When artists set out to pursue a career in the music industry, the overwhelming majority have dreams of going from rags to riches, from an unknown talent to having their name on the marquee for all to see. Creativity, in its purest form, is fueled by passion, however, when the business side of the music begins to creep into the picture, things tend to get a bit complicated. Unfortunately, this leads to many dreams of fame and fortune to be deferred. This is the predicament that Mississippi rep Big K.R.I.T. found himself in during his tenure as an artist signed to Def Jam Records, with whom he inked a record deal in 2010.
Riding high off the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Big K.R.I.T. was touted as one of the leaders of the new school, being mentioned in the same sentence as future platinum artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. Critics predicted he was the next southern lyricist to set the rap world on fire. However, when his debut album, Live From the Underground, eventually arrived in 2012, it would fail to resonate with rap fans at large, resulting in marginal sales and a lack of interest surrounding the project. When his sophomore effort, Cadillactica, also underperformed commercially, it was believed that maybe K.R.I.T.’s pairing with Def Jam may have been more of a detriment than a career boost. This would all be confirmed by both sides when K.R.I.T. broke ties with the label in 2016.
The news may have appeared to be a setback initially, but K.R.I.T. would flip the script by deciding to go back to his roots and make music in the spirit of the tunes that originally exposed him to the hip-hop community. A little over a year later, Big K.R.I.T. has emerged from the shadows with, 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, a double album that attempts to silence any whispers he’ll fade into obscurity. This project, marking a triumphant return for the former phenom, consists of two portions: one with songs delivered from the vantage point of Big K.R.I.T. the artist, and the other as Justin Scott the person, which looks to separate man from the music in transparent fashion.
After nearly three years absent from the music scene, making a good first impression is essential to setting the tone for what fans can expect as they get into the thick of the album. Big K.R.I.T. wastes no words and leaves no prisoners on the 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time opening salvo “Big K.R.I.T.” The song, which Big K.R.I.T. produced himself, finds the rapper laying it on heavy over bluesy keyboards and guitar riffs. “Knocking on the door, hoping someone answers, yeah, I call that faith/This mouth of mine has turned down water for wine, I still recall that taste,” he rhymes. Alluding to the bitterness that engulfed him following his departure from the major label system amid soul-stirring vocals from Rolynne Anderson, Big K.R.I.T. comes across as a man possessed, resulting in an intense introduction that serves as a foreshadowing of things to come.
The brooding vibe continues on the DJ Camper-produced “Confetti,” on which K.R.I.T. ponders, “What’s a crown if you don’t protect it, nigga?/What’s a name if they don’t respect it, nigga?” before dropping heady couplets like, “Nailing in they coffin, the cost of them being off it/Balling since Iverson crossed you, winner’s circle my office.”
Known for being more of a self-contained artist than a serial collaborator, Big K.R.I.T. invites a few guests to join him throughout 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, as T.I. rides shotgun on “Big Bank,” and Lloyd assists in smoothing things out on the mid-tempo jam “1999.” With a hook built around interpolations of R&B trio Guy’s classic “Piece of My Love” and the Juvenile twerk anthem “Back That Azz Up,” in addition to Big K.R.I.T.’s measured slick talk, “1999” comes across as a high-powered single without requiring him to stray too far out of his comfort zone—a balance that proved to be challenging in the past.
Bun B makes his presence felt on the Organized Noize and Cory Mo-produced “Ride Wit Me,” which also includes a syrupy hook from Pimp C, who his partner in rhyme Bun B salutes. “Say, R.I.P. to Pimp C, he was the King of The South/If you hating on that, you need to shut your fucking mouth,” he warns. Additional highlights include the CeeLo Green and Sleepy Brown-assisted groove “Get Up 2 Come Down” and the DJ Khalil-produced “Aux Cord,” the latter of which serves as a nod to R&B and soul acts of the past that left a lasting impression on him during his youth. “To vacation, across 110th Street was blazing/For the motherless children that related to Mahalia/I know, you tired of that you can’t feel it in your heart/Let the music be your secret lover like Atlantic Starr,” K.R.I.T. drawls, while Nikki Greer lends her vocals to the proceedings, helping conclude the first portion of 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time on a euphoric note.
Whereas the Big K.R.I.T. section of the album encapsulates its authors stylistic sensibilities and is drenched in swagger, the Justin Scott selections finds the MC beginning to unpack mentally. This begins with “Mixed Messages,” on which he addresses his contradictory ways and the constant conflict within himself. Cuts like “Miss Georgia Fornia,” which includes a masterful performance by Joi, and “Higher Calling,” which pairs Big K.R.I.T. with Grammy Award-winning singer Jill Scott, are both rich with soul and stand among the more refined inclusions on 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time. However, the album reaches its crescendo during the latter half of Justin Scott, when the rapper throws caution to the win with the brute honesty of the selections “Price of Fame,” “Drinking Sessions,” “The Light” and the epic finale “Bury Me in Gold.”
Produced by Will Power, “Price of Fame” finds K.R.I.T. touching on the toll that success has taken on him emotionally, as well as the strain it put on relationships with his family and friends. “Happiness can’t be bought or sold, I learned my lesson/Now I see what fame will really get you,” he laments. The former 2013 XXL Freshman continues to express his fear of disappointing his family and allowing money to come between them with the lines “Got to protect myself at all times/I know some partners that been sued by their bloodline/Lord forbid I let my blood down/The first time I say no, guess we ain’t blood now.”
His confessional continues on the self-produced “Drinking Sessions,” on which Big K.R.I.T. reveals his battle with alcoholism and how he used drinking to cope with his perceived failures and shortcomings, making for one of the more revealing compositions he’s released to date.
An accomplished producer in his own right, Big K.R.I.T. ups the ante by bringing in jazz extraordinaires Robert Glasper, Kenneth Whalum and Burniss Earl Travis II to join him on “The Light.” The southern stalwart gets sociopolitical here, rhyming, “Mama scared the police might make a point out of me/It’s gets hard to sleep living life in a daze/When kings wanna be niggas, I hope it’s phase.” His words come from the vantage point of a Black man “in a world full of alt-rights.”
Parting ways from a major label can either lead to an artist finding a second lease on life or fading into obscurity and being ultimately referred to as a bust. Big K.R.I.T. has managed to rise to the occasion and return to form with 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time. The opus is dominated by the reflective introspect and soul-searching that first made rap fans disciples of the Mississippi spitter and lacks the contrived attempts at radio airplay that littered his previous offerings.
Diehard fans know him for the crown symbol and king-inspired song titles synonymous with his name, and this effort pushes him further into such royal territory. “What’s a crown if you don’t protect it, nigga?” he delivers on “Confetti,” which is proof enough he’s aware of the respect he’s garnered even though he’s still got some time in the game before he earns an official title as a rap king. K.R.I.T. proves that sometimes the third time around is truly the charm, as 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time is arguably his most cohesive studio album to date. While mainstream superstardom may allude Big K.R.I.T., his legacy as one of the most lauded southern poets of his generation is very much alive and continues to grow with 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, an admirable effort from one of rap’s most resilient MCs.
See New Music Releases for November 2017