Artist: Big K.R.I.T
At the 1995 Source Awards, held in the Madison Square Garden, a then-relatively-unknown Southern rap duo named OutKast won Best New Artist. At the time, the rap game couldn’t care less about the South; it was the peak of the East-vs-West beef. As a crowd of New Yorkers booed & jested, André 3000 simply declared “the South got something to say”.
Over a decade later, Mississippi native Big K.R.I.T has been taking his notes. K.R.I.T is deeply rooted in old-school Southern rap; his (self-done) production drips in the ‘70s soul samples & bumping 808s of the South’s peak, & his lyrics & accent are purely Southern. He’s similar to modern New Yorkers like Joey Bada$$ & Action Bronson who are all about bringing back the old-school flair of their city, but K.R.I.T has also never been too concerned with being a top lyricist; he can spit when he wants to, but he’s “more spiritual than lyrical”, as he’s proclaimed himself.
K.R.I.T has built a cult following through mixtapes like K.R.I.T Wuz Here & Return to 4Eva, where he fully shows off his potential as the new Southern king. But unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to translate that potential into his two commercial albums, as Live from the Underground & Cadillactica were both uninspired efforts that were simply products of his label. That’s why K.R.I.T left Def Jam; he’s released his third album 4Eva is a Mighty Long Time independently through his own label. With full creative control over his music, K.R.I.T has been able to make his most focused & cohesive work yet.
4Eva is easily his most personal work yet; it’s a double album split into the “Big K.R.I.T” side & the “Justin Scott” (his birth name) side. The first side is a collection of what made him such an intriguing artist in the first place; Southern-fried bangers that were designed to bump out of a good pair of subwoofers, & homages to his roots with appearances by UGK, T.I., CeeLo Green & Mannie Fresh. The second side is a much more personal & vulnerable affair; on “Drinking Sessions”, he sounds almost on the verge of tears as he bares his soul. “Price of Fame” is exactly what it sounds like, & “The Light”, one of the album’s immediate standouts, is a freewheeling jazz jam that showcases just how great K.R.I.T can really be lyrically.
Although the album is easily his most polished work, there’s still one thing that brings down the album a good amount; originality. It’s clear that K.R.I.T loves his subwoofers, but in the fourth installment of his series dedicated to his subs, the concept just loses its flair; the same can be said about his obsession with the old South. By the umpteenth mention of candy-painted Cadillacs or bumping 15s or homages to his forebearers, it just begins to wear thin.
The rap game these days is dominated by the South, except it’s evolved into different sounds & styles to keep it consistently on the map. K.R.I.T is stuck in a time capsule, that of the days when OutKast, UGK & Goodie Mob dominated the South. Even though he may not be catering to the current Southern scene, he’s still content with the lane he’s in, & still manages to make the music worthwhile instead of too dated, which is what makes him unique, & he’s happy to keep that lane 4eva.
Photo courtesy of Multi Alumni