Big K.R.I.T. Claims The Title Of King Of The South
Currently gearing up to unveil his second major label LP, Big K.R.I.T. has learned a great deal about the music business since the release of his debut album, Live From The Underground, in April 2013. Now he plans to show just how much he's grown on his upcoming effort, Cadillactica, due out Nov. 11. After his first LP received lackluster reviews compared to his critically hailed mixtapes, this go around Big K.R.I.T. took things back to the drawing board and has shattered any sense of restraint that may have previously surrounded his music. On Cadillactica, Big K.R.I.T. is rapping about everything from his love life to his status in the game, boldly dubbing himself the King Of The South on record, staking a claim to the crown that T.I. had for so long held without challenge.
XXL recently chopped it up with Big K.R.I.T. and also got an exclusive listen to Cadillactica. During the sit down, the Mississippi MC held nothing back, from his early struggles in the music industry to what to expect on his new album to his thoughts on what went down in Ferguson, MO earlier this year. The Country King is finally ready to take his crown. —Miranda Johnson
XXL: You have a song on your new LP titled “King Of The South.” Is that a title you’re looking to claim?
Big K.R.I.T.: For me I always feel like I embody that with my rap name K.R.I.T. standing for "King Remembered In Time" and just being one of those people [who] always believed in being broad. Just uplifting folk and being from the South, being country and feeling like [I] make it cool to be Southern. At this point, I’m confident in where I’m at to be like, "Yeah, I’m King of the South." It ain’t me trying to disrespect no OGs or nothing like that at all because I’m not talking about King in the sense of reigning over people. I’m just talking about how I feel as a man, a musician and an artist.
As far as me wanting to usher in a space as far as country folk in the sense of hip-hop where not only are we just going to compete against each other for the South, we’re competing for all of hip-hop. I think it’s important that’s understood, because normally it’s East Coast/West Coast, but the South got something to say. Mississippi got something to say. I feel like I’m always going to go hard 100 percent and I’m never going to stop creating music 'cause I can produce for myself. I can write for myself. I’m always drawn from my personal experiences. I’m over 250 songs in and I still have something to say.
You mentioned that you’ll never learn a business and create at the same time again. Why?
The frustration of sometimes not understanding music or dealing with how a business is, then trying to go back into the studio and create, it’ll bleed over. Sometimes a song meant to be compassionate, kind or subtle can turn aggressive. You’ll be creating happy music and music that has soul to it then you’ll go to a business meeting in the middle of that—it can change the dynamic of the song. It can make you not want to do that record anymore.
With Cadillactica, it was such a broad project, I had some time to really work on it. Time to think about where I wanted to take my career next. And then I had the team that does what they do and I trust them. Whenever they brought me something, it was either already handled or they can explain it to me so that there wasn’t any loopholes or frustration. That’s a blessing.
What are your expectations for Cadillactica?
I just think it’s amazing that I can put it out. I feel like people at this point know that I’m always going to choose quality over quantity. That I’m always going to tour and that I’m going to go hard. I’m not going to stop. People are going to support it 'cause they know that. I think it’s right on time, too, because it’s musically and sonically so left field from a lot of music that may be coming out right now.
Then at the same time, I’ve always believed in tying it into my previous projects. There’s always an underlying storyline throughout all my projects that I’ve dropped. This is literally picking up where Live From The Underground left off, as far as the story of where the Cadillac came from and landed on plant earth. It came from Cadillactica and I’m telling this story. I think people are going to be thoroughly entertained by the story itself.
What’s one thing that you need this album to embody? What’s one thing that you want people to get?
That I can’t be put in a box. It’s like one of those things where I look at all my favorite artists and I look at what they were able to accomplish. People stopped putting them in a box and started accepting the fact that they’re just them. I wanted to be in the same realm. Like when you heard one of my songs, I wanted people to be like, ‘That’s K.R.I.T. doing K.R.I.T.”
This album, all I wanted to work on was creating the music, sonically taking the creativity a little farther. Being able to sing on a record full blown and working with other musicians. Not using so many samples, trying to create simply from scratch. I think I was able to accomplish that and just express to people that there are no rules. It shouldn’t be standard hook-verse-hook. You can go and do whatever you want with these songs. For me, I’m always going to say something important.
You're singing on the album?
Oh yeah, it’s a song on there that I actually never kick a rhyme.
You had mentioned in the past that you really admired Quincy Jones. Are you showing a little bit of that on the album?
What’s happening is I’m starting to work with the musicians that really understand. I’m starting to work with those that want me to go further. They’ll be like, "K.R.I.T., hold up, I heard you sing on this record, you should do that more often." Then when you have somebody that you respect musically tell you that, it’s like, fuck it, I’m going to try it. Actually, the record that I’m singing full blown on, Terrace Martin is playing the keys on. I just think it’s a different take. It’s a side of me. People know me to sing on records here and there. This time I was like, I’m going to just sing all the way through.
Who was really instrumental in getting you to step outside of the box?
I would say my team. Shout-out to Dutch and Steve-O. It’s one of those things where we do records and I play one of things where I play it and I’ll be like, “Bro, what you think about this?” My music never leaves the studio, so the people that come to the studio are the only ones that get to hear it. They be like, “That shit jammin’.” The only thing I can think about is trying to pull the shit off on stage. They ain’t going to lie to me. They will be like, “Don’t do that.” But if they like, “Go for it,” then I’m like, “We going then.”
How does it make you feel when people say your first album was a flop?
I feel like that’s not true at all. I sold more records than what was ever expected of me at the time. I didn’t have a single at radio. My first single dropped September of 2011. My album didn’t come out until June 2012. That’s a long time. Then to have the first week sales that I did and still be No. 1 on the R&B/HipHop chart, that’s success. Then, I produced it all myself. We really stuck with our guns. I kept it all the way country. I was able to build a foundation and continue building on to what I’ve already done.
For me, it wasn’t and it will never be an overnight success thing. It will always be a growing situation. A lot of those people that said that in the beginning, went back a year later, listened to the album and probably felt like, "Oh yeah, I was slipping. This shit was extra jammin’.” That’s sometimes what it is. My music, it takes a little while for you to digest it. You have to be in your car to really understand what I’m getting to. You have to go from point A to point B to really get what I was trying to with the music.
I wanted to ask you about the song “Pay Attention.” Do you really feel as though you need to pay more attention to the ladies?
Yeah, overall. But in general you get so caught up in your goals that you’re not paying attention to the person that’s really there for you 100 percent. It was one of those things that I know the record had a strip club vibe a little bit, but when you see the visual you’ll understand that it doesn’t have to go that way always. Shoutout to Rico Love for writing the kind of hook that everybody can relate to. Jim Jonsin and Finatik N Zac created a crazy record. And what I did was, I was able to be myself on this song. That was the most important thing. But I feel like, overall, you definitely should pay attention to the one you love. You can’t let things get in the way of that.
You also have a song called “What’s Next.” What do you feel is next for you?
What’s next for K.R.I.T. is scoring movies, putting out artists and finding the next David Ruffin [of The Temptations]. I have a group with my partner Big Sant, he's also on my album. I’m probably doing a group project with him; the name of the group is Multi Alumni. I really love just making music, period, and I’m really just a fan of different genres. I want to really come back and just start producing, too. I want to brand myself as a producer and a musician as well.
So one day you’re actually looking to be that Quincy Jones?
Yes. That Barry White.
I have to ask you about that statement that you put on your blog about Ferguson. What made you want to put that out?
It’s one of those things where social networking has made things where you can’t ignore what’s going on now. You can’t ignore the police brutality and the things that happen in our neighborhoods. It didn’t used to be like that. And I think people are starting to become more interested in standing up for something. We can’t keep letting this happen. We can’t keep turning a blind eye. When you’re scrolling down your timeline and you see it, you have to say something.
I’m in a position where being an artist and being a musician, a lot of the kids don’t watch CNN anymore. They don’t watch the news, so we’ve become a vehicle for the news. Their favorite artist can sometimes keep them updated on what’s going on. We kind of have a responsibility not to necessarily go out and preach/politic but to at least update people on what’s going on. I think it’s a blessing that we have the kind of people like Killer Mike and Talib Kweli. They’re so respected that it’s never taken in a way that they’re trying to promote music. I look up to them very much for how well-spoken they are and how they do their history. They know exactly what you’re talking about.
It took hip-hop a while to speak up on Ferguson but when they did, they came in flocks.
This is the thing, too. You never want the seriousness to be taken away because of what you do career-wise. So you kind of want to make sure that when you approach that topic, people just see you as a human being. They don’t see you as an entertainer or as an actor. I think that’s extremely important.
Have you ever been racially profiled by the cops?
Hell yeah—I don’t know nobody that hasn’t. I’ve been in that police car a number of times. It’s one of those things where I know I didn’t do shit wrong. I thank God that I wasn’t in a position where there was a police officer that was eager to do something fucked up. It’s one of those situations where I was able to go home or I sat down for nine hours and I was able to get out. It wasn’t anything extra crazy. That was four or five years ago. But the police officers that are in that position now, they may feel different. They may not feel the same as the officer that let me go. Either way I have to be on my P’s & Q’s. We just try to stay prayed up out here 'cause you never know what may happen.
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