If the last time you thought about Atlanta's crunk music champions Crime Mob was their 2004 classic "Knuck If You Buck"—or the recent episode of The Nod podcast about their smash single—you're in for a pleasant surprise. The group, who hasn't released an album since 2007, is making a comeback via another fighting-inspired track.
"We Can Hit" is a "cousin" to the group's biggest hit, Crime Mob producer Lil' Jay says. It appears on the brand new soundtrack to Creed II, overseen by Mike Will Made-It. The project has appearances by everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Nicki Minaj to Nas to Tessa Thompson, but Crime Mob's return is a high point.
The group (now consisting of Jay, his sister Princess, M.I.G., and Money Blac f/k/a Cyco Black) has bigger plans than just one song, though. They are, they say, teaming up with Mike Will in a larger way, signing to his label and working on a new album. Complex spoke with the group to find out how it all happened.
How did you having a song on the Creed II soundtrack come about?
Lil Jay: I think Mike Will took a liking to us. We did a Red Bull concert last year and we did "Knuck If You Buck." He gave us jerseys and stuff and we came there and showed out. He brought us to the studio and he liked our vibe. With Creed II, I guess he was thinking, "Okay, who can I put on there that can complement the album as far as fight music?" And who better than Crime Mob, that put one of the crunkest club songs out?
When did you make "We Can Hit"?
Lil Jay: We did "We Can Hit" back in 2013. It was originally for Crime Mob album number three.
How did you guys come up with the hook?
Money Blac: Basically, in my notes on my phone I come up with hooks. Lil Jay played the beat one day and it fit the beat, because that was the kind of music we make. We make uptempo crunk music. That's pretty much how it was, man. Just another day in the studio.
Princess: I don't want to sound all Debbie Downer, but I was against this song at first, because Jay made me get on it. I had to do a feature that day for somebody else, and before he could record me on there he told me to write to "We Can Hit." I protested because I wanted to do more music and I wanted people to know us outside of fighting. But my older brother won. I recorded my verse and then two months later, he said he sent it to Mike Will for Creed II and I was like, "No! I need to re-do my verse! I have to re-record it."
Lil Jay: Mike's main partner, his right hand man, had called me and said, "Mike Will is doing the Creed II soundtrack. I need you to send me nine or ten beats and two songs, and I'mma see what he says. So, not even ten minutes later, I sent the tracks over to Mike Will. He FaceTime'd me back and said, "Hey man. It sound like y'all still got it." I said, "Did you hear 'We Can Hit?" He said, "No, I'm still on track number three." Then he said, "I'ma hit you right back." It was probably five or six minutes later, he said, "Man, that 'We Can Hit.' That's the one. We need that. Come to the studio." And that's all she wrote. [Laughs]
How did the song change between 2013 and what we're hearing today?
Lil Jay: Nothing changed at all. The hook was already on the beat, but we just never got around to finishing it. The intentions for the song was supposed to be for the third Crime Mob album. It was something that was just in the folder tucked away. So from Mike's perspective, all he heard was a hook and a beat.
Princess, did you ever get to re-record your verse?
Princess: I didn't. What y'all hear is the original vocals recorded in Jay's bedroom. People like what they like, and sometimes you just don't have to overthink it. Even when Mike brought us to the studio to hear the full album, which is amazing by the way, I was like, "Hey, um, excuse me. I love everything, but can I record my verse over and send it to you? I'll go to a studio myself. I just want to re-record it." He was like, "No, I love it!" And I'm like, "No, but you don't understand." [Laughs] He loved it so I guess it was just capturing the energy of that day.
When Mike brought us to the studio to hear the full album, i was like, 'i love everything, but can I record my verse over?' -Princess
M.I.G., tell me about your contribution.
M.I.G.: I originally recorded my verse when me and Lil' Jay went to the studio with Mike. I was the first one on the song. So they had to do their verse, and then I had to drop my verse again, because the whole folder was lost.
Did you remember what you had done?
M.I.G.: Oh, it was a real search. I had to go through my email, 'cause Mike's right-hand man sent me the song when I left the studio. I finally found it and re-recorded it and sent it to Jay.
Is the beat exactly the same as it was in 2013? Did you retrack any of it?
Lil Jay: It's literally the same exact beat. Mike didn't touch it. It's just like when we did "Knuck If You Buck," Lil' Jon didn't touch the beat. Mike liked it raw and exactly how it is. I think it's going to be a successful single.
God got a way of making things complete, and Mike Will brought it together. -Lil' Jay
How much material was there for a never-released third Crime Mob album?
Lil Jay: Two albums strong.
Princess: I think all of the boys have a lot music individually and collectively that they can put together and make a lot Crime Mob albums. My computer is broken, so I don't have any music at this point. [laughs]
Lil Jay: During that time period we made a lot of music. Every day we would group up and we would listen to some beats. "We Can Hit" was one of the ones we came up with. We just didn't get around to the vocals. God got a way of makin' things complete, and Mike Will brought it together.
What makes a good Crime Mob hook?
Money Blac: To me, a good hook for Crime Mob is a simple, direct chant. We gon' yell that shit. Our whole thing is crunk and a lot of energy.
What are your plans now that the soundtrack is out?
Lil Jay: Well, Mike Will wants to sign us to the label. When everything goes through, you'll see us on Ear Drummer Records/Interscope. Crime Mob album number three will be distributed to the world.
What relationship does this song has have to "Knuck If You Buck"?
Lil Jay: It's a cousin to "Knuck If You Buck." It got that same energy, that same feel with the snares and the bass and the strings. It's definitely a club hit, and it's featuring one half of Rae Sremmurd. He sauced it up, too. That's a great feature for us. I think that's one of the biggest features we ever had on a Crime Mob song. He took it to a whole 'nother level. And he love the song, too.
Mike Will wants to sign us to the label. When everything goes through, you'll see us on Ear Drummers RECORDS/Interscope. -Lil' Jay
Princess, last year there were reports that you and Diamond were going to be working on an album. Is that still happening?
Princess: Yeah. We recorded a couple of records and we shot a video for one of them. We aren't gonna put it out right now. She isn't around the group right now. Maybe in the future, when the stars align, we can get everything back going. But it is in the vault and it's a couple of other records that she's on with the group. In due time, you guys might hear 'em.
How is your music as a duo different than Crime Mob?
Princess: There's a little difference because we're both females and it's more of that female energy, but the song that we shot a video for, it was a song that males and females could relate to. I like working with women outside of the boys, because we can talk about different things.
Right after we stopped working together I joined a girls group called Project Girls Club. So now I channel my female energy that way. I'm blessed to be able to do both.
Who's in that group?
Princess: It's me; a singer/songwriter Mika Means who wrote "Juicy Booty" with R. Kelly and Chris Brown; D Woods from Danity Kane; and Shanell from Young Money.
Other than Creed II, do you have a favorite Rocky movie?
Princess: My favorite is the one with the Russian [Rocky IV].
Lil Jay: I guess mine would be Mr. T. [Rocky III].
M.I.G.: I done sat down and watched every Rocky.
Money Blac: I'ma say my favorite Rocky movie is Rocky IV with the Russian dude.
M.I.G.: Y'all don't like Clubber Lang? Like, what the hell?!
Lil Jay: Y'all don't like Mr. T?
I'm sorry I asked. I hope it doesn't break up the group. What else do you want people to know about Crime Mob?
Lil Jay: Thanks to Mike Will for even reaching out to invite us to the Red Bull culture clash and to the studio. And for inviting us to the whole campaign about Creed II. I really appreciate him and I'm humbled by this, 'cause we ain't put out nothing and now he wants to sign us. We're on the soundtrack with some heavy hitters—Nicki Minaj, Nas, Rick Ross. We back like '04, "Knuck If You Buck." In a major, major way.
Princess: I want people to understand that we did start at a young age before the social media era, when you had to touch every city. We were the youngest ones at the time doing it. Then we went through legal stuff and we fought for our publishing and stuff. We have that now, and we own the masters of our records. Everything comes full circle.
I want people to understand that everything that Crime Mob does isn't all crunk and it all isn't fighting. We have another sound that people are about to hear. -Princess
You just need time to step back, reevaluate the situation and rebuild, restructure, and them hit 'em again. This time we're coming again and we have crunk music, we have fight music, but we also have other types of music. I want people to understand that everything that Crime Mob does isn't all crunk and it all isn't fighting. We have another sound that people are about to hear. I'm so excited and grateful to Mike Will for allowing us to help use his platform to boost our careers again. This will last another fifteen years. I think "We Can Hit" is gonna go well with "Knuck If You Buck" and it's gon' boost those sales even more. So stream, stream, stream!