Building on the success of his May 2010 mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, hip hop newcomer Big K.R.I.T. returns with his latest project, Return of 4 Eva. BET.com caught up with the burgeoning rap star to discuss his current buzz, new mixtape and plans for his debut album.
Tell us about Return of 4 Eva. What does that phrase mean?
It really means me reintroducing a certain sound when it comes to hip hop. I'm speaking to an older generation that knew about it, but you can't really get it right now, and at the same time introducing it to the newer generation that doesn't really know about it. This is the kind of Southern hip hop I was raised on, and this is the kind of music I wanna put out. And then I'm reconnecting with those legends and doing records with them and then just kind of paying homage, really. I'm making the kind of music that I feel like, if it would have been played in 1994 or '95, people would have fucked with it.
How does this one compare to your last mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here?
It shows growth, primarily, as far as subject matter and content. It's definitely psychedelic.
Yeah, psychedelic. If you see the cover, you know where I'm going with it. And then I'm just still being honest, taking people on the journey that I'm on. A lot of people thought I was going to change up when I signed, and this is going to prove that I'm going to be myself. Now I can just do music on a bigger platform.
Obviously K.R.I.T. Wuz Here was a turning point for you. Did you expect it to do so well?
It exceeded all my expectations. K.R.I.T. Wuz Here was like my last hurrah. Johnny Shipes [president of Cinematic Music Group] reached out to me really at a point in my career where I was ready to go back to Mississippi and just get a job that would take care of me financially and let me do what I needed to do as a man, you know what I'm saying? Because I wasn't selling dope, I was selling beats, and it was at a point when people really wasn't buying beats but would just say "Oh, let me rap off this and take off and not holla at you." So he reached out and worked with me. I dropped K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and it took off. Sha Money [senior VP of A&R at DEF Jam Records] reached out; by June  I was signed to Def Jam. And the rest is just grind and hustle and puttin' music out. It's been amazing. It's been fast to the people that's just now hearing about me, but I've been out since 2005.
Where did you look for inspiration?
UGK, 8Ball and MJG, Outkast, Dungeon Family, Goodie Mob, Scarface and then soul music—Willie Hutch, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield, Sharon Jones ... There's a lot of people because I want to make timeless music that touches people.
Who inspired you as a producer?
Pete Rock, DJ Premiere, 9th Wonder, J Dilla, DJ Toomp, Pimp C—a lot of people don't know he was slanging his beats—Andre 3000, David Banner. There's people out there that have really been good teachers as far as production and being an artist and balancing the two.
Musically, you seem to want to embody the union between "country s--t" and conscious rap. How did you arrive at that?
I guess just me being honest and trying to make the s--t that I want to hear on the radio. There may not necessarily be anything out right now that you wanna hear depending on what vibe you're in, so then you have to go way back and find music that could take you to that place. I'm trying to make music built off real moments. There's a record I have called "Good Enough" and the second verse really happened—my girl left me because of the situation I was in. So when people hear that record, they're like, "Damn, I can relate to that. I went through that." There's content that people can relate to because they've been there before.
What are your goals for this year and for your debut album?
Every artist wants to top their last project, but I think I'm under pressure not only because K.R.I.T. Wuz Here did what it did, but because it was my introduction to a lot of people and so it's going to hold a special place for them. It's just like when people think of Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. So God willing, they could just see the growth and people will respond to the music.
(Photo: Cinematic Music Group/ Multi- Records)