Big K.R.I.T. still has a point to prove. He makes this clear on “King Without a Crown,” off his newest mixtape King Remembered in Time, where he belts out through his thorny southern drawl that he still hasn’t gotten his proper due. His 2012 major label debut, Live From The Underground, received widespread critical acclaim, but the album didn’t have the commercial or crossover success that K.R.I.T.’s fellow 2011 Freshman peer, Kendrick Lamar, found in his album later that year. K.R.I.T.’s recipe of bluesy, sample-based production and southern-fried consciousness wasn’t beginning to sound overcooked by any means, but there wasn’t much that separated Live From The Underground  from his earlier works. K.R.I.T.’s always taken pride in staying true to his roots and on King Remembered In Time, he returns to them with even more ferocity, and some new tricks up his sleeve.

A noticeable change here is K.R.I.T.’s willingness to expand his production style. His beats have always been appealing – warm and organic, similar to those produced by Organized Noize in the mid 90s during Dungeon Family’s reign.  On King Remembered in Time, the guitars, and horns are still here but there’s also a wider variance of samples used, like the vocals on “REM” or the M83-sample use on “Multi Til The Sun Die.” 9th Wonder even shows up to give K.R.I.T. a break behind the boards on “Life is a Gamble”, a haunting boom-bap affair. Throughout, the production is fuller, sprinkled with a wider variety of sounds. It doesn’t sound like just Krizzle with a sampler and drum machine.

The production changes breath new life into K.R.I.T.’s lyricism. He’s always been a fiery MC, preaching sermons from the perspectives of both the preacher and the pimp, but here, the additional layers of instrumentation add depth and emphasis to his punch lines. Also, he sounds hungrier than ever, spitting venomously at detractors on “Talkin’ About Nothing” and giving stirring motivational speeches to himself on “Purpose” and “King Without a Crown.”

K.R.I.T. takes chances on King Remembered in Time, retaining his role as a flag bearer for the “underground” but also crafting songs that larger audiences will be willing to engage with, like the Future-assisted “Just Last Week” (a snippet that could perhaps serve as a single to his next studio LP) or the Trinidad James-featured “My Trunk.” They’re not a huge departure from his usual up-tempo trunk rattlers, but they hold enough appeal to land on mainstream radio. If that offends some of his longtime fans, it shouldn’t. K.R.I.T. takes a slight step outside his comfort zone here and the changes on King Remembered in Time are for the best.  If he keeps heading in this direction, he’ll earn his overdue crown soon enough. — Reed Jackson