Words and Photography by Jamie Moses
Amidst a string of grinding lock-downs, the release of the infamous Dane ‘Morph’ Crook is one positive we can all enjoy.
Morph learnt the ropes working on Blueprint videos before being instated as Palace’s filmer, whilst also producing a host of self-directed video projects and work with other skate brands. As well as his obvious filming skills and the magnetic personality shown in his videos, it’s no secret that he acted as a social shotta. In his teenage years this meant little more than a eighth between mates. However, as he matured and his profile in the skate industry increased, unfortunately, so did the dealing antics. Spliffs became bags, bags became bricks and the money got serious. Holding up a family favour into deeper drug related work was Morph’s final downward spiral.
What was once a lowkey side hustle had become an almost full-time career with notable filming trips being passed upon in order to maintain an increasingly thirsty drug business.
Morph is also unafraid to tell of how his own habits suffered through this time with recreational drug use turning into engulfing addictions in Xanax, Crack and Heroin. Naturally, this led to a steady withdrawal from Morph’s input into the skate scene with a diminishing drive and decreasing grip on his own reality.
Eventually, after a reasonable resignation period from skating, Morph’s time was finally up. His Walthamstow flat was flash raided in less time than it took for a local mate to knock for a smoke. A range of Class-A kilo bricks, hydraulic press, pill press and ammunition was found his in his possession landing him a 6 year sentence in HMP Pentonville.
Fast forward 4 years and Morph has a reinstated sense of perspective, clarity and an insatiable buzz for all things productive and skate related. His first Instagram posts since his release on February 11th tell of a child-like amazement of societal changes such as contactless payment and McDonald’s delivery. It’s clear he’s returned with happiness in his heart and newfound sense of freedom in more ways then one.
I met Morph through a chance encounter a few days after his release and he kindly agreed to let me interview him on the last 5 years of his life.
We begin roughly 6 months after his arrival at HMP Pentonville and how things have since developed since then…
After you had settled into prison, did you find it easy to make friends?
Yeah actually, people quite liked me, you know what it is? People think when you’re going to jail you have to be a badboy and all that but people kind of respect you for just being you. After a little while you get talking to people about what you actually do and with the skating and that, a couple of boys had seen my Instagram and they were like. “Oh my god you do your thing innit!” It’s funny because at first I didn’t want to tell people I was a skater because I was thinking like these roadman are going be bare on to me. A lot of people had been brought to jail by their lifestyle, so when they saw I what I had done, travelling and putting out video projects when I actually came from those same ends as them they looked at it as though I’d done something. Even if it wasn’t music or whatever their into they respected it still. I did meet some man that were like “Pfft skateboarding, there’s no money in that” trying to talk shit on it and that, but yeah most people were gassed on it. By the time I’ve come out, you know a few years have passed and people are aware of what Palace, Supreme are and people were like “Oh shit you’re involved with them boys!”
Like I say people weren’t gassed on like calling me the ‘plug’ or how much food I got caught with or whatever. They were gassed on the skate thing which was just sick, when you think these guys in here are murders and that and they’re still looking at the photos on the walls in the cell like gassed on the skating.
How did you find trying to keep up with what was going on outside of prison and managing communication with friends and family?
I could pretty much always call up my dad, but because I kind of fell off the skating and filming thing a couple of years before I went to jail I didn’t really want to ring people up and talk about skating because it was a bit irrelevant at that time, you know what I mean? It was only after about a year when the jail thing made me realise what’s important in my life and what bought me here. I was never really about the selling weed or the respect you get from that bullshit it was always about the filming skating and that’s what I’ve been gassed on since I was young. When you’re in there and you start to miss it and you’re like “fuck…” and so I started to chat to people outside and find out what was going on and that. Even then it was still hard though because someone is only going to tell you one of fifty things that happened that week.
And everything seems bigger when you can’t see it for yourself…
Exactly that’s it.
What were the most fucked aspects of prison?
Corrr… I saw loads of shit. People getting kettled, people getting sliced, fucking royal rumbles on the wing with 7 or 8 man fighting another 7 or 8 man. These fights would go on for a long time as well, you’re sitting there and dudes are throwing whatever they kind find at each other, they’re picking up industrial hoovers, tables, chairs anything else they can grab and chucking them down the stairs at the mandem. Anything you can imagine, people would throw at each other and the gov’s would come and even they would be like “fuck that!”
I’ve seen so much mad stuff, I remember one time I went out on a visit and these guys were arguing in the visiting hall like before we got to meet the visitors and one guy was going on to another geezer like “Alright, fuck that. Cool I’ll chat to you later innit.” So I’m thinking it’s all squashed and this geezer’s next to me with his visitor pals and that and they’re asking him like, “Brudda, why are you pissed off man?”
And he goes, “Ahh I’ve just had a problem with someone.”
And they’re like, “Who?”
And He’s gone, “Oh that my man” pointing to the other fella.
They’re straight away walking over to the other guy he was arguing with in the holding cell and just go and straight up crash him, punching him in the face and that and started a full on ruck in the visiting hall. Everyone in the visiting hall is just sitting there like, “Rah!”
But yeah there was loads of funny shit too, dudes getting pissed up on the distilled alcohol we were making from the hooch. There was this one guy who got pissed up because they forgot to give him his meds, so he got licked and threw himself on the netting roof separating the floors. He starts jumping around on the netting bouncing up and down and shouting that he ain’t banging up. Finally, once he’s passed out up there on the netting for a couple of hours with no top on, he’s woken up looking like a fucking chess board with all these squares printed all over his skin from the netting, still pissed out his face.
Every day was just a fucking different story! Pretty much everything that you can imagine happens apart from the raping ting. You can come out the shower with your dick hanging out and people are not on it. They will be like, “Oi brudda. Brudda what you doing? Put that away!”
People in there are pretty behind in that sense and ain’t afraid to call you a batty man if you’re doing them things. So yeah none of the raping stuff happened.
Your prison hacks videos on insta were quality, how did you learn to make hooch in your cell?
It was all just passed on really from people in there, I’d be lying if I said I came up with it myself! I was always into making things though, so like I’d used to make ecstasy from scratch. So when I went to jail and everything is a currency I was thing yeah maybe I could brew some hooch and make some money. Someone showed me how to do it and it’s like orange juice, brown bread and a bit of sugar and after a week or so you basically got a bottle of something that tastes a bit like red wine and orange juice but not so nice. At some point someone told me, basically if you cook it and catch the condensation, that will give you pure alcohol innit.
So I was sort of figuring it out for myself I got a bucket and broke off a bit of a kettle and removed the earth cable so I could throw it in the hooch bucket and it get wet. So we’d have a bowl suspended halfway up the bucket and a plastic bag held over that with elastic bands to keep it air tight and we’d heat it up. As it heats up we’d pour cold water on the bucket and as the cold water hits the steam it forms droplets that drip down into the bowl and basically whatever you catch is pure alcohol. It got to the point where like it was so pure you could set it alight and if it didn’t set alight I’d redistill it. You know, it had to be, ‘the fire’ because people wanted to see that it set alight.
So you managed to sell that then?
Yeah fucking sold a lot man. I mean I’d be lying if I said I made grands off it, but yeah man cut through with some change still. Like £100 a bottle and I don’t really drink so yeah it definitely added up. I could have made a lot more, but I got caught so many times and ended up getting like 200 extra days added on. After a while I just clocked it was muggy and packed it in.
What changes have you noticed in skating since you got out?
since I’ve come out a lot has changed you know. More money. Just more people doing it. It seems like it’s a bit more open now. Like kids used to do their thing but like whether it was legit or not people had some sort of opinion about it. Whereas now it seems like people can do their thing, skate how they want to skate and film how they want to film.
Like since I’ve come out people film stuff completely different to how I have ever filmed stuff, we always used to have an industry standard. People didn’t really do the zooming in on the face and then on the feet thing and before, that wouldn’t have been something people were open to. Skateboarding was so small and tight knit that people would have just shunned that like, “No no. That’s not how we do it and you can keep that to yourself” or whatever. So much more is accepted now because so many more people are into it.
Even with girls skating back in the day it wasn’t as woke and there was only like three kind of tomboy girl skaters who were known and people would sort of say like, “Oh yeah she’s good for a girl.” Now it’s sick there’s like way more girls then before at the skateparks all with banging styles and that and it’s mad seeing this change after the four years away. Also the more girl skaters the better the progression, because when you watch videos and when you progress it’s because of what you’re taking in. If a girl skater is only seeing girls who aren’t so good they aren’t ever going to believe they can take it to that next level. Now girls can see the levels that other girls are setting and think, “yeah I can get there too with a bit of practice” and before you know it they’re all fucking killing it and with much better style then before too! So yeah a lot has changed in that sense man.
It seems like in many ways the jail time was a blessing and help redirect you to what you actually enjoy doing. What’s been your mentality since getting out?
Literally Just skating! For a while before I went in I kind of thought that people wanted to be around me and liked me just because I had drugs, like you get that vibe. Seeing all these girls and people around and you’re thinking like do they really want me or do they know I just have the coke or whatever it is. And so I start seeing all this love on Instagram when I was starting to get out and I realised people like me because of my filming and skating and because I’m a nice guy and that and not cause of what I’ve got. So that made me think fucking hell!
Obviously skating is the thing that has always made me the happiest most so naturally I wanted to get back into that. Again though four years is a long time and that was making me think like maybe I’m not relevant anymore? There’s going to be kids who have come up through skating whilst I’ve been away and didn’t even know me from before and I was thinking are they going to be like, “Who is this guy?” because they might have only been skating sort of 3 years or so. Whilst I was in I was just worried that people wouldn’t care anymore, like people not wanting to film with me or that I’m some ‘has been’ or something.
But yeah to be honest it’s been the complete opposite and people have really embraced me.
So I’m back working as a filmer for Palace and keeping on the straight and narrow. But yeah it’s not even like I’m intentionally on the straight and narrow, it just feels more natural now. Selling drugs was never something that excited me, it was just a way I could afford to film skateboarding without a day job. I’m so blessed now to be at the point where I can film skateboarding as my job and that’s the bottom line with no need to be hustling. I’m nice now and as far as doing drugs is concerned I don’t feel like I need them anymore because I haven’t got the worries and stress of selling drugs anymore. People never realise the stresses of selling kilos at a time and how any minute you could get raided or some next guy could run up in your yard and take your shit whilst putting a gun in your face, especially when you have as much weight as I did. You basically have to really want to do it with the dealing and to be honest, I didn’t really want to do it. So I was doing all sorts of drugs just to stop the anxiety of selling and I’ll be real man, I was fucking caning it just because it was the only thing that would stop the anxiety. But yeah like now I’m clean, I can be around drugs and I don’t care for it because I don’t need it anymore and the worry’s gone so there’s no need for me to totally ply myself full of Xanax, just to not worry.
If anything I want to take this all in because I’m having such a good time, I don’t want any drugs that are going to interfere with this high. The feeling I’m on right now is better than any drugs bro! People are showing me love, I got a banging job, I can wake up at any time I want. Like if it’s raining I won’t skate and if it’s dry I’ll get out there but either way I’m getting paid. People say you never work a day in your life if you enjoy your job innit! You could say the selling drugs mad me money but bro… That was never enjoyable!
When I was selling, it was just tending to other people’s drug needs. Like I don’t care how many grams of this or that you want, but because I’m selling it there’s an expectation there and I couldn’t really turn down that four bills for a few grams of coke, but now there’s no expectation. It’s already made me so much more free like I can go to Chewy’s house and make the decision when I like if I want to stay over or something. Before, I never had that because my phone would ring and I’d have to cut out and make this money and so it’s just a lot of stress lifted. And like before, I’d be worrying about what money people owed so I could get the reup, it’s just stressful bruv. I got fucking grey hairs because of it!
So yeah this buzz I’m riding right now boy, fuck! I hope it lasts forever, because I’m not trying to go back to any stupid shit and I can pretty much promise to everyone that I will not be doing that!
With the dealing I’ve done it for 15 years and it did nothing for me, I ended up in jail for four years. The mandem in jail respect me, the skaters respect me and I don’t have to prove anything anymore, I can just do what makes me happy now.
Besides the Palace work have you got anything else on for the future?
I didn’t really want to tell anyone because I don’t want it to flop, but go on I’ll tell you anyway. So obviously I used to do the Piffsticks thing; I want to start something that’s kind of my own and I don’t really want to do anything that will step on people toes like a board company. I want to do something fresh because there’s enough of that already. So I’m thinking of a smoking accessories company, you know like Rizla’s and all that, not even to make money really, just so I can hook-up all the boys. Like all the weed smoking skaters and that, Piffsticks was something that they could represent without it being an issue with their other sponsors. You know like I had some good guys like Antwuan Dixon, Benny Fairfax, Chewy, you know gassed guys like Rodrigo Tx. Fam I was gassed and yeah it’s not even for the money I just want to do something where I can give back to people a little bit.
Aside from that I’ve got the HD camera, the VX and the Betamax with Brooks for the palace stuff so yeah I’m pretty much open to anything freelance too. I’ve already filmed so much stuff in the last 10 days people are like, “Fuck yeah, lets go out with Morph!”
With so many people skating for teams like Nike, Adidas and New Balance they sort of have some money to chuck at a video, so if anything comes up yeah of course I’ll do it, why not. The work rate is mad right now, if I’m honest and I’m almost waiting for me legs to go on me. Fucking hell, I’ve been sitting on a bed for about 20 hours a day for the last 4 years, you know what I mean. I thought I was going be fucked even from skating between spots and that. But yeah I’m holding up nicely so far.
You’ve still got the tricks too…
Yeah man I can still buss some shit yeah! Even people in jail were like, “corrr… Crooksy you’re getting a bit old.” Taking the piss that I might not have it anymore and that and then they’ve seen stuff from my Instagram since I got out and been like, “Brudda! You can really do it and that.” Gas ting!
Is there anything you wanted to end with?
Look man I’m not trying to preach or nothing cause everyone does their thing, but I just hope that even if people just hear my ting they clock that things can snowball into things that you really can’t get out of. I’m not trying to go on like some county lines child grooming ting cause it weren’t that with me, but brudda I was getting pressured to do things because I fucked up. So obviously do your thing, but really try and think of something legit to do. The selling drugs thing might work at one period of time but by the time this generation is 40 or so years old, it’s going to be so much harder to do anything illegitimate. The whole cashless society and the banks watching your accounts, it’s all mad and you’ll get left behind. Of course there will always be some way to do it but, just think about using that intent for something legit because if you can sell drugs the skills are transferable.
I just urge people to think outside the box and do something that is going to make you happy and can get you somewhere cause the drugs thing doesn’t get you anywhere. Real talk man, you might see the dons flossing on Insta, but once you get caught fam… You ain’t coming out to no p’s, cause the government will have taken your p’s. It’s not even about the jail time, cause we can all do that, but it’s the money they try to take from you. If they see you dressed out in drip and they raid your yard and find Louis this and Prada that, they’re adding it all up cuz, they’re looking at your car, adding that on too. Say you’ve been doing it four years, they say you’re looking at 100 bags a year in earnings, before you know it they’ll try and take 400 bags off you cuz. They’re seeing it all cuz and they’re not dumb. That’s where it really fucks up and that’s where you’ll be sad, because you’ll put in all this work, even have beefs with people and then one day it’ll come crashing down on you. You won’t even know the day and it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks fam. Next, you’ll be sitting in a jail cell going, “Fuck… now I also have to pay all this money back to the government and then sit in jail.” Then, still have to pay it when you get out. Even if you get out and want to go legit, they will be looking at you and seeing whether you have a job and go, “Boom, okay we will take whatever portion of that salary a year as repayment.”Like I say, I’m not trying to preach but just read some stories and clock that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows or fucking big chains and big whips.
It gets dark fam, you might last a little bit if you’re only shotting smaller bits here or there, but for me fam, trust me. It got dark and it definitely weren’t the place to be. I’m not saying you lot have to listen to man, but fuck it. Even if my story only helps one person so be it. I wouldn’t wish anything that happened to me on anyone, not even my worst enemy.