Their area codes reside in different time zones, but Meridian, Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. and Massillon, Ohio’s Stalley have a lot in common. Both talented lyricists are willing and able to rap about more than party and bullshit, and 2011 saw the young duo reach unprecedented levels of success, punctuated by a pair of acclaimed mixtapes and several high-profile guest appearances. Almost two months into 2012, the two can no longer be called some of rap’s best-kept secrets. All eyes will be watching as K.R.I.T.’s 4evaNaDay and Stalley’s Savage Journey To The American Dream drop soon.
The Crew’s Ryan J. and AJ had a chance to catch up with both MCs during a recent concert in Athens, Ohio. In separate interviews, they asked the two to reflect on their past success, upcoming projects and expectations for the future.
On Projects From The Past Year And Success
K.R.I.T.: Man, the minute I got off tour with the Smokers Club, I had compiled records and September was when my album, Live From The Underground, was supposed to come out, but it got pushed back. I still wanted to give the people something – I’m very dedicated when it comes to mixtapes, albums, free music, stuff like that – so I decided to come up with a whole body of music. It took me a little longer than what I had anticipated, but I wanted to give it the same amount of attention as I did with Return of 4Eva and K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. I definitely dug deep. I stayed in the studio, making beats, putting stuff together. But it’s finished, man. It’s finished.
Stalley: Man, everything has been surprising because, you know, when you put out a record and it’s your first one or your first mixtape where you’re really able to reach the masses — the blogosphere, the Hip-Hop websites. I just didn’t know what it would do. My expectations were to just build a broader audience, you know. But it took off and caught the ears and eyes of a lot of big names and publications. I was getting calls from Spin, Rolling Stone and other publications that I never thought would reach out.
It’s just been a real blessing. What I take from this past year is just put your best work into it and just expect the best—hope for the best. There’s no science to it. People put out songs and that song ends up being the biggest thing ever.
On Current Industry Relationships
K.R.I.T.: My time on the Smoker’s Club Tour was crazy. First of all, Meth is a legend. Seeing him go out there and just perform is crazy. I’ve never seen someone just walk on the hands of the crowd before, but on the first night of the tour he was just wylin’, he had all the energy, man. That kind of transformed me, kind of made me want to implement more crowd participation. As far as Curren$y and Smoke, those are the homies. That’s my third tour being out there with them, it’s like a family reunion out there. A lot of drinking, lot of smoking (Laughs). And Smoke think he’s the best thing smoking in NBA 2K. He’s not but so put that in there, please (Laughs).
And [Cinematic Music Group founder] Jonny Shipes, that’s been my brother since the beginning. I signed with Cinematic before I signed with Def Jam. If anything, it just made us really work harder. He understands my artistic vision and my goals, and he’s willing to go to bat for me at any rate. It’s not going to complicate the music or anything. We’re really going to just keep pushing the music. It ain’t gone change, man.
Stalley: Maybach Music Group has given me the opportunity to have the same voice I had before MMG, but also gave me that platform to reach a broader audience—even broader than what I spoke about earlier. Now, you have TV [reaching out]—that commercial audience. For me to be able to penetrate the fans of a Rick Ross or a Wale or a Meek Mill with my type of music and my content is just a blessing. You never know because you’d think, “aw, they’re not going to understand me,” but you should never underestimate someone’s brain or personality. I learned that I make music for everyone.
It’s a blessing for someone like [Rick Ross] to take notice. He’s the biggest artist in the game right now. For him to take a look at me and see me as someone who is or who could be a superstar is just a blessing.