The Re-Introduction of Big K.R.I.T.
Words: Landon Buford
Forward/Layout: Jon Powell
Photographer: Joshua Kissi
Wardrobe: Kwasi Kessie
RESPECT. Founder: Jonathan Rheingold
Copyright Musinart LLC 2017
In regards to reputation in Hip-Hop, the South has certainly come a long way. In terms of talent, artists below the Mason-Dixon line certainly had it and more; regardless, it seems as if the Southern Rap gods had to fight tooth and nail for genuine respect in ‘the game’ that New York City birthed. Now, those very legends have helped not only to put a permanent spotlight on the South, but also to affix themselves as Rap’s current crown bearers.
One artist that deserves to be included in this conversation: Mississippi mastermind Big K.R.I.T. The self-proclaimed ‘King Remembered In Time’ has been producing some of the best — no, the best country Rap tunes this side of Pimp C and André 3000. The many mixtapes and albums that propelled K.R.I.T. to icon status — from the classic K.R.I.T. Wuz Here to the how-the-f***-is-this-so-slept-on Cadillactica — are just as solid if not better than chart-topping projects from the peers who are compelled to salute him as the genius that he is. The truth is, out of the many styles that K.R.I.T. possesses, there are two that he’s probably most known for: the hard-hitting, pimp-esque blend that oozes swagger from the crevices of a Roland TR-808, and Justin Scott, the man bringing the introspective, the vulnerable and — for all intents and purposes — the higher-conscious. Either way, both deliver words best described as time-stopping and life-changing, further stamping his near-flawless legacy in music.
Given all this, RESPECT. was more than honored to chop it up with the Meridian emcee-producer during the promotional run for his latest offering, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, a sonically-breathtaking look into the aforementioned two sides of K.R.I.T. In addition to breaking down the album, writer Landon Buford got a chance to take things back to the essence of the virtuoso’s artistic genesis: you can consider this our true re-introduction to Big K.R.I.T.
RESPECT.: You started writing and making music in 1999. Did you have any prior training as part of your high school band or things of that nature?
I started playing the cello in elementary up until junior high school and decided not to play anymore.
RESPECT.: Being that you can read music, how has that helped you as an artist?
When I was younger, I think to be able to read music helped me out tremendously, but seeing that I am not actively playing an instrument, I am not as seasoned — I am more of this ‘feels and sounds right’ type of person. I do think that it did help me know how to play chords and understand crescendo. I guess [playing] the tuba and base [became] so vital to me because you are the backbone of the band for the most part. As far as reading music, please do not expect for me to do it now, but I do plan on learning how to play the piano. Just don’t put sheet music in front of me — I will fail horribly.
RESPECT.: Why did you decide to use the name Big K.R.I.T.?
Wow… you think about southern music like Lil, Big, Slim, Young. So, that is the idea of the beginning of your rap name. Before K.R.I.T. was an acronym, it was Kritikal. When I would perform at open mics in the early 2000s, people had difficulty pronouncing my name and understanding it. So, I decided to shorten it and called myself Krit. [As far as K.R.I.T.’s current meaning], I thank God I was able to come up with the acronym King Remembered In Time. It’s something that I will never be able to live up to as an artist, but it allows me to keep grinding and not get complacent.
RESPECT.: Why did you decide to give the fans a double album?
I think it was necessary for me, as a human being and an artist. I touch on this topic on “4eva In a Day.” In a sense, you are conflicted about current events in life with work and your living at home. While at work you might be a very confident individual and while you are at home, it can be the total opposite. For example, you might be dealing with anxiety and insecurities. I wanted to be able to express both sides with this project. Even from a musical standpoint, the music that I like to listen to at home might not be the same as when I am about to perform at a concert. So, this project presented the opportunity for me to be as vulnerable as I wanted to on one album…at the same time, be confident with lyrical prowess [without a] sequence issue.
RESPECT.: Can you take us through the creation of 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time?
I was able to get out of my comfort zone, working with other producers and a dope engineer. Being able to work with someone confident enough to tell me the verse I laid down was okay, but [I] can come at this from a different angle. I think a lot of that came from fatigue and I have been so comfortable with producing for myself. I would write the hook, listen to the beat I do not know how many times, and finally, write the verse, and it would be exhausting. I would become very fatigued on a creative level and by working with other producers, it allowed me to focus on the subject matter at hand. It made it much easier [to be] meticulous with the sound of the album and not wanting to stop the baseline. The core progression allowed us to test out other instruments, and if it did not sound correct, we could remove it instead of rushing through it to get to the next section of each song.
4eva Is A Mighty Long Time artwork. (Multi Alumni)
RESPECT.: If you could name a couple of favorite songs from both sides of the project, which ones and why?
That’s a hard question to answer…but I have to say the intros to both albums. I am super excited for the fans to hear them. The intro to the Big K.R.I.T. side of the record is the exact story I wanted to tell and [it’s amazing] how angelic it turned out with the combination of singing, spoken word format, the aggressive lyrical aspect of it with the 808 kicking and the snare. Also, having something else to say underneath the surface.
A lot of individuals do not know this yet, but I sampled the “Justin Scott” intro to create the “Big K.R.I.T.” intro. So, it is being able to have that sonically to show how different it can rotate depending on the album. DJ Khalil produced the “Justin Scott” intro. I did not want to rap on this single, I wanted to show the fans how this is the type of music that inspires me.
Another single I would say is “Keep The Devil Off,” [which] was the track that we spent the most time on and I am so proud of how it came out. In regards to the choir, the organ, the horn and how we’re able to use the 808. Giving the single that church kind of feel and how much of the record is an inspiration. I’m proud of “Confetti,” the fans are not used to me coming with that type of vibe on a record. It allowed me to showcase my lyrical ability as an artist. “Mixed Messages,” “Drinking Sessions,” “1999” — shout out to Mannie Fresh and Lloyd — and “Aux Cord” because I got the opportunity to pay homage to all the individuals that inspired me musically.
RESPECT.: While “4eva” is nothing new within your catalog, is there a story behind this album’s title?
I have come to realize that the music that I release to the world will outlast me. As an individual, I started thinking about the message I wanted to deliver to the public. 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time allows me to express myself and let people know who I am. It is also an opportunity to introduce the Justin Scott side of me as an individual.
RESPECT.: You went broke working on this album, financing it 100 percent. What were some of the life lessons you learned from that experience?
Money and a lot of materials that you acquire do not necessarily make you happy. The conversations and the inspiration that you receive from your loved ones, these are the things that will potentially feed your soul and create happiness for you. The materials only last for a certain amount of time, and then you will want something else. That is what I realized at my lowest point in life: the things that made me the happiest were having conversations with my family and friends.
RESPECT.: I know that Pimp C unfortunately passed on early in your career. Given his presumed influence in much of your music, were you ever able to create a relationship with the late UGK emcee?
To be honest, I never had the opportunity to meet Pimp C. That is something I wished I would have done, but unfortunately, he passed before I could meet him or even attend a show. I have always wanted to see UGK perform live and never had the opportunity to experience that. It has been a blessing to be able to build with Bun B. I had the chance to have conversations with him about the music they created in his life and want to pay homage to the art by introducing the younger generation to UGK’s music. Also, to show how much they have influenced me as a group. I am honored to work with Bun B. He and Pimp C are featured on my album and I am proud to be able to continue telling people about their legacy.
RESPECT.: How do you feel Pimp C’s absence is affecting Hip-Hop?
I want people to know about his contributions to the Hip-Hop culture and in music as a whole. I cannot speak to how the youth reacts to the music, but I do want them to be aware of it and how it has influenced the Hip-Hop culture. In regards to how records had life, soul, passion, and information. Also being that they are timeless records that touch on some of the topics that we are dealing with now. Finally, he was someone who dedicated his time to writing, producing, and singing his hooks. If Pimp C was living today, I believe he would be releasing content that would continue to teach these lessons about social injustice issues. There has been a lot of OGs that have stepped in where Pimp C left off and are very active with their voice through music and their time in the community.
RESPECT.: You are one of the few Mississippi Hip-Hop artists to reach commercial success in regards to your career. What advice would you like to share with the talented young artists from your home state?
I would say keep grinding and invest in yourself. You have to be able to leave your comfort zone. Unfortunately, when you are from a small city that is not a vacation destination you have to move to make it. There are surrounding states like Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, but you are going to have to leave to promote and brand yourself. In regards to films and shows, stay true to who you are and carry that grit with you. It will pay off in the long run because you are going to work even harder when coming from a place where people do not expect you to accomplish it. You have to travel and market yourself out the trunk vibe. It will help you with selling your brand, you will encounter people that might not like your name, but just keep that southern hospitality and keep building.
RESPECT.: How do you deal with the conservative views in the state of Mississippi?
Anything that I cannot control I put it in God’s hands. I do not have the power to control how people may view me or my music. For the most part, I try to pray on it and put my truth out there. I never really had an issue, and if you know someone does not like you, just stay clear of them and go on about your business. I release my music for the individual who understands it and hopefully someone else can relate to it. Nowadays, you learn racism and bigotry are everywhere — not just Mississipi. I grew up in a space where I knew if someone liked me or not. It is not like they were trying to hide their true feelings. When we get the opportunity to speak about how we feel, hopefully, we can tear down these barriers.
RESPECT.: How does it feel to see 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time being so well-received, even after releasing the project on the same day as a few of your peers? What would you like to tell your fans?
It was excellent, and for me, I just wanted to release the album to the public, and you try not to put a lot of expectations on it. I have been working on this project for two years, and I believe in it, and I am ready for the world to hear my album. I enjoyed the positive feedback on the scene after being away for three years, and that felt good to express myself again. Let’s not be frank; I was nervous about the rollout of this project as well, being that I have been listening to it all this time. As for the supporters, thank you for believing me as an artist. A lot of fans have been tweeting and Direct Messaging me asking when I would be releasing another project over the last couple of years, sending their support and encouraging me to continue creating musical content [and] telling me that my previous projects have inspired them, and I want to thank everyone for their continued support.
RESPECT.: This might admittedly be a bit early, but could we see another project from Big K.R.I.T. sometime next year?
We will have to see because I am a man of mystery. I just want the fans to focus on 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time. I will say I am pretty sure I will not disappear for another three years.