Sunday, September 5, 2010

Big K.R.I.T. - K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

So I’m pretty late on this. You know you’re doing a bad job at this rap blogging thing when Def Jam has already signed him before you’ve even heard about him, let alone heard one of his songs. But in the flurry of news following his signing and a vague recollection of Gorilla vs. Bear having it on their On Blast list, I decided to commit the time and download allowance to get it and check it out. What I found has become one of my favourite hip-hop albums/mixtapes of the year. One of the few rap projects which actually has an air of gravity to it. The delay in writing about it has come from both laziness and desire to spend as much time with it as possible, just enjoying it, before trying to mentally deconstruct it.

K.R.I.T. Wuz Here is a soulful and lyrical take on Southern hip-hop. This is not to say that southern rappers aren’t soulful or lyrical, but hey, these days too much of it is sounding like Waka Flocka. But while I love a good “Hard in the Paint” freestyle as much as the next guy, K.R.I.T.’s sample filled southern soul is much more my cup of tea.

To me, Big K.R.I.T. occupies a similar space in rap as a young Kanye West. Both are producer/rappers. Both come from relative backwaters in rap geography, Kanye from Chicago in the North, K.R.I.T. from Mississippi in the South, and both are aware of and motivated by that outsider status when mixing with the bigger fish from N.Y./ATL. Neither are lyrical powerhouses (though Kanye has improved immensely over the years), yet both compensate for this through directness and honesty. One notable example of this from K.R.I.T. is the second verse on tape highlight “Good Enough”, where he laments his unfaithful ways as it drives the girl that he has and wants into the arms of another man, caught between not wanting to show how much she means to him and the fact that he knows he’s lost her forever.

The tape is a sprawling one, yet it never drags. From the opening declaration of “It’s the return of forever, ho!” to the epic and orchestral outro at the very end, we very gladly reside inside K.R.I.T.’s soulful and cinematic soundscape. K.R.I.T. is a talented producer and its obviously he’s put his heart and soul into these beats. It never sounds monotonous, yet keeps a unified persona over the varied tones in the beats. Extra personality and cohesion is injected into the tape with his use of dialogue from long forgotten and obscure movies (I assume so anyways, I don’t recognise any, and the man himself has a contest running for whoever can name them all.) giving the tape its cinematic quality.

This is key to its success, as it has the same quality as many of the hip hop classics of yesteryear. Its maintained sound, spirit and thematic concerns create a world for the listener to get lost in, something which is behind the status of such records as Midnight Marauders, 36 Chambers and Ready to Die. While I’m not necessarily suggesting that K.R.I.T. Wuz Here is a classic on par with these, the escape it provides reminds me of the times I fell in love with those hip hop classics.

To put it simply this is a work that deserves your time and attention. Back in the day, I can only assume, this would have been a much lauded debut album, which would have reaped much fame and wealth for the creator instead of just being a free release that got him enough attention for a major label deal. Its funny how times change.

Though its not all doom and gloom I guess. While record sales are slipping, as a listener the amount of good music coming to my ears is simply phenomenal (Not to mention as I try to step up my game as a writer, the flood of awesome music brought to me through my broadband connection keeps me in constant supply of material and inspiration). In order to stand out in the Nah Right era, it’s imperative to have something to set you apart from the sheer volume of other rappers flooding the internet with mixtapes. And in more democratized internet playing field is simply to make better music than the other guy. Determination, inspiration, originality and quality is the result.

Unfortunately history predicts that he’ll be forced to give up these things in order to gain a pop audience. Furthermore he’ll eventually dropped due to the fact the pop audience doesn’t want him and his original fans feel betrayed. It’s a vicious cycle, one that’s difficult even if the artist is aware of it. (See Wale’s The Perfect Plan). Hopefully this doesn’t happen. Though at least we will always have K.R.I.T. Wuz Here.

Big K.R.I.T. - K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (Mixtape)
Big K.R.I.T. - Hometown Hero (Remix Ft. Yelawolf)
Kanye West - Spaceship (Ft. Consequence & GLC)

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