Big K.R.I.T.: 4EvaNaDay

Big K.R.I.T.
Cinematic Music Group / Def Jam

There was a time the delay of an artist’s album, especially in the highly radioactive world of Internet rap hype, could completely subsume a rapper’s ability to maintain relevancy. But the times have been changing for a while now and when Young Jeezy’s TM103 was released after years of dormancy to throngs of acclaim and sales, a nail seemed to be slammed deep into the coffin containing the myth that an artist couldn’t properly sustain themselves on mixtapes and fan service until the label got their minds right. Whether Def Jam learns that lesson remains to be seen, however, but labelmate Big K.R.I.T.’s approached his own album delay with a very similar attitude, illustrated perfectly during this sequence late in his newest self-produced mixtape:

“Label hit me about another single and said I ain’t had play

Since “Country Shit”, hell they thought that was a reasonable record anyway

But thank God for Bun B and Ludacris, because they had faith

That shit would take off and it did, guess I was too country to quit

I make albums not hits, these rich folks don’t know about this.”

This is the sort of blunt, direct approach to Big K.R.I.T.’s lyrics that hasn’t necessarily won him a lot of champions as a technician, but definitely elevates him to something of a role model among his peers. Much like fellow Cinematic Music Group member Curren$y, K.R.I.T. has no interest in bending his music or the public’s perception of his art for the sake of a mere hit single; if a song of his becomes popular he’d rather it be because the public deemed it so than because he stressed himself into something that would fit on the radio or TV. As such, 4EvaNaDay is mostly more of what we’ve come to expect from Big K.R.I.T. since he emerged from a Mississippi underdog with 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here into the upper echelon of hyped up performers: candy coated Pimp C funk, self-affirming Eightball & MJG swagger and self-deconstructing Dungeon Family soul. The results don’t display as clear a progression of motive as the transfer from K.R.I.T. Wuz Here to last year’s Returnof4Eva did – there’s no clear line to be drawn between the influences of UGK and OutKast, respectively, as there was then – but 4EvaNaDay does do something arguably much more important for K.R.I.T. going forward: it exposes K.R.I.T. as a guy who’s unquestionably made those influences his own and is now ready to poke and prod the finished product, to play with it in a self-confident fashion that allows for less pronounced but equally interesting artistic growth.

In terms of his production, K.R.I.T. still draws samples from late ‘70s/early ‘80s funk and soul, but he’s found more room for lively instruments and synths, providing a slightly more lush and dynamic atmosphere to his country rap tunes. These increased dynamics allow him to play his insightful and anthemic sides against each other more creatively, rather than drawing clear demarcations between the two as he did on Returnof4Eva. “Wake Up” opens the album with a sleepy eyed take on that JETS brand of stoned jazz rap, a feel that slowly and organically grows into the bombastic “4EvaNaDay (Theme)”, in many ways a rewrite of last year’s “R4 Theme” but just as addictive. That track is followed with a collection of certified windows-down tunes that somehow find a way to dial back down into “Red Eye”, which will be the tape’s first truly standout track on most folks’ first listens as K.R.I.T. bares his heart to an unnamed female friend he can’t bare to hide his true feelings from any longer. The final third of the album flits back and forth between the two moods, with “Package Store” detailing K.R.I.T.’s adventures trying to make some purchases at the local liquor shop, “Temptation” and “The Alarm” addressing more of Big K.R.I.T.’s inner demons, and “Insomnia” marking Big K.R.I.T.’s first foray into straight up sex rap (a track that also marks K.R.I.T.’s first near-dud in more than two years).

Because it’s about twenty minutes shorter than the typical K.R.I.T. affair, 4EvaNaDay may be the new best entry point for those who remain uninitiated to K.R.I.T.’s cause, but if established listeners conclude it’s an unquestionably satisfying yet definitively familiar street album, it’d be hard to hold that against them. So many of these tracks feel like fresh takes on songs he’s already written that it definitely has a distinctly reserved feel that hadn’t come across on his previous two releases, the spectre of upcoming major label debut Live from the Underground looming somewhat imposingly in the background. But if 4EvaNaDay is merely the King Remembered in Time in a reclined driver’s seat, Chevy SS on cruise control. then we may as well continue calling Big K.R.I.T. the most sure-fire bet hip-hop’s seen in years because even a B effort from K.R.I.T. promises to stand above near every other album that would dare to challenge it. His experimentation with new flows (particularly a slightly rough yet charming double time he tests out a few times) and more lush, diverse instrumentation makes for a release that just can’t be missed, particularly as the weather creeps closer and closer to times of summer dresses, exposed skin and ever-popular lemonade.

RATING 8 / 10