K.R.I.T. Iz Here
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Ever since his breakout 2010 mixtape album K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Mississippi’s very own Big K.R.I.T. seemed driven by a need to prove himself worthy of his self-bestowed “King (Remembered In Time)” title. The stakes were raised with the leak of Kendrick Lamar’s infamous “Control” verse in 2013, which called out K.R.I.T. and other peers by name in the spirit of friendly competition. The response was not just the vicious “Mt. Olympus,” but an intensified focus on sharp lyrics and pointed delivery that permeated his subsequent work.
This culminated in Big K.R.I.T.’s crowning achievement, 2017’s 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, where he successfully fashioned his usual church-versus-the-club, introspection-versus-braggadocio, OutKast-versus-UGK balancing act into a concept album and managed to create the rare double-length rap release with minimal filler. Having definitively marked his place amongst hip hop’s elite, the emcee steps into 2019 less angry and anxious, eager to reestablish his current position, rather than focusing on the perception of his future legacy.
K.R.I.T. Iz Here wastes no time signaling its intentions, kicking off with the celebratory horns, rumbling bass, and throwback chipmunk gospel sample of the triumphant, almost-title track “K.R.I.T. Here.” Unfortunately, the momentum immediately slows with “I Been Waitin’,” which features standard-issue lawn sprinkler drums-and-minor keys provided by Musik MajorX and Reuel Ethan. Aside from a couple of one-liners (“On the real, I got goals/golds, not the grill,” “Thriller with the fashion like a Jackson in a jacket”), the two verses fail to produce anything memorable.
The atypical conformity continues with the highly skippable “Addiction,” whose sexed-up rhymes, Bay Area bass line, and obligatory Lil Wayne feature feel biochemically engineered for radio airplay five years ago when that sort of thing still mattered. The energetic Migos flow, 808s, and simplistically declarative hook (courtesy of newish hitmaker Yella Beezy) of “I Made” knocks effectively and more handily brings K.R.I.T. into the modern mainstream, but would have fared just as well with any other rapper in his place.
If this LP feels less characteristically K.R.I.T., it’s likely intentional. While he’s gradually transitioned from entirely producing his albums to allowing others to shape his music, K.R.I.T. Iz Here is the first time his beat work is almost entirely absent. Collaborators like Danja, WOLFE de MÇHLS, and Camper supply sounds that complement the rapper well, but his always-welcome blend of warmth and soul behind the boards is sorely missed.
There’s a bit of retread with “Energy” and “Learned From Texas,” which were recycled from his January TDT EP, which was itself recycled from three previously released singles. Both songs are fine but have now made the rounds on three separate projects. “Obvious” is a pleasant enough slow jam, but feels like a thematic rehash of his Cadillactica Rico Love collaboration, “Pay Attention.”
Don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty to like here. Though the album has less of an emphasis on dazzling the listener with verbal dexterity, tracks like “Make It Easy” still impress with passionate delivery and boasts like “Let's be honest, I'm better / I did it without the vouchers and feathers they tethered to keep you together / The distance I jumped off the porch, it just couldn't be measured / Your metaphors never make sense in the storm that I weathered.”
Sports metaphors about victory and determination combine well with mid-tempo percussion and multilayered keys to make a winner out of “Everytime,” despite Baby Rose’s awkward vibrato on the hook. Although K.R.I.T. drops inspired raps on “Prove It,” J. Cole steals the show with a genuine, one-of-a-kind, name-checking tribute to one of his earliest hardcore fans, wishing her a speedy recovery from unnamed hardships.
The record shines brightest during its more musically adventurous final portion, with cuts like “High Beams,” where Big K.R.I.T. embraces his smooth crooner side over acoustic guitars and deep drums, and the spiritual war chant of “Life in the Sun,” with Camper doing his best Frank Ocean impression between each verse.
But the clear standout is the jazz-lounge closer “M.I.S.S.I.S.S.I.P.P.I.” (Maybe I’m So Southern I Sometimes Scare Ignorant Peoples’ Perception of Independence), where K.R.I.T. lovingly reps his home and family over upright bass plucks, playful trumpets, and organic finger snaps. You get the feeling that if it wasn’t for a desire to remain in the good graces of rap’s tastemakers, we’d get more joints like this. K.R.I.T. is definitely here, but hopefully, his next project will feature more of his musical presence.
Notable Tracks: "Everytime" | “High Beams” | “K.R.I.T. Here” | "M.I.S.S.I.S.S.I.P.P.I."