The prolific hip hop artist explains why he’s slowing down.
While entrenched in Southern rap heritage, Big K.R.I.T. aims to chisel his own path through the polished grill wearers and double-cup sippers. Too smart to be ignorant, too worldly to be preachy, he embraces the challenge of pleasing fickle fans and promoting the culture of his oft-ignored state Mississippi. The 28 year old is a veteran of the digital era’s exhausting release culture with six mixtapes, two albums and two EPs released since 2010.
Producing and rapping across 200 songs in four years, a sub-plot developed around K.R.I.T.’s talent. Was he creatively burnt out? Would he make concessions to chase the elusive hit single? K.R.I.T.’s 2012 Def Jam debut Live from the Underground was decent, but not quite the grand reveal fans expected.
Last November, he silenced fears with his sophomore album Cadillactica. K.R.I.T. outsourced collaborators including DJ Dahi, Raphael Saadiq and Jim Jonsin to share his vision as well expanding his own production universe. The concept record about a planet created by 808 drums showcased a reinvigorated K.R.I.T. cultivating his introspective lyrics while dabbling further in storytelling, singing and contemporary flows. Now taking a deserved breather to consider his next move, I asked K.R.I.T. about his early records, what draws people to country rap and why he decided to take this album off-planet.
What was your first local hit in Mississippi?
Man, the first record that I did in Mississippi that got played on a radio station was called… ha, “Adidas 1’s in the Club.” It was basically a remake of Crime Mob’s “Stilettos (Pumps),” but we did our own version.
Did you start with a cliché street sound on your very early records before you found your own style?
Oh yeah, definitely, because I was a hardcore Three 6 Mafia fan too. Just a lot of the instrumentation and a lot of the content was extremely aggressive, so it was like more of a shock value thing of just how aggressive and how violent you could be on a song. I was probably like 13 or 14, man, and you grow out of that pretty fast because you grow to the point where you start playing your records for a lot of people that actually know you, older people, and they know damn well that you ain’t living that kind of lifestyle. In the beginning it was just your imagination ran wild on a record, and you could pretty much rap about anything and everything under the sun just to kind of build this superhero character of yourself on record.
Is there a chance if you weren’t making music or playing baseball you’d be working for the railroad?
Definitely, it’s one of those things where it’s a very lucrative job to have. My dad works on the railroad, my uncle worked on the railroad, I’ve got cousins that work. It keeps you away from home, but you make a really good living and it’s one of careers that you can retire at. So if I ended up staying in Meridian, Mississippi, I probably would have been working on the railroad and be able to acquire some kind of financial freedom at an early age.
Why do artists and promoters usually skip over Mississippi?
It goes to what people know as the far as the history is concerned and having some kind of idea that Mississippi is how it used to be, that’s one thing. It’s not necessarily a vacation destination too, if you would just generally want to go. Thirdly, I think people sometimes forget that there is an actual fan-base down there. If you’re talking about metropolitan cities, there are not really a lot of huge cities in Mississippi. So if you’re not really in touch with the ground-work, street team aspect in the deep south then you wouldn’t even understand or realize that you have a fan-base there.
Alabama is the same kind of place where people don’t necessarily always go to do shows. Arkansas is one of those places as well. I’m a strong believer in making my rounds in what people call the Chitlin’ circuit to kind of keep that foundation going, because a lot of those fans are going to be fans forever because they support the music 100% regardless of whether you have a hit record or not.
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