The Remarkable Resurrection of Big K.R.I.T.

In between the three years that fans waited for the follow-up to the Mississippi rapper and producer’s second retail album on Def Jam—an eternity in the internet age—he walked away from his major label home and saw the momentum of his career cave in like a bad soufflé.

Last week, K.R.I.T. returned with his incredible double album4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, but the path the 31-year-old traveled down to get his promising career back on track wasn’t easy.

In 2010, K.R.I.T. conquered the world with K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, an album released as a free, downloadable mixtape, which could easily measure itself against the best hip-hop works available for sale that year. His voice and Southern drawl were, especially when he got hyped, reminiscent of Pimp C, which also mirrored his production style, a modern update of the beloved UGK sound, wherein blues, soul and gospel mesh beautifully with trunk-rattling 808s. K.R.I.T. doesn’t shy away from trap drums, but his beats typically sound warm rather than threatening—more Organized Noize than Young Thug, but undeniably Dirty South.

Lyrically, K.R.I.T. is equal scoops of T.I. and Talib Kweli, complete with a healthy dash of Scarface’s spirituality and introspection. The end result is a fully-formed artist who is a direct descendant of his influences but wholly his own man, though, one who can also produce his own delicious beats. Someone who offers a total package like that, of such high quality, and has also built up quite a buzz already, is an undeniably attractive asset to a record label and, of course, it didn’t take long for former G-Unit general Sha Money XL (who was top brass at Def Jam back then), to offer him a contract at the legendary New York label.

Talent aplenty and the backing of one of the biggest record labels in the business set the stage for K.R.I.T. to grow into one of hip-hop’s next icons. If T.I. was the king of the South at the time of his signing, K.R.I.T. was surely its crown prince. In 2011, he released Return of 4Eva, his second critically acclaimed tape, and announced his debut album Live From The Undergroundsoon after.

In the meantime, the highly productive artist didn’t sway from his mixtape roots. In early 2012, K.R.I.T. released 4 Eva N A Day. On its cover, a kid sits on a wooden porch, with a Bible left of him and a church in the background, while he gazes at a Cadillac parked in the lot of a strip club to his right. In place of the Bible on his other side, there is a liquor bottle. That duality—and the struggle that accompanies it—would form a recurring theme in his discography. For the third time, his beautifully bluesy rap songs garnered praise and countless downloads, providing him with a rarely repeated hat-trick.

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