by Tobe Burgos-Passiglia
On Saturday, June 22, I returned to Moe’s and had the pleasure of interviewing Oxford, Mississippi artist King Krooked Letta. I was familiar with his work from his hip-hop, but I learned that he has many more musical and artistic pursuits.
Tobe: I listened to “Put It On My Tombstone.” There’s a combination of rock and rap going on that reminiscent of Run-DMC. Do you consider yourself as more in rap or rock?
King Krooked Letta: I wrote the song, made the rough draft beat to the song, and then I rapped on the song. But I write poetry, R&B, country, rock and roll, movies, and videos. So, I write all the genres. I can’t just stick with one genre.
So, you’re an artist. You’re a performance artist, producer, writer, lyricist. That’s excellent. Do you come from a family of artists?
I’m half Keller. My dad was Daniel D. Keller, he wrote music. My mother’s name was Melvinia Barr, she wrote poetry. My great grandmother was Molly Barr, who they named Molly Barr Road after. Her mother was Caroline Barr, who was in the William Faulkner brochures. Nicknamed Callie Barr. That was my great great grandmother that stayed on William Faulkner’s property. Right behind his house.
So you have a long history of your family in Oxford.
Yeah, and I have some goals as well. My first goal is starting a record label, you know, that will help out Mississippi. For years, you might say centuries, we’ve been having to run off to places like Atlanta or Chicago, you know, to start our careers off and get on record labels. I plan to start a record label so we don’t have to go that far. And another one of my goals is to set up places for kids in Oxford to go to.
It sounds like you want to help people.
Yes, and another goal is to get one woman and marry one woman.
So, are you signed to a record label called I.M.U.
Oh, that means Intelligent Minds United. That was a record label that I was trying to create, and still am. I’m not signed yet. But I have turned down deals in the past. I just got out of a Southside Hustler’s deal, which is still selling. It was an album that I produced in ’94 called Life of a Hustler by the Southside Hustlers. It hit many southern states in America. It’s still selling in the mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo. I only got paid $230 off of it.
For the whole album? How many songs were on it?
About four or five. It sold pretty good, but the guy I was messing with wanted to mess me out of most of the album money, and he did.
If you could work with another artist who would it be?
Are you talking local?
I mean, local, or any artist.
Well, I really do dig Newt [Rayburn, a.k.a Newt Cooter]’s guitar playing. I like working with Newt and I like working with Tom Chaos [Queyja]. Tom was the one singing lead on “Put It On My Tombstone.” And I would also like to work with Mariah Carey, and Chaka Khan.
Have you played many venues?
I’ve done over 60 shows on the Square. One season me and another guy was holding down a club called Karma about a year or two ago that was around the corner. We were doing shows there almost every night.
What happened to it?
They closed the club down after about a year. I have performed in many clubs up here. I’ve done two shows on the 4th of July, too, on the Grove at Ole Miss.
Was it the summer series?
Mhm. Also, in junior high I was the first and only rapper to perform on Channel 9 news.
That’s really cool. So you started pretty young. What was the first time you performed?
The first time I performed was in the first grade. There was a beautiful half-white half-black girl that I was in love with. I was too scared to tell her I liked her, so I wrote a poem and I had somebody give it to her. She fell in love with it. That’s when I first started writing. I wouldn’t say it was a performance, but after that I was performing in church. Doing acts with my older brother, who would sing. He was the one that helped me out during the Southside Hustlers crisis that was going on. He helped me out for years financially. His name’s Aric Keller.
I noticed you have the album Awakened in 2013, and “Put It On My Tombstone” and a couple other tracks were released in 2019. Would you say you’re getting back into putting songs out there?
You could say so.
Can we look forward to a new album any time soon?
Many more albums! And I’ve been selling songs all this time. That’s how I’ve been staying eating.
Anything else you want to mention?
I have a cousin in music, too, his name is Young Mac. Also, I’d like to work with all sorts of rappers and artists here in Oxford. That’s one reason I look forward to this record label.