerous genres. They were working together with Horseshoe Gang when Crook brought the idea up and something clicked.
“This dude has some passion,” the Slaughterhouse rapper says. “He’s an artist and musician himself so I know he understands music, so it just made sense and I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Smith, who has numerous hits on the Billboard charts, calls the show “basically Hip Hop ‘American Idol’” and says he thought “it was an absolutely awesome idea.” The singer-songwriter serves as a judge and, to some extent, has the weightiest job of all because the winner of the competition will receive a contract with his SMH Entertainment.
Here’s how it works: the team traveled to four cities where more than 30,000 contestants participated. In the first round, the rappers performed for Horseshoe Gang. The group selected 50 artists to participate in the next round where they performed for KXNG CROOKED, Smith, King Tech and a guest judge. From there, six rappers were chosen to go into the studio and craft an original song with an artist mentor. Each of them performed their song for the judges and a live audience. One winner was selected from each city to compete in a national round.
BET Takes On “One Shot”
BET jumped on board after the four cities were already completed, so the network is planning to air those four episodes, then have a semi-final and a final to make six episodes total. For both Smith and Crook, the network was the perfect fit for their program.
“When we saw how big it was getting we decided to stop and look for a new home for it and what better home could you ask for this than the BET network?” Smith says.
His business partner likens the deal to when Slaughterhouse (made up of himself, Royce Da 5’9, Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden) signed with Shady Records.
“Me and Royce, we already knew yo, this would be perfect on Shady,” he says. “But, we weren’t on any label yet. We were just saying yo this would be perfect on Shady. It kind of came to fruition, we ended up on Shady Records and you know sometimes you don’t end up on the labels you think would be a good fit. You just end up having to take someone who’s interested and that works.”
He also explains how “One Shot” is helping bring back music television, especially now that “106 & Park” is no longer on the air.
“BET, I knew would be a good fit because they have a built-in audience,” he says. “The huge success of ‘106 & Park’ showed me that BET has the ability to push a show that has music in it, and a bit of fan engagement and stuff like that, and push it to the top, to the limit. Because you know when ‘106 & Park‘ was at its peak, I mean it’s one of the biggest shows on cable TV. Yeah, that was big so I figured you know, right now there is no ‘106 & Park,’ there’s no show that’s music driven that can live in that space so this would be perfect for that space that’s all open now. I’m trying to bring music back to TV anyway. Music has left TV. Music channels don’t even have music-related programs. All the reality shows is fine, but I’m trying to bring music-driven TV back.”
Crook hopes that each contestant will take advantage of the platform that BET is. Whether the artist wins or not, he says they can still further their careers through the opportunities provided on the show.
“They still get a certain amount of shine that they can use to promote their mixtapes, their SoundClouds, their new music, their new single on iTunes, their independent grind,” he says. “It’s always about marketing and promotion so if you enter a contest, you’re going to be on TV, period. Once you’re on TV, it’s your time to say, ‘Hey, everybody go watch this program, I’m on it,’ and once they see you on there, whether you win, lose or draw, we supposed to deal with BET, which has like 80-90 million viewers. That’s the potential. You have this big, big stage that you’re on and you can showcase yourself and you can talk about it on your social media and if you smart, which I’m hoping and I’m going to be talking to the artists like yo, put out a mixtape while that’s on, put out an EP, put some music out. Some videos, some visuals you know and let it go side by side with the fact that you’re on a major cable network.”
Smith himself had a personal moment of realization of the power of “One Shot” during the first stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was working with RZA, one of the guest judges, when they walked to the set.
“We’re going through playing some of the beats for the contestants to pick their songs that they’re going to rap over for the Sunday show, and then we go to the Sunday show in Charlotte — the first one — and you see a gigantic screen back there and it’s my face with Sway, Crook, and Tech and RZA. That was a great moment right there,” he says.
Smith didn’t let himself remain a distant figurehead of the show. He ran his own personal test in each city where he walked through the crowds waiting in line outside, playing his guitar to see who would jump into the song with him.
“That’s the thing is that part of why I go out there with my guitar is because you know you can have a great battle rap but how do you craft a song around that?” he says. “If you can’t do it over a song then there’s no point.”
n a similar way, KXNG CROOKED looks for true artistry in the competition. He ensured that the live performance was included as part of the process.
“I’ve been on stage before and the whole sound system went out,” he says. “So it’s like ‘Okay, now what you gonna do?’ You got to respond to that. So that’s when you got to just go old school and jump in the crowd and tell everybody to clap their hands and make a beat and you just start going. Because for you, the show has to go on. So are they going to just walk off the stage or what?”
“One Shot” Looks For Rappers Who Take Their Craft Seriously
Both are seeking to hold up the culture of Hip Hop with the “One Shot” competition. Smith, a Cuban born in Philadelphia, has worked with RZA, Twista, Slaughterhouse and many more Hip Hop acts. He sees a similar spirit in the culture as rock, which is how Ice Cube justified N.W.A getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“It’s probably why I’ve been writing so much the last couple of years for a lot of Hip Hop artists because rock has kind of died in the last 10 years,” he says. “Swagger, and that just kind of general attitude, ‘in your face’ attitude that was in rock has been translated by Hip Hop.”
Smith appreciates artists like Kendrick Lamar and Skyzoo, who he says keep real storytelling alive in contrast to some of the flashier rappers. He notices a similar trend in Hip Hop that rock went through, also.
“It feels like 1980s glam rock here in rap and Hip Hop,” he says.
KXNG CROOKED also expresses disappointment in the culture of Hip Hop today.
“It’s a weird time right now,” he says. “I remember when music reflected what was going on. Now you can have people protesting a Hillary Clinton rally or burning a flag outside of a Trump rally and then walk across the street to a rap concert talking about money and hoes. It doesn’t match. If you’re not talking about the times nowhere in your music then you’re not a real artist to me.”
The Long Beach rapper announced his Good vs. Evil album through HipHopDX and says it will be a much-needed voice for this generation, following in line with his friend Royce Da 5’9’s Layers album and the work of Tupac.
He sees that autotune and jumping around on stage are what’s hot right now, but he says that type of legacy won’t last. As fans get older, they will want more substance. He uses the examples of Rakim and KRS-One as artists who people are still paying to see decades after they broke onto the scene. KXNG CROOKED is looking for artists who understand this sense of timelessness.
“They like ‘Yo I’m not doing no trendy shit, I’m going to be as original as I can, I’m going to be into my craft, I’m going to be an artist about it’ you know those are the kinds of people that I’m looking for because there is already enough silliness in Hip Hop,” he says. “There’s enough of that. Instead of complaining about it, let’s go across the map and hopefully we’ll actually take this show across the globe, and let’s go find some people who are serious about their craft, and all they need is a shot.”
“One Shot” is set to air in August on BET.