Big K.R.I.T. & The Art Of Duality

Big K.R.I.T. & The Art Of Duality

Written by Kai Miller

Published January 4th

The Reckoning Between A Man And His Persona

At the height of 2011, Big K.R.I.T. incessantly had the rap game in a choke hold.

 

Handpicked to be inducted into XXL’s reputable freshman class, the Mississippi-born rapper was crowned the next heir to the trunk-rattling sound of the South. A lofty title for most, but far from a challenge for the self-proclaimed “Hometown Hero” who studied the likes of UGK and Scarface to the letter.

Standing at salute on the coveted cover, fixed between Meek Mill and Kendrick Lamar, K.R.I.T. was defiantly at the top of his game. With a Rolodex of critically-acclaimed mixtapes already under his belt, a Def Jam debut in tow and a K. Dot name check to come just a couple years later, the young MC had all the makings of a lyrical titan ― sans the bravado.

I always revisit duality because I think it’s a conflict we all have."

Inside the fourth annual issue, the then-24-year-old spoke sincerely of being imprinted within the pages of the esteemed publication; he even gawked at the fact that he had been thrust into a pool of such promising artists. His humility was a striking contrast to his brash, unapologetic flow, as noted on standout tracks like “Glass House,” off his 2010 breakout K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, in which he abrasively asks, “What you mean you ain’t nasty?”

Over five years later, however, K.R.I.T.’s intrigue with his dual nature has developed from the inner-workings of his subconscious to his most ambitious project to date: 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time. After opting to end his tenure at Def Jam in 2016, the Southern rap traditionalist has returned to his indie roots to redraw blurred lines between his moniker and home life. The hearty double disc album finds K.R.I.T. dedicating one half to his front-facing, boisterous persona. The other, marked by his government name, Justin Scott, is considerably more vulnerable and introspective as he sheds light on his relationship with God and the “Price of Fame.”

In this way, K.R.I.T finds new ground as he avoids any awkward juxtaposition of his strip club rituals and Sunday morning salvation. As his wordplay anchors the opening of the album, K.R.I.T. allows his ferocity to take the wheel. Alternatively, on the latter half of the 22-track effort, K.R.I.T. showcases a more soulful palette as he tussles with the carnal and spiritual. But, even beyond the candor of vulnerability, listeners are given a glimpse into the visceral character flaw we all embody. “I always revisit duality because I think it’s a conflict we all have,” K.R.I.T. explains from a director’s chair in a bare bones studio at BET’s headquarters. “I think, we all leave our house and go to work. And we put on the cape and become superheroes. That’s what we do. It’s how we move through life and handle negativity, you do everything you can to stay away from it.”

New York, NY- October 30, 2017 Big KRIT photographed at BET NY offices (Photo: Rebecca Smeyne/BET)

Born Justin Scott on August 26, 1986,

within the confines of Meridian, a small Mississippi city, K.R.I.T. first gravitated to the art of rhyming through his love for poetry. Inspired by the likes of the late Tupac Shakur, the Southern lyricist transformed his sonnets into vibrant verses. And, at the age of 31, the latter still rings true emphatically with the self-titled track “Justin Scott,” which finds K.R.I.T. rattling off an impassioned spoken word piece.

“In my house, I don’t just always listen to rap. So it made sense for the Justin Scott side to start off without me rapping,” he says of the record. “It's literally me, in poetic form, apologizing or giving Big K.R.I.T. some future advice about the things we've dealt with industry-wise and creatively.”

At the start of his career in 2010, K.R.I.T. was faced with considerable skepticism. He was initially turned away by countless record executives after producing gospel-heavy deep cuts like “Children of the World.” In spite of two favorable albums (2012's Live From the Underground and 2014's Cadillactica), K.R.I.T.’s crossover appeal left him on the outskirts with fans, who felt he had dampened his lyrical dexterity for commercial success.

Yet K.R.I.T. has never seemed blighted by being overlooked or underrated. He simply resolves the doubts of his critics (and his own insecurities) through his music. 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time grapples with this in a nuanced way. It’s heard clearly on 808-heavy tracks like “Confetti,” as K.R.I.T. rattles off with confidence, noting that you should never take his lyrical ability lightly. On the other end of the spectrum, at the tail end of the album’s more personal side, it takes on the form of inaudible voices dishing out unsolicited advice to the rapper to which he responds with “Mixed Messages,” an admittance of his contradictory catalog of music. “It might confuse you sometimes. But, I’m human and I have these same voices that you have too,” K.R.I.T says. “And, as an artist I’m supposed to be able to paint all of these pictures.”

“Cause when we look at painters and sculptors we don’t question how they feel or ‘why did you paint that?,’” he continues. “It seems like music gets put in this hub where you have to rap about this and the minute you do something else it’s like you changing. Nah, I’m being creative. I can’t stay like this. There’s no reason why I should be Big K.R.I.T. from 2010 at this point.”

New York, NY- October 30, 2017 Big KRIT photographed at BET NY offices (Photo: Rebecca Smeyne/BET)

And rightfully so. Since his departure from Def Jam in 2016, K.R.I.T. has spent the past two years creating an album that would sonically exemplify his creative freedom. The boon of the double LP ushers in his newfound independence and the many ways in which he’s unlearned certain counterproductive practices such as spearheading an entire project.

While credited for a majority of his own beats, which encompass varying aesthetics of the South, K.R.I.T. shares the production duties with the likes of Supah Mario, DJ Kahlil, Mannie Fresh and Bryan-Michael Cox. The guest features run just as deep, with hip-hop heavyweights such as Bun B, T.I., Jill Scott, Sleepy Brown, Cee Lo Green and more contributing to the expansive project. Collaboration is key for 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time’s fluidity and essential for K.R.I.T.’s progression as an artist. “The OGs have a sense of confidence and obviously the stories and wisdom that comes along with it,” K.R.I.T. notes of working with UGK. "Because you start off talking about a song, but then you learn how it was created or how life was like at the time.”

It might confuse you sometimes. But I’m human and I have these same voices that you have too.”

The last star to truly blossom from the “bible belt” of Mississippi was David Banner,

an artist who K.R.I.T. both credits for his interest in music and shares a heavy likeness with when it comes to his gruff delivery. It’s heard emphatically on tracks like “Subenstein (My Sub IV),” a hard-hitting single one could only imagine sounds legendary on the 15s in the trunk of his car. Or perhaps the resemblance lies in the conceit of his production abilities as he dabbles with instruments that are akin to Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta and, of course, his beloved Mississippi. 

Either way, K.R.I.T is well-versed in Banner’s legacy as an artist ― and as an activist. “Banner has been so influential not only on the music side but also the social injustice side, political side,” K.R.I.T. points out. “He was one of the reasons why I started producing myself because I started rapping first. I saw him doing it and he was so amazing at it.”

So, where does that leave a King Remembered In Time six years after his XXL freshman debut? Still defiantly at the top of his game, carving out his own lane on cruise control. “I’m in competition with myself and I’m always going to challenge myself. Sonically, this is soul food that I’m feeding people through music and I’m trying to continually grow along with them ‘cause life is real.”

I'mma be me. Unapologetically. Southern. Country. And, proud of it."

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