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.
On The Technical And Conceptual Aspects Of Upcoming Projects
K.R.I.T.: 4evaNaDay will be more soulful. Definitely more soulful. There’s a lot more singing going on. You know, a lot of people are going to be shocked with the singing, and just the amount of time I put into the conceptual aspect of it. How the entire thing flows together, how the first song of the tape goes with the last song with the tape. I really wanted all that to make sense. And it’s about my real life, it’s nothing fake, it’s not a facade.
And it’s definitely a free project. I want people to understand I never mind giving away music for free, only because it’s more important that a thousand people hear it for free than if I sell it to a hundred.
Stalley: The growth from Lincoln Way Nights to Savage Journey to the American Dream is just…the sound is just so much bigger. The production is from Soundtrakk, who produced “Kick Push,” “Sunshine” and “Superstar” for Lupe. Chad Hugo from The Neptunes and the Block Beattaz also contribute. It’s just a wider range of sound. The content is different. Same with the wordplay, the cadence and just everything is just so much different from any project that I’ve put out. No song sounds the same, but it fits so perfectly. It’s just weird.
And Hunter S. Thompson definitely influenced this upcoming project. There are a couple of main pieces. The books The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas are two works that touched me because they both really honed in on the American Dream and what it was. We’re always on the pursuit of it and as we’re on the pursuit of it. Like, it’s funny because I remember he did an interview and he said, “I was looking for the American Dream and then I found it in Las Vegas.” You would never think it was there.
It’s just weird because some people will say that’s what the American Dream is, but some will say a house with a white picket fence or being an NBA player. It’s just we all have our own definition of what it is. But when we find it or when we discover what we feel like it is, it’s not that and we look for more. That’s what makes us savages: we’re never satisfied.
We all know he has his own way of writing and I try to do that with my writing. I try not to think so much. I think that I crippled myself in the past by putting myself in a box for people who were listeners. They would then say, “oh, Stalley is this kind of artist,” so you kind of cater to that. Now, I’m just me and I write about my life and I write about it in a way that’s entertaining for all. I think what Hunter S. Thompson did was he wrote about his life and, even though some times he exaggerated, it was still truthful. It was still relatable and it wasn’t a fantasy or a fairy tale.
On What The Future Holds
K.R.I.T.: Really, just trying to top 4evaNaDay and K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. I’m my own worst critic. I really want to keep making music and growing as an artist, and trying to make timely music. I hope people can relate to my music, to the topics and understand that I do this for a whole different reason than monetary ones. And to help them understand that I’m human, that I relate to the same things. Music is the biggest language. Everybody speaks and can relate to music.
You know, it may take me a while to drop a project, but trust me, it’s going to be worth it when I do. And, you know, I haven’t dropped a major label album yet. All of my work is from K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and Return of 4Eva,and so it’s always going to be about that for me. It’s about the people, it’s about the quality and it’s about the music.
And Live From The Underground is coming out in June. It’s definitely coming out in June. Trust me, man, it’s not getting pushed back again this time. June.
Stalley: Oh, man, I don’t know. I hope… I can’t say. After Savage Journey… I could be… on another planet, I don’t know (Laughs). Lincoln Way Nights has taken me across the world, literally. I did sold-out shows in Paris and Warsaw, Poland, and I’ve seen parts of the world that I never thought I would. So I don’t know where I go from here. I just want to continue to make music and be myself and live life and hope that it takes me to my American Dream.