Big K.R.I.T. is one of the hardest working men in hip-hop. He’s released four mixtapes and an LP — all excellent — in a span of three years, and he wrote, produced, and recorded most of that music himself. Despite his short career, his dedication and approach have already garnered him a legion of fans and commercial success (last year’s Live From the Underground peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200).
It’s easy to root for K.R.I.T. He’s an honest, down-to-earth rapper who entertains and appeals to your brain. That’s what defines his latest mixtape, King Remembered in Time: the ability to seamlessly transition from dancefloor bangers to thought-provoking monologues and admissions. He also exercises his trademark attention to detail, picking every sample and cutting every drumbeat. For a mixtape, the production is extremely tight.
On opening track “Purpose”, K.R.I.T. poses a question with contempt in his voice: “Who amongst me says that I ain’t fit to wear my father’s crown?” The theme of family is the underlying concept of King Remembered in Time. Throughout these 17 tracks, K.R.I.T. comes to the realization that being true to one’s family and acting on one’s aspirations are two sides of the same coin — vital parts of his life that can sometimes clash, especially when you’re a touring emcee. Vocally, he’s often extremely aggressive when expressing these sentiments. Whether he’s waxing romantic about holding a relationship together (“Serve This Royalty”, which samples Cody ChesnuTT) or everyday malaise (“WTF”, which has the best hook on the album), K.R.I.T. is direct and uncompromising. Even the obligatory bass-bumping anthem “My Trunk” sees the Mississippi rapper spitting something sharp: “Old school whip with the A.C. cuttin’ / Celebrate the navigation, bitch don’t touch it.”
Big K.R.I.T.’s finest moments, however, come when he’s at his most sincere. The brooding “Meditate” is a song about retreating from your loved ones and holing up alone for a while. It’s not entirely unhealthy, though K.R.I.T. feels ashamed for leaving their sides. On “Bigger Picture”, he glances into the future and offers a realist’s advice — “Shit might suck, but you gotta push on.” That self-awareness and perseverance are what got him here. It’s what drives King Remembered in Time. Every song here has its own mood, its own tonality — and the fact that it’s entirely self-produced gives it a cohesion that’s rare with lengthy rap records. Big K.R.I.T. is an unstoppable force right now. He’s living proof that effort pays off.
Essential Tracks: “Shine On”, “Meditate”, and “WTF”