If you’re not up on your hip-hop acronyms (O.P.P., G.O.A.T., C.R.E.A.M., etc…) I should probably inform you that the K.R.I.T in Mississippi rapper and producer Big K.R.I.T.’s name stands for King Remembered in Time. This is important, because a “king” is exactly what the Dirty South seems to be lacking right now. I believe that coveted crown can only be snatched with bloody hands and really mean metaphors about other rappers’ mothers and significant others. In other words, BEEF. So, when I got on the phone with K.R.I.T., earlier this week, I was chiefly interested in whose career he was willing to demolish to advance his own.
But K.R.I.T. isn’t like that. As a member of XXL’s distinguished 2011 Freshman Class, K.R.I.T. was fittingly bestowed the honorary title of “Most Humble.” And it comes through in his raps, because although he gives the swagger kids lip service with couplets about selling yak and making it with stripper bitches, he’s at his most potent when he is reflecting on real relationship issues and expressing how hard it is to be a black man trying to keep balls hard in the cruel and harsh world. Which is why, I think his latest mixtape 4Eva N A Day is one of the strongest collection of songs to come out this year, because it’s thoughtful where most rappers are braggadocios or shock-baiting.
Like every mixtape that K.R.I.T. drops, 4Eva N A Day feels like an album with its lush soulful production and the conceptual arc of a day-in-the-life of Big K.R.I.T. Its recent release serves as one more reason to get excited for his incredibly hyped and infinitely delayed Def Jam debut, which is slated to be titled Live from the Underground and is due out in June.
Here is what the King Remembered in Time had to say about rap beef, titty bars, and his take on the Trayvon Martin shootings:
Where’s the beef at K.R.I.T.? When are you going to gun for the Throne and become King of the South?
I’ll leave it to the people to decide who they really consider that. As far as I’m concerned, the word “king” is already in my name.
What does that mean?
That’s me putting a lot of pressure on myself. I’m my worst critic at the end of the day. I’m a king in my music, regardless of who people think I am.
So, you’re not going to pull a “Takeover” on Waka Flocka Flame, or something?
I think to be the king, if you are one, you have to go all in and that’s what I’m trying to do. But as far as battling is concerned, I battle with myself trying to top my last project. I have to stay focused on making the best music possible. I can’t get caught up in trying to out-do another person.
So, there is no one out there that you think is just plain shitty?
Nah, I mean, we’re talking about art. So, it’s kind of whatever you want to see.
Yeah, but there has to be a right way and a wrong way to do this hip hop thing?
Man, I could draw a straight line on a piece of paper and call it art, and you can’t tell me different, you know? So when it comes to music, I really focus on what I create. And I root for all my comrades. I try to keep the positive energy going because there’s enough hate out there.
That’s respectable. You’ve always come off as a dude with a level head—like you’ve been where you’re at now for years. It’s kind of crazy that you were a XXL Freshman just last year. Do you feel like an elder to this new wave of rappers, like the Odd Future and A$AP crews?
I was born in 1986, so I caught Tupac, OutKast, UGK, and just how different hip-hop was back then. A lot of these new artists were born in the 90s, so their interpretation of hip-hop is different, a little bit, and that’s cool. I grew up in a different time so I can’t judge them for being born a little later on.
You mentioned old guys like Outkast and dead guys like Tupac and Pimp C. (of UGK). Those names get tossed around a lot when people talk about you. As an artist, how do you get out from underneath your heroes and find your own voice?
On a musical level we’re all motivated and inspired by the same themes in music. You talk about live music, the soul of music, the guitar riffs, the background sound, and things—a lot of that comes from gospel, church music. Being raised listening to them, I admit it influences the kind of music I make, the types of artists I listen to, and am inspired by. My heroes were inspired by the same things. So that’s why you hear a lot of the similarities. But as long as I write about my life and my experiences, I put myself in the position to make something new and at the same time pay homage to the artists I grew up listening to.
In addition to your musical heroes, you have a lot of political heroes too. I saw a bunch of Civil Rights activists on your personal Tumblr. As an MC who’s been inspired by those black revolutionaries, what do you think of the Trayvon Martin shooting?
It’s a different time than that era, so you would think that people would be a little bit less ignorant. Hoodies don’t make you a criminal. That could’ve been my little brother, you know? It could’ve been me for God’s sake. It could’ve been any of us.
What do you think about the fallout since the shooting?
I’m glad people are taking a stand. I would’ve wanted somebody to do that for me. The fact that the killer could do that to somebody is just crazy. And he hasn’t even been arrested yet. I mean, what’s going on with that? I just read something about a mother, who whooped her child, is being sent to jail. And we can’t get this guy?
That’s real shit. It makes sense that some people consider you a conscious rapper. What do you think of that moniker?
I wouldn’t say conscious. It’s more about real life, you know what I’m saying? I think it’s important to paint every picture as far as my life is concerned. I just try to make music that’s honest.
What I like about your work is that you can kick it too. It’s not all mopey teachy shit.
Right. Sometimes I just want to have fun, ride around in my old school, and enjoy the scenery….
And go to titty bars right? You’ve made some great songs to listen to while watching naked ladies dance. As a connoisseur of titty bars, where would you say is the best place in Mississippi to see young ladies “turn it into something.”
To be real with you I have never went to any titty bars in Mississippi before I moved out of the state when I was like 17 or 18.
Where’d you have your first titty bar experience?
The first time I’d ever been to a strip club, was in Atlanta. Atlanta’s the spot for that.
Which one has the best titties?
Oh man, you know I’m going to go with Blue Flame. Onyx is poppin’ too. I go to Onyx on Wednesdays, shout out to my partner DJ Crunk, he spins some records in there and gets a good vibe.
That's what's up. Titties are so dope.
Be on the lookout for the exclusive premiere of Big K.R.I.T.'s latest music video on Noisey.com.
Purchase Big K.R.I.T.'s 4Eva N A Day Road Less Traveled Edition EP with 2 new tracks on 4/10 on iTunes.