Big K.R.I.T. is at the top of his game on his new double album. It’s an even split between booming subwoofers and tough-guy talk on one side and a considerable vulnerability on the other.
In July of 2010, Big K.R.I.T. made an unannounced appearance at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, opening for rapper du jour Jay Electronica, fresh off the heels of “Exhibit C.” The crowd—anxious to see the reclusive Jay Electronica in a rare performance—was clearly not there for K.R.I.T., and when he broke into his hit “Country Shit,” he was roundly booed.
The scene was reminiscent of the 1995 Source Awards, when a provincial New York crowd met the announcement of OutKast’s victory for Best New Rap Group with jeers. With Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, OutKast had made a record that was unapologetically of, by, and for the South. And it was always dope—it just took the rest of the world a few years to catch up. From the podium at Madison Square Garden, amid a chorus of boos, Dre declared “The South got somethin’ to say,” and over the next 10 years, people started listening.
More than two decades later, it’s clear that Big K.R.I.T. was taking notes. From the jump—his 2010 breakout K.R.I.T. Wuz Here—K.R.I.T. cemented his reputation as a Southern rap traditionalist. His unapologetic reverence for UGK and Organized Noize is well-documented; his work as a producer feels like a synthesis of the various branches of Southern rap history. In that way, he shares a similarity with the early work of New York formalists like Joey Bada$$ and Roc Marciano, who made their names capturing an aesthetic pulled from their city’s most classic records. But unlike his New York contemporaries, K.R.I.T. has never been overly concerned with lyrical dominance, brushing off Kendrick Lamar’s name-check on “Control” like he was annoyed to even have to respond. “More spiritual than lyrical,” K.R.I.T. doesn’t really seem to care if anyone thinks he’s the greatest rapper alive, as long as you know he holds it down.
K.R.I.T.’s latest LP, 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, finds him defiantly redrawing blurred lines between his work and home life—the first disc is dedicated to his Big K.R.I.T. persona, he of the booming subwoofers, candy-painted Cadillacs, and tough-guy talk. The second, marked by his government name, Justin Scott, is considerably more vulnerable, with earnest tales of love, his relationship with God, and the “Price of Fame.” And in this way, at least, he’s well-served by the double album construction. By saving much of the O.G. uncle wisdom for the Justin Scott half of the record, he avoids any awkward juxtaposition of his flexing and his meditations. Reflection rap from grizzled veterans is often poignant, and K.R.I.T. is at his strongest lyrically when he drops the macho facade (“Played it too cool, almost like I froze, had to turn my flame on,” he raps on “Drinking Sessions”), hindsight’s clarity granting him a more evolved perspective. He’s got some high-profile guest appearances from Southern rap titans (Cee-Lo, T.I., UGK), but spread out over 22 tracks, he manages to avoid being overshadowed.
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