The past year has been one of tremendous artistic growth for Meridian, Miss. rapper Big K.R.I.T. (an acronym that stands for King Remembered In Time). The theatrical trailer for the hit movie Sicario featured one of his songs and the rapper embarked on an Australian tour. After years of being in complete control of his creative process — from the production and songwriting to the mixing and mastering of his projects — K.R.I.T. finally decided to venture away from his comfort zone during the recording of Cadillactica
, his second album with Def Jam. The album was well received by many critics, but K.R.I.T. still finds himself fighting for respect in some aspects.
"I’m so used to producing for myself pretty much and kind of really sticking to what I enjoy as far as drum packages and samples and the things that I use,” he says via phone. "So when I started working on Cadillactica
, it was more about me trying to get out of that by working with other producers and using more obscure instruments and just challenging myself even about where I was recording."
Based in Atlanta, the rapper/producer traveled to Miami to record with Jim Jonsin and also spent time in Los Angeles as well. "I was just trying to not be in my house and working so much,” he says. “Even just being able to get in the studio with the producers that I was working with freed me up to write a little bit differently. I could dive deeper into Cadillactica
. I wanted the album to sound sonically different than anything I had done before that."
The night before this interview was scheduled to take place, K.R.I.T. released a surprise project It's Better This Way
. "It’s really all about becoming comfortable in my space," he says when asked about his approach to creating his latest mixtape. "I’m not really chasing the sound that everybody else is on or chasing what people are familiar with on radio, but just kind of finding my own pocket or my own niche and building on it as much as possible. I'm not doing it all by myself, but rather while working with musicians who can bring certain parts to life and make sure that the music moves. It may not be your favorite record on the radio or take off like that but over time, people will gravitate to my content and my sound because they know they can’t get it anywhere else."
He says he plans to continue in the same artistic direction.
"I’m just excited to keep this feel and this vibe going musically,” he says. “It’s just a brighter aspect, because I’m happy with where I am in life and it definitely shows in the music. At the same time, the person I was during [the 2010 mixtape] Krit Wuz Here
isn’t the person I am now as far as experiencing life, and I really want to take people with me on this journey musically."
Even with all of his accomplishments, Big K.R.I.T. still carries a huge chip on his shoulder when it comes to being accepted as a lyrical artist. "I still have to prove myself," he says. "It might just be the pressure that I’m putting on myself, and I’ll always going to go as hard as I can to make sure that quality music is noted and understood and paid attention to. When it comes to art nowadays shock value gets more attention than a really great body of work or great art and that’s sad."
He has no regrets at all about venting his frustrations and is beginning to accept the position he's in at this point in his career. "If I can’t tell the world how I feel, then there’s something wrong," he insists. "I’m starting to get to a place where I’m understanding that my path is my path and it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be, but that’s not going to stop me from always pushing the envelope. I’m always going to go the distance with my music no matter what, even if people aren’t paying attention or giving me a certain kind of shine like they might do with other artists.”
As far as collaborations go, Big K.R.I.T. has worked with artists that span the spectrum from B.B. King to Ludacris to Melanie Fiona. The main artist he really wanted to work with was Cleveland's own Bobby Womack, who passed away in June of last year after battling a multitude of illnesses.
"Yeah, Bobby Womack was the one," K.R.I.T. says when asked about the artists he would love to create with. "It hurt me when he passed because that was something I was looking forward to just because of the songs I had sampled from him." Other living legends that K.R.I.T. would like to get in the studio with include Frankie Beverly & Maze, Al Green, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Ron Isley and Bill Withers.
K.R.I.T. anticipates his upcoming show at the Grog Shop will be as jam-packed as it was the last time he played the club.
"It's just so much music and when it comes to certain places, the demand is a little higher than others," he says, as there were talks of doing two shows to accommodate fans. "You really don't want to wait to come back around so you try to give them two shows in one day. I'm one of those people where when it comes to the performance I'm going to go all in and I can get those fans who might get off work late. All that energy and adrenaline keeps pumping, After I do that first show, it ain't like I go straight to sleep. I'm ready to go out there again. I'd be excited to do two shows in one night because it's definitely a milestone for me. You best believe the second show is going to be just as good as the first one and vice versa."
Big K.R.I.T. and BJ the Chicago Kid, 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588. Tickets: $25 Advance, 28 DOS, grogshop.gs.