Country Rap Tunes: Big K.R.I.T.’s 25 Most Essential Songs

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On his song "American Rap Star," Big K.R.I.T. opens with an anecdote: "An A&R once told me, 'You can determine the worth of a song within 15 seconds of it playing,' with complete and utter lack of the fact that it takes all 3 minutes and 40 seconds of a song to comprehend what I’m saying." Really, the 2011 XXL Freshman's music deserves even more time than that. Since K.R.I.T. Wuz Here put him on the hip-hop map in 2010, he's dropped two other critically praised free bodies of work, with Return of 4Eva in 2011, and 4Eva N a Day in 2012. For the uninitiated, the best way to get a full feel for Krizzle is by vibing out to those projects, front to back. Now, just a few weeks out from the release of his Def Jam debut, Live From The Underground (hitting stores June 5), there may not be time for that, so XXL offers an abridged version of his catalog to help new fans play catch up, with Big K.R.I.T.'s 25 Most Essential Songs. —Adam Fleischer and Calvin Stovall

"Hometown Hero,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

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Why It's Essential: Krizzle has never been bashful about his hometown pride, and on this early fan favorite, he puts on for Meridian, Mississippi. Over an Adele sample (later used by Big Sean and others), K.R.I.T. touches on being a hometown hero while also projecting that recognition to swell larger (as it now has), integrating excellent metaphors throughout.

“Children of the World,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

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Why It's Essential: During a K.R.I.T. show for the year or so following the release of Wuz Here, the MC often let fans know this was the first song of his played on MTV Jams. In addition to deserving a nod for that, the single verse-cut packs a punch as the 2011 XXL Freshman reveals his social conscience—touching on the tough job market, materialism, slavery and more.

“Something,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

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Why It's Essential: The Mississippi native incorporates a sample of the word “Something” (from Al Green’s track of the same name) throughout, building his rhymes around the term. He gets personal, referencing his grandmother and a relationship gone sour, while also letting his guard down, landing lines like “Sometimes happiness the only thing I pray for.”

“They Got Us,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

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Why It's Essential: Over steady percussion and a melancholy vocal loop, this track is one of the finest examples of Krizzle’s narrative skills, as he tells three separate stories in the verses, each a tale of circumstances spun out of control as the briefly-introduced characters claw for survival.

“Good Enough,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

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Why It's Essential: The Cinematic rapper attempts to grapple with the conditions he’s facing, from the potential of not making it as a rapper to the ups and downs with his girl. The chorus’ final couplet shows the love he has for those around him: “Pray to the heavens, protect my family/If I leave, that's good enough for me.”

“Gumpshun,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

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Why It's Essential: An early example of the Def Jam signee’s beaming Southern pride, this song not only funtions as some ride around music, but was became an important marker, as it earned a mention in GQ.

“Voices,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

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Why It's Essential: The final track on Wuz Here, this dark and eerie yet uplifting cut finds Southern star fighting his demons and pushing himself to keep chasing his dreams of success.

“If I Should Die,” Good Talk Vol. 9

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Why It's Essential: Big K.R.I.T. offers heartfelt reflection on this cut that may have flown under the radar of some, since it wasn’t included on his acclaimed solo efforts of the last few years. But it’s a crucial listen—from the soulful production and sample, to Krizzle’s ability to contextualize his life through the lens of inevitable mortality.

“The Vent,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential: For the penultimate track on the acclaimed Return, the Third Coast Representer glides over soft synths and keys as he gets brutally honest with himself and the listener, lamenting loss and exposing uncertainty. After a single lengthy verse, he sings the outro, which begins, “I know you’ve been down so long, so I’ll be stronger for you/I know you’ve been down so long, ’cause I’ve been down too.”

“Free My Soul,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential: K.R.I.T. wonders, over melodic high-pitched keystrokes, if what he’s chasing and attaining if truly getting him to the place he needs to be. He has a chain, Benz, Louis, Gucci—“But I'm scared/It all ain’t enough/To free my soul,” he admits.

"My Sub,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential: K.R.I.T. pays homage to his trunk-rattling subs over a track that shakes both city blocks and country roads and offered a development of the sounds of his production.

"R4 Theme Song,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential:The title track from K.R.I.T.’s second tape in the hip-hop limelight contains a hypnotic vocal sample and an allusion to OutKast’s classic “Ms.Jackson” that invariably gets stuck in the listener’s head.

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"Country Shit (Remix),” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential:Ludacris and Bun B gave KRIT the Southern legend stamp of approval by adding verses his Krit Wuz Here standout.

"American Rap Star,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential: The unique talent gets deep over a haunting sample as he touches on industry politics and the struggle between commercial and underground success he often faces on his road to stardom.

"Dreamin’,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential: Fresh off of his appearance on the 2011 XXL Freshman cover, the MC uses his “old school flow” to remember the time when his rap career was just a dream.

"Sookie Now,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential: Fellow Mississippi native David Banner lends K.R.I.T. his stamp of approval by appearing on this countrified trunk rattler where the chemistry between the two comes off naturally.

"4Eva N a Day Theme,” 4Eva N a Day

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Why It's Essential: K.R.I.T. set the tone for his most recent mixtape with this up-tempo banger. The soulful sample and his bouncy flow capture his unique energy as he explains his plan for becoming famous “4Eva N a Day.”

"1986,” 4Eva N a Day

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Why It's Essential: The rapper/producer takes it back to his “coldest year ever,” the year of his birth, and reflects on the state of things then and now for this energetic cut.

"Boobie Miles,” Return of 4Eva

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Why It's Essential: After sampling a line from the fictional Friday Night Lights football star on K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, the Def Jam signee dedicated a whole track to the tragic hero to deliver an inspiring message about never giving up.

"Red Eye,” 4Eva N a Day

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Why It's Essential: Torn between his career and a young lady, K.R.I.T. explains the perspective of an overworked, under loved MC.

"Me & My Old School,” 4Eva N a Day

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Why It's Essential: The swangin’ spitter pays tribute to his beloved ride on trippy, jazzed out track that shows the side of him that’s a car lover through and through.

“I’m Flexin’,” with T.I., Trouble Man

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Why It's Essential: Though Tip hopped on some remixes following his release from prison, this was his first as leading man, and he chose K.R.I.T.—who made the beat and spit the hook—to ride shotgun. It was an acknowledgement from the King of the South that there was a new King around—one who would be Remembered In Time.

“I Got This,” Live From The Underground

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Why It's Essential: For this single from his major label, Krizzle stays true to himself, keeping the vibes undeniably Southern and bouncy as he shows and proves what he’s got for the masses.