Music

Big K.R.I.T.: Returnof4eva

Big K.R.I.T.'s not charging for his second album, either. He's also released his second potential classic album in the last 12 months.


Big K.R.I.T.

Returnof4eva

Label: Def Jam
US Release Date: 2011-03-28
UK Release Date: 2011-03-28
Amazon
iTunes

Money Making Jam Boys' "Crown on the Ground" has had me thinking lately: whose crown? After all, everyone in the group save STS is from Philadelphia, yet he of the Houston area steals the scene (as usual on that tape). And with good reason, as the southern crown is most up for grabs with T.I. unable to stay out of prison, Wayne seeming more of a pop star these days, and we're all still hesitant to claim Ross is as good a rapper as he is an executive producer. But really, are any rappers crowned in their cities right now? I can't think of a time the west coast has been less relevant -- the Internet's given way to some online celebrities, but the Game is still the coast's most relevant MC, and that's a shame. New York has Jay-Z, but at this point doesn't he feel bigger than the city, as massive as that requires he be?

And then there's Atlanta, or more obtusely the South, for whom the crown has always seemed to hold immense social importance. After all, the crown never meant that you were just the best rapper in the region. Hell, most scenes down south don't necessarily recognize 'rap talent' in the old understanding of the term. There's been Pimp C, there's been the Dungeon Family collectively, there's been T.I., and now possibly Rick Ross. But I'm sure you see where I'm going with this by now -- straight to the self-proclaimed "king without a crown", Big K.R.I.T.. He'll no doubt be a king remembered in time, as his name postulates, but why should we wait for time? I say we go ahead and let K.R.I.T. lift the crown from the ground to his head post-haste.

Returnof4eva is, for those who came into K.R.I.T.'s life through K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, a surprise. Where that album stormed out of the gates full of self-righteous purpose and self-serving awesome sauce, Returnf4eva finds K.R.I.T. already moving to a much cooler head space. The unfortunate, striving, starved attitude of tracks like "Hometown Hero", "Something", and "Children of the World" are much more prominent here, beginning with "Dreamin'", K.R.I.T.'s utterly amazing lead single that blends the sample-incorporating lyricism of "Something" with the coming up story of "Hometown Hero" to create a song that more effectively communicates K.R.I.T.'s musical vision than any song of his to date. Consider it perhaps his "Return of the 'G'", a mission statement so direct, forceful, and poignant that you can't help but feel the same satisfaction with the end product K.R.I.T. must have felt as he submitted the final cut.

The OutKast comparison remains fair throughout, which is amazing enough in itself, especially since the previous album earned equally appropriate comparisons to early-era UGK. Many of the songs still lean towards that UGK feel, especially cuts like "Rotation", "My Sub", and "Made Alot". But the album's closers are undoubtedly indebted to the finish line of Aquemini, with K.R.I.T. lamenting the new century model of Niggerdom via "Another N.I.G.G.E.R.", the spirit-melting "Free My Soul", and nearly spoken-word poetry of "The Vent". But he doesn't just borrow from OutKast's gloomier moods, as evidenced by the awesome party qualities of the Big Boi ode "Amtrak" and the album's first trio of songs, which are full of big band energy and positive outlooks.

There's no doubt that K.R.I.T. is an amazing producer. "My Sub" features this surprise beat flip near the very end, switching from low end music to breezy southern soul in an instant, which leads perfectly into "Sookie Now", a horn-drenched celebration of rags to riches. "Free My Soul" and "The Vent" feature atmospheric production heretofore unsuspected from Young Krizzle, as he veers about as far as possible from what one might expect K.R.I.T. to whip up. There's also "Player's Ballad", which is simply awesome with it's sampled Raheem DeVaughn "whooooooo"s and the interplay between K.R.I.T. and DeVaughn proper. I haven't heard a song that sounded so happy to merely exist in what feels like a long, long time. "Get Right" is a great party track that molds the sounds of the mid-'90s west to the late-'90s south and comes out with a "hellafied banger" (© Snoop Dogg), the sort of song that just makes listeners want to have a great time. The fact that he's able to balance all these different moods, to make them interact and play together nicely, speaks so much further than just describing how different the songs are, though. His production talents seem to know no bounds, as he can flit between all formats of the diaspora with ease and come out with a beat that may not always feel otherworldly, but will certainly feel flawless.

Obviously new times can make comparisons to earlier artists' debuts a bit of a struggle. After all, the creation of a true pop star takes so much more effort these days, especially in black music. It probably takes more effort than all but 1% of the hip-hop industry is willing to expend, hence artists like K.R.I.T. are relegated to releasing two classic LPs for free online, with the option to purchase autographed copies through his website. But if the times weren't so different from the industry's glory days, I would be eager to predict Big K.R.I.T. to be on his way to becoming the south's own Kanye West, sans swollen ego and bruised emotions. Like West, as a producer K.R.I.T. seems to stand not among but above and outside nearly all his peers from the gate. As an MC, he's not the most technically proficient, but he has a way of delivering bars and hooks such that they entrench themselves in your soul.

He's a rapper who makes himself feel more essential than his raps, which you can ask anyone in the business is one of the hardest coups to pull. Not as much as the glory days, but it's still hard to find artists who can become a mainstay without at least some sort of rappity-rap exhibitionism. But K.R.I.T. exemplifies the newer school of hip-hop artist that still believes how you say it is important, but more and more leans towards the what taking precedence over the how. All the double time in the world can't save you from a generic, soulless verse after all. Pharoahe Monch he almost certainly will never be, but an artist who can concoct exceptional odes to partying-on-a-budget ("Get Right"), soul-baring laments on the state of himself and his people ("The Vent", "Free My Soul", "Dreamin'"), anger over the machinations of the industry ("American Rapstar", "Made Alot"), simple superstar get-togethers (the "Country Shit" remix featuring Ludacris and Bun B), and everything in between K.R.I.T. has shown himself way more than capable of being. Returnof4eva is undoubtedly his second potential classic LP in less than a year, and to think -- acquiring it is as simply as clicking this link. You don't even have to leave your couch or dust off any Cheetos stains.

9

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image