Mississipi’s own Big K.R.I.T. plays from an obvious advantage. As one of the strongest members of Rap’s new guard, K.R.I.T. has risen up the ranks fairly quickly. Of course it’s largely due to his multi-syllabic “bringing social consciousness to the trap” style of rapping, but there’s another piece. K.R.I.T. has already been inducted into the veterans’ circle by some of Southern Hip-Hop’s finest – from Bun B to Big Boi, back around to Ludacris and 8Ball and MJG. K.R.I.T. has gift, one that began in the opening bars on K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and carried all the way into his latest album sounding mixtape K.R.I.T. (King Remembered In Time). Perhaps that’s also the secret – he treats every project like it’s destined for SoundScan…even when it isn’t. As the rapper/producer kicks it with Life+Times, he discusses his various artistic peers, his backseat driver tendencies on tracks he doesn’t produce, and in order to win all you need is just a little patience.
Life+Times: Your new mixtape has just dropped, and it’s as amazing as every other one.
Big K.R.I.T.: Thank you, I appreciate it.
L+T: How do you stay so consistent?
BK: For me, it’s about making the best quality music that I could possibly make. You know, I know that I’m in competition with K.R.I.T. Was Here and Return Of 4Eva and a lot of these projects that I’ve already dropped. So for me, it’s about okay, how can I take my music further? How can I grow from my experiences? What have I learned from this point, just in life? So I try to incorporate all that into my music, and knowing the climate of what’s going on, as far as in our culture, and being able to touch on those topics. That’s kind of what I really kind of strive for in every project. There’s always a kind of underlying theme in every project I’ve dropped, based off where I was in my life and where society was.
L+T: You’ve always really spoken about what you’ve been through or what’s going on in the world, but it felt like there was a lot more of a focus on this, this time. I mean, “Banana Clip Theory,” that’s an intense track. It’s so visual.
BK: Thank you.
L+T: How do you shift gears – where you go in and you’re talking about things like gun violence and survival and all these things, but then also try to balance it out with the rest of what Hip-Hop wants?
BK: In the beginning, like when I first started working on this project, I’d never try to be like, “Oh, I need a record like this! I’ll make a record like this!” I just keep recording, constantly recording new songs. Then the task is like okay, how do I show people that I want to have fun, that I enjoy and still love having fun, but I’m socially conscious of what’s going on in the world? So for me, it’s like, an album or records back in the day used to always seem like a story. From beginning to end, it all made sense. It all was cohesive. It was never, “Oh, this track was just a throwaway so we put it on there.” You know? Every song goes into the next song, and it enhances the next song and makes you appreciate the last song you heard. And so that’s what I wanted to do even with this project, was from the beginning of the intro, my conception, or my purpose in life, and rapping about that. And then, going into the “King Without A Crown” and “R.E.M.” and telling you about all my doubts, and still being able to enjoy the fruits of my labor and what I have done to this point. But also remembering that there’s people that, I wouldn’t say envy, but haven’t necessarily acquired all the things that they want. They might be jealous, or they might be in a position where they want more, or they’re willing to take more, and rapping about that. So it’s always about wanting to make everything make sense from my cover, to the tracklisting, to the names of the songs, all of it.
L+T: Did you have any reservations putting an artist like Future on your track? I mean the track was hot, but in the way that people view Southern Hip-Hop and how it’s kind of split, you brought together two different worlds on that track. Was that something you had in mind by doing that?
BK: I mean for me, it’s always about being organic. I made the record just last week and came up with the concept, and I heard him saying that on the song. Now I could have did it myself, I could have got somebody else to do it, but I heard him singing it. And I think that’s why it really ended up working out. Because I kind of still had my sound and how I normally do a record, and he added what he normally does, and it meshed well together. It wasn’t like I was trying to create a radio song or none of that. I just made the kind of record that people know me for, which is base heavy, still with the 808, the hi-hats and all that, the 808 snare. But I incorporated him and what he does, and I let him have free reign like, “Yo bro, say it however you want to say it.” You know what I’m saying? And it worked! For me, it’s about how I respect what he’s doing too. That’s not going to be the last record that you hear me and him do. It’s always about the vibe and the mode. 9th Wonder was the only other producer that was on my project, not because I didn’t work with other producers, but the record that I made with him, it fit the project so well. And that’s why I put it on there. I’m never going to put a song on my project, just because I got a gang of features on it. Nah. For me, it’s about how the song vibes, how it works within the story line of the entire project.
L+T: How’d you go about picking Trinidad James for “My Trunk”?
BK: Man, ‘cause I heard just the way that track was riding, and I just knew that his flow would be crazy on it. And then, the homie definitely shows his grill in his videos and shit, and so it made sense. I’ve met him a number of times, and he’s always been humble and appreciative of what’s going on and for me, it was like a no-brainer. So I threw him on the record, he killed that shit and we turned up. I recently performed it at The Broccoli Fest in D.C. and people turned up to it, so I know that means a video should be coming soon.
L+T: Does it make you feel good though that you can be seen as Big K.R.I.T., one of the lyrical giants of present day Hip-Hop, and still be able to collaborate with different types of artists that don’t necessarily have to do exactly what you do to make a hot track?
BK: Oh yeah, definitely man. I’m a fan of music overall, every genre. So for me, it’s about, I always want to step outside the box. I always want to creatively see what I can come up with, with another artist. More than ever now in my career, it’s good to be inspired by other artists. It’s good to be around different energies, because that fuels me to want to do more to do better. I think that’s what happened on this project as well. Being able to have the record with Wiz [Khalifa] and Smoke [DZA]. These also my partners, but I know that they’re gonna rap. I know they’re going to say something dope, so I got to do the same. Having a record with Big Boi is the same thing, or Bun B. I actually have relationships with all these people, so when I work with them, we’re always trying to bring the best quality to this record. You know what I’m saying? It’s all in good fun.
L+T: You’ve been in the game for a bit now. What have you kind of learned about Hip-Hop, in being such an active part of it right now?
BK: I’ve learned that you have to remember what and why you started doing it. You have to kind of carry that with you all the time; that it’s an art form, and art is always and forever evolving. No one canvas is the same, and how can you say that this isn’t art? Who am I to dictate what art is? It’s in the eyes of the beholder, and once I started thinking like that and understanding that, it was easier for me to understand why maybe some people didn’t like my music. Or maybe some people didn’t like this song when I thought they should have. I just focus more on creating, and praying that people enjoy it, praying that people can relate, but not being so caught up in the negative aspect of what I do. Just focusing on art and painting and really trying to touch people at the end of the day.
L+T: Do you feel the most comfortable rapping over your own beats?
BK: Yes. Because if it didn’t come out like it wasn’t supposed to, nobody will ever hear it. [Laughs] Nobody will ever hear that song, that beat…it gets erased. It was a long time ago, I was at the studio and I recorded over somebody else’s beat, and it was one of those situations where they told me that they didn’t like what I wrote, but they couldn’t tell me what they wanted me to write. This is like 2007/2008. That was the point where I was like okay, if I am going to produce for other people, then I’m going to give them a clear-cut image of what I would like for them to rap about, or what would be the best content to rap about. Normally, my beats come with hooks because I don’t ever want to be in a position again where somebody be like, “Nah, I don’t like what you wrote,” but they can’t tell me what they want me to write or what they want me to write about, or what they heard.
L+T: You said you’re going to take some new chances with the next album, more composing. Is that actual musical composition?
BK: I mean I would like to! I would definitely like to record on tape some of the records. I want to experiment. I want to take it back to try to do something that no one’s done as of yet, or done lately, and challenge myself. I think it’s good to sit down and not one hundred percent know what I’m getting myself into, you know? Because you never know what may come out of that, and I’m excited about it man, because I don’t want to go for the traditional hook, verse, hook, verse, hook, verse on every song. I want to do something different. The “What The Fuck” record on King Remembered In Time showed me that people can be okay with just a song that ain’t a “verse” verse. It can be a poem. It can be mad poetic, and it’s still okay. I want to just try to test the boundaries and see what I can come up with.
L+T: Do you also feel that because you’ve gotten to this point where you have such a steady track record, that now’s the time to be able to take some risks?
BK: I mean, just looking at artists like Andre 3000, being able to transition and being able to trust that you’ll listen to something you’ve never heard before or something that he’s never done before, but it’s still jamming. It still feels like his kind of ideas, his thoughts. I want to become that kind of artist where I can experiment, where I can take people on a journey in my music, but not in a conventional way. I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s so much you can do within 3:20 of a song. You know? I’ma do my best, man. I promise you I’ma do my best. I’ma take my time on this next one too.
L+T: Are you in touch with Andre 3000?
BK: Nah, I’ve never talked to the homie. I definitely have talked to Big Boi before, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of his project and a goal of mine is to have Outkast on one of my records. That would be amazing, but just being able to work with the OG’s that I have had the opportunity to work with has definitely helped a lot in my career and inspired me a whole lot too, because I never would have imagined that I’d have a song with Big Boi, Pimp C and Bun B at one time, you know?
L+T: You stand in this position where you have the new generation of artists that you work with, and then you’ve got all these veterans that you work with. What do you notice is like the difference in working with these artists?
BK: I mean the obvious thing would just be the patience level. But the patience aspect is from wanting to slow down and do everything in a certain way. A lot of OGs have actually been through and done what I’m going through, and what a lot of younger artists have gone through, over and over again. So they know, “Okay, it’s alright not to rush this verse. You got time.” You know what I’m saying? “We could go do this show, but maybe I should come out on this show because you’re going to be here and I;m going to be here, and then people aren’t going to be expecting this.” You know what I’m saying? So, it’s like they understand the strategic aspect a little bit more because they’ve done it and they know. That makes sense, because I want to be the kind of artist that years from now that can tell an artist like, “Yo, we should do a song, but we shouldn’t do it for this project. We should wait for this project. Let’s do it for your actual album. Let’s wait, because it’s going to impact more, people won’t be expecting it.” That’s dope, and I appreciate that kind of advice from these OGs. Or even them just telling me like, “Don’t stress on this video. Don’t over-think it. Don’t stress on your album. Don’t overthink it.” I’ve been thrown in a situation where the pressure may become a little more than normal, or a little bit too much because I’m not used to it. So it helps to call a Bun B, a David Banner, a Ludacris and be like, “Bro, what should I do?” And then they just be like, “Well first you should calm down! Just calm down bro, and it’s going to work out.” And then I can be like, “Well Bun told me, ‘Don’t overthink it!’” That’s how it’s supposed to be. You learn from these OGs because they’ve done it, and they don’t mind giving you the forms of the game. Then us, as the newer generation, should take heed as such, and learn from whatever they did…mistakes or good…and be able to pass that on to the newer generation after that.
L+T: That gives you an advantage to think like one of the OGs and maybe that explains why, besides the obvious talent, you’ve pushed along so far up the ranks.
BK: I mean it helps. It’s one of those things where you just got to sit down and listen. Especially because a lot of these OGs just want new artists to win – win financially, win as a businessman, win on an artistic level, musically. It means that all those songs that they dropped and all those chances that they took as far as bucking against whatever system, whatever label, whatever politician…it didn’t go in vain. I got to take heed to that. I don’t mind telling people who’s inspired me, who I’ve looked up to, what music I was a fan of growing up, because they’re the pioneers. So of course I want people to know. I want my little brother to know why I said, “A pocket full of stones…” on “Country Shit.” You should know where I got that from.