“I didn’t expect so many people to know country shit when I went up to Canada.” Rapper Big K.R.I.T. talks about how lively we hosers get whenever he rolls through town with his style of Southern hip hop. “It’s exciting. It’s mind blowing to be from Meridian, Mississippi and be able to go to places like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and perform to people who know the content. Y’all are there for the sole purpose of understanding and loving hip hop.”
It’s no surprise K.R.I.T.’s sound has risen significantly into the North. His delivery is that of a preacher: energetic, combined with emotive lyrics surrounding the spirit of the South, making him sound wise beyond his 27 years. Born Justin Scott, K.R.I.T. (King Remembered In Time) was raised by his grandmother in an environment he continues to draw inspiration from. He also talks about his musical influences out of Texas. “Scarface albums, UGK albums; I was listening to people who made it cool to be Southern. UGK was from a small town – pretty similar to the town I’m from. And the things they were rapping about I could relate to.”
Telling stories isn’t the only hat K.R.I.T. wears. He’s proven his versatility, being the sole producer on his debut full-length Live from the Underground (which SPIN Magazine dubbed as 11th best hip hop album of 2012), and producing his latest major project, the mixtape King Remembered In Time almost entirely (with producer 9th Wonder on a track). He says it’s important that young rappers understand how to do a number of things in the music game today: “That means you save a portion of your budget; knowing how to record yourself, being able to market yourself, mixing your own records. You’re just on the other level of having the upper hand, having creative control.”
King Remembered in Time features a number of guest appearances, including Houston’s Bun B, but also non-Southern rappers like Wiz Khalifa and Trinidad James (on the bangin’ “My Trunk.”) He says being able to work with a variety of artists is something he’s learned from fellow Mississippi native, rapper David Banner. “Always be able to maneuver and respect everybody coastly and musically for the sake of hip hop. I took a lot from David Banner because he’s the type of person who can work with anybody, from anywhere.”
Being open creatively has proven to work well for K.R.I.T.; he’s currently on a U.S. tour with Seattle rapper Macklemore and Brooklyn native and legendary rapper Talib Kweli. He also shows just how far his imagination can stretch, talking about creating a planet called “Cadillactica” for his next full-length (also of the same name) due sometime next year, which will dive again into his roots with even more of a creative edge.
There’s no doubt K.R.I.T.’s underground sound will continue to rise, but he says he’ll never forget where he’s from, and what he wants fans to know about it, above all else: “Southern hospitality; the overwhelming warmness as far as people speaking to you, whether they know you or not.” He reminds us that his video for the infectious track off of Live, “I Got This,” was filmed in Meridian; something he speaks passionately about: “You can see in the footage that people get along and they love hip hop. Just ‘cause you’re country doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent either. It might not be the biggest city, or the most metropolitan, but it still holds some kind of soul, and some kind of meaning.”
That’s history worth learning.
Big K.R.I.T. brings Southern hospitality to Venue Nightclub in Vancouver, Friday December 13th.
By Katharine Sawchuk
PhotoS: Andrew Litten / Motion Family