Big K.R.I.T. is on a journey through this music industry, and he's just getting started. The up and coming Mississippi rapper/producer (and 2011 XXL Freshman) has made a big splash in the past few years on the strength of his mixtapes (King Remembered In Time being a particular highlight), guest appearances (don't sleep on his "Make My" verse from The Roots' undun, or his scene-stealing display on A$AP Rocky's "1Train") and his debut album for Def Jam, last year's Live From The Underground. But K.R.I.T. is always evolving, and he's recently returned to the spotlight by announcing his sophomore album, to be titled Cadillactica, which doesn't yet have a release date. XXL caught up with K.R.I.T. on the phone this week to discuss the name of his album, his take on his own production, and his aspirations to one day become the new Quincy Jones. —Miranda Johnson (@Randa_Writes)


Cadillactica—how did you come up with that name?
It’s just one of those things that I was thinking about, 'cause in my first [album] cover Live From The Underground, it’s a Cadillac that has crash landed on planet earth. Just the whole storyline of being able to take you in reverse of where the Cadillac comes from. It’s creating this planet called Cadillactica where the soul and the funk comes from and being able to transcend my music with that idea. Diving deeper into what else can I do, how far can I take this record. How I can change these instruments and manipulate my voice; and make my voice an instrument. All these things to me are extremely important to really draw you in, to creatively try to do something totally different with this album. And I think it starts with the base of Cadillactica, you know, the planet of all this.

"I feel like it’s important that I get out of my comfort zone for the sake of growth and my creativity and work with other people.”

I’m working on it now, I’m brainstorming hardcore, I’m working with other producers as well. You know DJ Dahi, Jim Johnson, Rico Love, DJ Toomp, Terius Martin; there’s a lot of other people, too, that I’m gonna get in the studio with. But those are the people for starters that I’ve been working with, that I’m really excited about the content I’ve been able to create.

And as for producing, I know a lot of your other content, you’ve produced. On this album will you be heavily involved in producing it?
I’ll produce a few tracks. For me it’s about creating the best music possible, so if it’s seven tracks on the album that I’ve produced, that means we collectively—as far as my camp and myself—felt those were the strongest out of the abundance of records that I’m going to actually record for this project. If I only produce three of them, then those three were the strongest and we went with them. For me it’s about really making the best music possible and not just for the sake of producing. Live From The Underground, I had the opportunity to produce the whole album, so that was a milestone in itself. I feel like it’s important that I get out of my comfort zone for the sake of growth and my creativity and work with other people. 'Cause I’m being inspired musically by working with these guys. Even in the studio with Organized Noize, I’ve seen so much just by seeing how they interact. And how they make music and how they create.

What made you want to grab Future for the single?
"Just Last Week" is just a record that came in on a time that I felt it was so strong that I wanted to put it out there as a single. Not to say it’s the premiere single of Cadillactica. But Future—one, the homie hot. I respect his craft and he was just willing to do what he wanted to do creatively. And the the record, "Just Last Week," I literally heard him doing that. I’m not trying to create records just to get a feature, but if I made it and that person came to mind, I’m going to try my best to get them that song. I think that’s the best way to create music, and I knew that he would really fit the vibe. And it was cohesive and it didn’t sound forced, which is extremely important.

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What would you say about the response of your first album compared to how you want the response of your second album to be?
I feel like the response to my first album shocked people. People didn’t expect me to even sell that much. It was amazing that so many supporters came out and showed love. I stayed true to my guns as far as the underground feel and the soul. One miscalculation that I made was sample clearance, you know, things that I’m able to do with my mixtapes. When you’re talking about an actual retail album, you can’t sample as much. It’s a lot of paperwork to deal with, it’s a lot of business other than just creating. And I think I wasn’t used to it and it showed a little bit in my frustration, and even on songs.

"I was trying to do something that tested my creative boundaries and, even on a production level, that incorporated what [B.B. King] does very well.”

But with Cadillactica, I’m more in tune with who I am as an artist. I know exactly what I want to do. I’m used to the hustle and bustle of how to put out an album and sample clearances, and getting them done early and just how to communicate with the label. And so, I’m excited about Cadillactica, it’s definitely gonna be growth. It’s like being reborn again.

Are there any surprising relationships that have come about since you’ve gotten into the spotlight?
I never would have imagined that I would have a song with B.B. King ["Praying Man," off Live From The Underground]. My Grandmother put me on to B.B. King and his music, so it’s kind of due to her as well. You know, to do a powerful record with somebody that’s so revered and such a legend and iconic as far as blues and just music, and [to have] it not sound forced. It wasn’t like I was tryna do a hip-hop record that featured B.B. King on it. I was trying to do something that tested my creative boundaries and, even on a production level, that incorporated what he does very well, which is blues and soul. To hear him playing the guitar on it was amazing. So B.B. King is one of those relationships that I look back on and be like, man, I can’t believe that.

Do you feel as though jazz music has a heavy inspiration in your music?
I would say blues has definitely. Just stemming from the content and really taking from a situation that may be a tad bit dark as far as subject matter in sadness and relationships. And just turning that into a song that everybody can relate to. I think that’s why a lot of people really can relate to my music and can enjoy my subject matter, 'cause they know I’m coming from a place where I talk about my real life. I think a lot of blues artist did that as well.

What are your long-term goals? Do you plan to one day produce on other artist’s records?
Definitely, producing on other artist records is one of the things that I’ve always been into. I have a problem with rapping on all my beats and so that kind of hurts a little bit with the catalog, but I’m learning. I’m getting better at just letting songs go. I already have Multi Records which is a label I’ve been pushing for years. But for me, it’s about being the kind of label where I’m not necessarily in the forefront. Really finding talent, finding the next David Ruffin or soul singer. Just producing, and creating, and being able to write for people. Because to me, that’s gonna be my transition, I look up to the Quincy Jones’ and the Barry White’s, the people that created music that became soundtracks and stuff like that. By the time I’m 40, 45, 50, that’s really what I’m doing. That’s a goal. One thing I’ve learned is determination is everything. I’ve always been the kind of person that kind of goes against the grain of what’s going on. Lord willing I’ll be able to do something crazy and inspirational.