Like most rappers, Big K.R.I.T. surrounds himself with the typical entourage. But as his large posse emerged from a nondescript white conversion van, it was obvious this isn’t the ride of a big pimpin’ rap star. The humble van seems fitting for a talented poet putting introspective prose to a dope beat.
Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T., who performed last night at the Blind Pig, is known for his southern swagger and extra crispy flow — citing Scarface, UGK and Outkast among his influences, as well as the politically conscious grandfather of funk, Curtis Mayfield. Big K.R.I.T. hasn’t cracked the Top 40 yet, but he’s been hailed as a young talent in the underground rap scene, and his self-produced mixtape, Returnof4eva, featured big names like Chamillionaire and Ludacris.
But the deep southern roots of this self-proclaimed “King Remembered in Time” (K.R.I.T. — get it?) go a lot deeper than his persona. And he has no interest in producing pop-tart singles at the expense of his creative freedom and strong morals.
“I was raised by my grandmother — after my parents split apart, my grandma really showed me the way,” Big K.R.I.T. said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “As far as how you treat people, you treat people how you want to be treated. And I try to put that in my music, the honesty is a big part as far as my music is concerned.”
K.R.I.T. grew up in the deep South without much money to his name, but he draws on his upbringing to craft introspective, politically charged and innovative cuts like the haunting “Hometown Hero,” which samples the British songstress Adele’s “Hometown Glory.”
“Life is my subject matter, content, it all derives from experiences throughout my life — I just really want to give other people morals that I was taught when I was raised,” K.R.I.T. said, speaking with the same rhythm and diction as his raps. “I’m human, I go through different things in life. Some days I’m spiritual and other days you just wanna hardcore get money, you’re struggling through something, you’re dealing with relationships, and I’m just kind of talking about it all.”
On his latest release, Returnof4eva, K.R.I.T. deals with racism, politics and the rap game with tracks like the socially conscious and horn-infused “Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism.” K.R.I.T. may glorify the hip-hop lifestyle, but he questions it with equal fervor. And when asked about sexism in hip-hop lyrics (a subject he grapples with on the track “Children of the World”), he is quick to say that sexism may be reflected in the hip-hop universe, but its something that comes from the real world.
“Sometimes I deal with the player-pimp side of my mindframe, and how, yeah, it might not be right, but that’s what I was surrounded by, that type of environment,” he said.
On the beginning of the soulful “Children of the World” K.R.I.T. deadpans, “Just in case you were wondering, I did make the beat.” He prides himself on nurturing each song himself, from a couple of scattered ideas and rhymes to the final cut.
“I normally start with the beat and I go from there — I try to start with a concept, usually come up with a title,” he said. “I try to take my time, I produce my own music, so at the end of the day, I can sit in the studio as long as I want to … You know, it’s really about quality over quantity for me, so I’m gonna make sure before a song ever hits the web and before anyone ever hears it that it’s gonna be perfect.”
Like many artists before him, Big K.R.I.T. also cites other factors as vital components in the creative process.
“Alcohol and just chilling at the crib, but definitely a lot of alcohol,” he said.
K.R.I.T. has struggled with the music-industrial complex, and says the most important factor in succeeding in the hip-hop world without compromising one’s music is to surround oneself with people who believe in one’s work and to take an active part in the business side. After his critically heralded mix K.R.I.T. Wuz Here dropped last summer, he signed with Def Jam Records. Despite joining a major label, he still flashes his creative license.
“It’s been up and down, I’ve been slammed once or twice, I’ve dealt with a lot of people, I don’t want to say shady people, but people who didn’t see the vision like I saw it,” K.R.I.T. said. “I’m an artist who raps about real life. Not necessarily your typical single from a pop artist, I’m taking the road less traveled and making music that really means something to me.”
Though he’s taking a break from writing to tour with his tight circle of compatriots and bask in the praise from his hip hop-savvy fans, K.R.I.T. has big plans to break into the mainstream while still holding onto his musical integrity.
“Lord willing, I catch a couple of platinum albums, a couple of platinum songs,” he said. “I want to continue branding my label, branding my sound and just living up to my name, ‘King Remembered in Time.’ ”
Though his ambitions are vast and he is anticipating the drop of his first album with Def Jam, Big K.R.I.T. is in awe of the critically acclaimed name he’s already made for himself.
“I feel like I’m successful already because I’m from a place where nobody would have imagined this would have happened to anyone,” he said.