Meridian, Mississippi artist Big K.R.I.T. has his big raucous choruses, but his delivery is acutely measured and refined. Sometimes he raps just above a whisper, on a solemn account his career (“Dreamin’”) or an admonition about the thorns of success (“Lions and Lambs”). ReturnOf4Eva, released for free online in March, has a consistently rich vintage sound thanks to K.R.I.T.’s defiant sample-based production. Even though he signed to Def Jam last year, he hasn’t shown any sign of mainstream pandering.
As a producer, he sounds like a dedicated student of Organized Noize, so it was surprising to hear him fawn over the different ways J Dilla and 9th Wonder flipped Billy Paul’s “Let the Dollar Circulate” in our interview. He also picks out his favorite classic records, breaks down his creative process, and states his ambitions for his debut album.
ML: Why release an album quality mixtape for free?
K.R.I.T.: Mainly because I felt like I needed to do another solid project before I dropped an album. We dropped K.R.I.T. Wuz Here last year, but we dropped ReturnOf4Eva, and it’s to prove to people that K.R.I.T. Wuz Here wasn’t a fluke, that I could put together another solid body of music, all-produced again, and to be able to work with other artists, I thought was more important. Kind of building up the confidence for the consumer to actually go to the store and buy my album. So I didn’t really mind. It did definitely help at the end of the day to just build a buzz up more and build up people’s faith in my music and that I’m not going to change just because I’m signed. But for the most part, we really don’t be trying to call them mixtapes anymore just because they’re all original.
ML: Southern rap is focused on Lex Luger and trap music right now. How does that affect you as a Southern producer?
K.R.I.T.: I don’t really think it’s primarily just focused on trap music. Lex Luger definitely, as a producer, is working with a lot of artists aside from being what would be considered trap music. It really don’t affect me per se because I make music based off how I feel and as far as my life is concerned and I think everybody respects that, but I respect every art form of music. Everybody paints the pictures that they see and write about the environment that they’re around, so I just do what I can as far as hip-hop is concerned.
ML: So you don’t feel sidelined at all?
K.R.I.T.: No, not at all. I managed to put my music out, build my fan base organically. Obviously, everybody’s not going to like your music. My music, I make for a certain kind of people, I guess or just everybody in general I’m shooting for, to Lord willing be able to put music out and globally, everybody listen to and take something from it. But for the most part, it’s growth. In the beginning, everybody might not get it, but as long as I stay focused and keep putting out quality music, in time, my fan base will grow and it really won’t matter. Even now, it kind of doesn’t matter. It takes time. A lot of people just came out last year. I’ve been around since 2005, so I understand that it’s not overnight and I’m not really in a crazy rush. I take my time and just put out good music.