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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Big K.R.I.T. - 4eva Na Day (Mixtape) and Live From The Underground Album Review

"It's been a really bad year for singles... I keep hoping all the albums are better

-Austin Lovelace"

Big K.R.I.T. is one of the EmSees to come out last year that, at least to me, is what made last year such a boost for the genre. I won't ever say Hip-Hop lost its charm but it was popping in and out of the dark for a while and it finally decided to crawl out. If anyone is looking for smooth southern rap that sounds out of it's own era, which is what makes it so good, then there may not be a better up and comer; this is your guy!

This tape is the end of a trilogy, the first 2 albums being what launched him to the hype he's sitting at now. When "Home Town Hero" dropped, off the first tape, "K.R.I.T. Waz Here", it was clear that there was a new player on the field. "Number one song and a Grammy, now I'm smashing Maserati crashing, swerving through the trafficWrap it 'round a pole, sell a mil off the tragedy", for K.R.I.T. to come out the gate spitting bars like that over an Adele sample... He made it hard not to like him and  even more so, he made it hard to avoid him. When part 2 came out as a free mixtape everyone took the chance check out the new kid (take a marketing hint from K.R.I.T. and make the album after your hit free). It felt weird to go from paying for a good tape to downloading an even better one, no questions asked. "Return Of 4 Eva" was a project made with no intent on being his next hit, but instead he rode the hype wave and washed the fans into a project that would prove that he could back up his lyrical capabilities with production way past where he started. I don't want to get into a review of an old tape, but I can tell you that that tape left me waiting for his next move (DOWNLOAD IT DAMMIT!). 

"4eva Na Day", as not only the conclusion to a trilogy but a pre-cursor to his debut album, was surrounded by as much hype as the public can muster up. K.R.I.T. was featured on the most recent Roots album, dispelling roomers about a lazy flow by rapping next to Tech N9ne, B.O.B., and MGK in the BET cypher, and beating about every other EmSee in lyrical ability all over the XXL "Freshman Class" cypher as well. He even returned to his older tape series with "The Last King 2: God's Machene" to help keep his fellow southern EmSees relevant over his remixes and beats (this should result in "Country Cousins" a joint mix tape with Yellawolf). Whichever end was reaching out made it hard for him to lose any relevancy in between albums; in less than a year we would get this tape handed to us before we even had a chance to sleep on him.

So if "K.R.I.T. Waz Here" was about introducing him as a star and "Return Of 4 Eva" was our introduction to K.R.I.T. as an EmSee than this tape should be about K.R.I.T. the person. K.R.I.T. knows that each perspective changes based on how he is seen in the other two and as much as each tape is based on one perspective, he has always been able to transition from topic to topic without contradicting anything himself (a skill slowly fading). He will talk about how he's the best rapper in the game knowing that off that cloud he might fall in real life. That idea transfers to this tape just as well, but concentrating on himself as a person takes the bragging down to a much more contextual level. Unless he's spiting about his performances, the context of his last 2 tapes, he leaves the bragging alone and for good reason. By taking us into a day in the life of Big K.R.I.T. we get a really personal project, one even deeper than the last tape.

The story starts at the start of the day with K.R.I.T. doing a spoken word peace about "How much effort a day takes" on "8:04" AM and bringing him self back down to reality on "Wake Up". "Wake Up" has K.R.I.T. singing the hook making it even more connected to the previous tape that ended with "The Vent" (where he sings the through end of the track). I assume the next two tracks, "Yesterday" and "Boobie Miles", are in reference to the early morning deep thinking we all get into before we officially wake up a few hours later (when did this worksheet appear in front of me?). He finds him self thinking about how much he misses the girl he left back at his home town, before he set out on tour; he thinks about Boobie Miles, from "Friday Night Lights", and how one small move could end a career (if you don't know what happened, shame on you, I'm not telling). He spends the next 3 tracks hyped as hell, I can only guess they take place on stage because he's bragging his ass off and the hooks are just infections, repetitive, and loud. In "1986" he continues the song writing style of the last two but he brings it back from a stage performance to the nostalgia of the car he uses to drive from show to show. The skit right before that track helps bring it back to reality when you hear someone walk by his car and start talking about everything that happened during the year it came out. "Country Rap Tunes" fallows it with the nostalgia of talking about the town K.R.I.T. would soon be returning to and grew up in before "Sky Club" starts the story of his return. When K.R.I.T.'s phone is off (just turn it off you'll take off so much faster) you hear the voicemail his girlfriend leaves and his response is a strong summery of his music, as much as a strong emotional response. "I'm like what happened to us, maybe I'm rapping to much" and "it's either you or this music but I can't make up my mind" are examples of how he can separate him as a star and as person without contradicting himself; the contrast between tracks like "Sky Club" and "Red Eye" are what makes K.R.I.T. so honest and so appealing. "Down & Out" is the last bit of fun he has before he touches down back home. The next two tracks, "Package Store" and "Temptation", deal with the problems of his home town, with topics like a crooked priest using church funds to buy hookers, drugs, and guns or the hood that told him he would never make it. "Handwriting" is all about how personal his music is to him and how no one will ever be able to take his style, and, I even clapped the first time I heard him say "2 free albums minus lable support, fired my publicist cause I forgot what I was paying him for". "Insomnia" is when he gets back home to his girl; it's a very sexual song and it's climax was probably just as fun for him as it was awkward for me but as an anticlimactic (it is and isn't) ending it just brings it back to being a true reality and so do the next two tracks (almost copies of the first two).

In terms of style K.R.I.T. is using more guitars the usual, he had on in the studio with him if I'm corrects, and tracks like "Boobie Miles" are a little more jazzy than he's ever gotten but no big changes are made on this tape. I would say the production on this album is less varied than all of his previous projects but because he's telling a story it makes seance for them to be able to cross over each other, a lot like chapters would in a book. The way he tells the story, and even his singing voice, makes me think he took more than a few cues from The Roots when he did that joint on their last album and I can't help but think that's part of the reason that this is my favorite project from him (see the above for more reasons).

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The Note Pad:

Now this album comes in right after the end of the last trilogy (I will not make a "Phantom Menace" reference... okay fine I did). The reason I chose to review both of these albums together is because I think K.R.I.T. wanted the context for his firs major label debut to be different from where he started, so I had to bring it back to the start. He knows that "Cinematic Music Group" would not let his first radio record be as personal or as distant as his tapes, even  in connection with "Def Jam".

K.R.I.T. is not even trying to make a passion project here. Like any other artists who have changed their style, K.R.I.T. wants to try his hand at a pop-rap album. I try to stay away from that genre because of most of the artists coming out of it recently (I think we know who I'm talking about) but I will say that Kanye West's last album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy", is one of my favorite Hip-Hop albums OF ALL TIME. So I thought about judging this on a curve because of what it is, a sort of "it's good for what it is" type of attitude but that wouldn't be fare to the readers or K.R.I.T. himself.

I can't just ask my self how well did he make this kind of album,I have to ask how much do I really like it? I had to avoid all forms of fanboyism to really get into this album, both good and bad. On first listen I found it so disappointing that I didn't even listen to it again until I decided to review it. I felt like the hooks where pretty corny and the beats where not as full as the tapes he putt out before, a comparison not worth making. Before this review, however, I hadn't listened to the tapes (because I listened to them way past enough to form an opinion any way) and after my second listen I was wondering what my problem was. Everything I didn't like was still there but I couldn't hate it nearly as much, at least for the majority of the album.

The single, "I Got This", was the perfect example of what I didn't like about this album but on the second listen (of the album) I was right with him on the hook (with K.R.I.T. on backup vocals); "fuck these hatas, fuck these hoes, fuck these hatas, fuck these hoes", shit he got me cookin' (behind the closed door of my room, of cores). The fist four tracks where just, catchy as hell, bangers and I'll credit "The Needle Drop" in saying "Big K.R.I.T. fight songs where you can't help but but cheer him on". The next track, "Money On the Floor", is easily the track he gave to "Capital" for the radio, but despite how bad the verses are (come on K.R.I.T., 2 Chainz, really?) it is remarkably produced. No matter how much I enjoyed the instrumentals on tracks 5 and 6, I just leave me tired of hearing K.R.I.T. spit below his level and I'm sad to say the next track hits me a little like that too (even though it sequels "My Sub" from "Return Of 4eva").  "Don't Let Me" is a fantastic pick me up though, with it's sole-full guitar solos and vocals in the back and K.R.I.T.'s singing on the hook is better then ever. He gets back to spitting verses like "Porin' up, I swear my liver never be the same, a pint of Hen'll help to ease the pain, world fucked up and I can't seem to leave he game". Sadly Anthony Hamilton delivers some really over-done vocals that sink the next track for me. "Pull up" hits only a little better than tracks 5 and 6 (mostly because of the great features) and "Yeah That's Me" feels like an annoying attempt to re-do "I Got This". The way the pitched vocals lay in the back of "Hydroplaning" make me want to turn off the album right there. The beat on "If I Fall" is beautiful and it reminds me a lot of "C.R.E.A.M.", from The Wu Tang Clan, but Melanie Fiona's hook is just awful and it almost sinks that track for me too. Thank God the album finished with 3 incredible tracks; "Rich Dad Poor Dad" is a great spoken word story with a beat that feels as beautiful as "If I Fall", B.B. King's vocals and lyrics add so much more to "Praying Man", and "Live from the Underground (Reprise)" just proves that K.R.I.T. can sing his hart out. It guides the album to its end perfectly.

I could have endless complaints about this album, I could rant about K.R.I.T. letting his record company stick its fingers too far into his album, and I could complain that the radio tracks aren't a good representation of the artist. The thing is that, just like his tapes, every track that he took full control of turned out so well that they have become some of his best for me and all the tracks I didn't like where only bad for small peaces of the album. Even with the huge sag in the middle of the album this managed to be a very solid release (and the first skit on this thing is hilarious, I can forgive him after a good laugh:)). This is an artists that gave me 3+ free albums and I think it's about time he gets paid so if you like this album pleas go and cop. it.
The Note Pad:
More Southern Hip-Hop: (this is a huge category and I'm not well versed in it; I also don't like a lot of it) Cunnin Linguists, Yelawolf, David Banner, Bun B, Ludacris, Outkast (Big Boi and Andre 3,000), Goodie Mob, UGK

Other artists you mite like: The Roots, Aesop Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Black Hippy, Ab-Soul, Danny Brown 

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