Ten years after the release of his breakthrough mixtape KRIT Wuz Here shook up the rap game and its perception of artists from the American South, Mississippi born-and-bred rapper Big KRIT may have returned to the source of his success in the eyes of many with KRIT Iz Here. However, for longtime fans, he’s never really abandoned his roots or the soul-steeped Southern funk that helped him first make his name in an increasingly cluttered landscape.
While sequel albums are becoming more popular than ever — Nas just released his Lost Tapes 2, while Rick Ross will be following up his Port Of Miami debut with a sequel next month — it’s much rarer to an artist whose career has experienced as many twists and turns between them as KRIT’s. While KRIT Wuz Here garnered the then-23-year-old rapper national attention and critical acclaim, eventually leading to placement on XXL‘s Freshman list and a deal with Def Jam Recordings, KRIT Iz Here arrives nearly a decade later as KRIT’s second independently-released album after a series of creative reinventions that included 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, an introspective double album examining the spiritual tradeoffs he made for success, and a run of 2018 EPs that reestablished his mastery of bass-heavy, trunk-rattling beats.
Over the phone, KRIT told Uproxx that KRIT Iz Here brings his career full-circle as he prepares to launch a nationwide tour in support of the album and extends the mandate of his Multi Alumni record label to include artists of every ilk. Check out the edited conversation below, which covers the new album, the things KRIT has learned over his ten-year sojourn in the rap game, and how he really feels about “mumble rappers.”
KRIT Iz Here is your second album on your own but it really feels like a first album. Why was it so important for you to return to KRIT Wuz Here, which was your introduction for a lot of people, for this next album?
I remember how it was working on KRIT Wuz Here and that timeframe of it being my last hurrah. Like, ‘Man, I’m going to put all of the songs that I’d been working on in the last two or three years on the album — from having a West Coast feel, East Coast feel, bounce, everything I can do across the board — to gain some attention and attraction within the music industry.’
So there was a level of me not knowing where things were going to go, maybe being bitter that stuff hadn’t worked out at certain points in there. All of that was put into KRIT Wuz Here. So much happened to be at this point now where I’m back to being independent. I’m free, I’m happy, my creative control is at its all-time high, and I’m working with my team and I got more time.
It just made sense to bring it back full circle before the 10-year anniversary of KRIT Wuz Here, where it’s musically, it’s not like I’m trying to tell the story of KRIT Iz Here, but really take you to that point where you understand my confidence and my hunger. You can see it.
What was the drive behind expanding that range of artists that you work with?
Early on in my career, working with my OGs is what I wanted to do. I really wanted to let people know who I was inspired by, how they inspired me, and actually be able to get them on records. We talking about 8Ball and MJG, Bun B, Slim Thug, Paul Wall. I really had to seek them out and work with them.
For this particular album, it wasn’t in my comfort zone at all. I was actually on stage with Rico Love, which was a year exactly before the KRIT Iz Here came out. He challenged me in front of 500 people because he does his music conference every year. And he was like … he felt like I was doing a disservice to my supporters by not trying to make bigger music for myself. Not necessarily changing the way I rap, but the soundscape, or the soundboard, of the music. So, I took the challenge and then I went in and I worked with him and Danger. I’m going back and forth with him, because he’s like, “Man, KRIT, that verse cool, but you can go harder than that.” I’m in there, like, “All right, let me go back to the drawing board with the writing” because I’m not producing the records, so now it’s more time for me to be creative as a lyricist.
What are some things you’ve learned over the course of recording these last two albums? What are some of the differences in doing it on a major label versus independent?
Oh man, the rollout. I would like to think of a label being like a big airport. You know what I’m saying? Sometimes your flight’s on time, but the runway might be a little packed, so you got to just wait. You just on the tarmac waiting to take off.
When you’re independent, man, it’s like that’s a privately owned airport. You just take off whenever, if you feel like it. The idea of sitting down and having to play your music in a boardroom full of people, versus “this is the album, this is what I want to put out, and this is where we going with it.'”
Then it’s the creative pressure, I guess, because if people don’t believe in your single, but they control when you’re singles going to come out, they’re not going to push it, and that changes the narrative.
To be at this level, to finally make it onto Times Square when I’m independent and I never got that when I was with a label, that says a lot.
I think it says, “Hey, you’re allowed to believe in yourself and you don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval.” I think that’s an incredible thing for you, musically. The expectations I think are a little bit different. Right? You don’t have to worry about meeting a specific number of units, or recouping your advance as much as just doing something that’s going to appeal to the fans. Am I right?
I would say too, there’s still risk and reward with it. Because you’re independent, so you have to put a lot of time and invest a lot of energy and trying to make sure that that sh*t keep floating.
I will tell any artist that when you can go into that deal, do still move like you’re independent. Do treat that budget with an independent mind frame, because once their time is up, then you’ll still keep that grit and you’ll still keep that want to go out here and be hand-to-hand with people, talk to people, and run up on the DJ at the studio and give them facts to plan the record. It’s really easy to get caught up in the social media aspect of what we do, and it’s not as personal. But for me, I’m still a strong believer in staying really in contact with people. I got to see it throughout the years, people saw me really grinding and struggling, with the labeling, trying to do the best I could at the time.
It’s really hard for me to imagine a label giving approval to some of the imagery from the “KRIT Here” video. It’s very interesting the way you comment on the imagery, the stereotype, the tropes, that are used to sell rap and hip-hop. I think that what really had an impact for me was that you didn’t fall for the easy, purple dreads, face tags, Soundcloud, mumble rappers sort of stereotype. You broke down where the energy comes from, and then you even overlaid it with that Basquiat artwork.
Okay. Well, I will say the idea of a mumble rapper to me is just another way to downplay southern music. It’s like crunk, swag, booty rap. It’s just another way. Now mind you, some like Migos man, like say what you want, but you know them boys. And then on top of that, people can’t do what they do. Even a Future. You can’t do what Future does.
Of course, people can try and attempt, but there’s a reason and there’s an intricacy in a lot of the things that these people do in the studio, which makes it more, to me, more of an artistic thing. Turning your voice into an instrument. There are people that, they do see an opportunity to create something. They may not be as skilled and/or they may not care as much about the creative aspects of the music, in order to generate some kind of financial gain or success.
But music is art. I can’t tell you what you do isn’t art, because that’s not how art works. It’s in the eye of the beholder. What I was trying to convey, and Child, [who] directed it, she sent the treatment and we were like, great. So the Basquiat stuff and all that, that was her idea. I can’t take any credit for the Plantation Records, that was her idea.
But I think that comes on the cusp of her understanding what I went through in my career, and then figuring out a way to make it visual. And being from Mississippi, it’s a whole ‘nother story in itself. Being an underground artist, you wanting to have the creative freedom, and you chained to this concept of what people think you should sound like, or how you should rap, or how you should be, or the kind of clothes you should wear.
You know as far as the hair color and all that stuff, I really don’t waiver, because just because you got hair colors a certain kind of way doesn’t mean you can’t rap. I can’t go with that concept. Fashion changes. It’s a form of expression. So once again, what I was trying to convey is how people really go for the shock value, sometimes. Sometimes these labels are more intrigued by how quickly is this going to take off, whether it’s quality or whether it’s terrible. Even if it’s bad, are people going to talk about it? How many clicks are we going to get? Well, are they going to really serve you mentally, your soul? Sonically, are you going to get anything from this?
I think it’s that battle that I think we deal with as consumers now because there’s so much to listen to, there’s so much to tone into, and even if you don’t like something, you’ll still tweet it. You’ll still post it. You’ll still tell somebody else about it. So, you’re still spreading the negative message anyway.
What’s next for Big KRIT?
What’s next? Lord. You better not ask me when the next album coming out. Multi is a multimedia company, man. Multi is beyond music. I’ll sign a breakdancer if they trying to figure out a way to get on. I’ll sign a muralist. You could even play the harp, and looking for a space. Videographers. All these things I think is what I’m geared to trying to go. Because if I can find a dope videographer, and then if I can find a dope singer, and then I find a dope hip-hop artist, that makes for not only a great song but a dope video, too. You create this bubble for everybody to be able to work and know that their work is going to be taken seriously, and then it’s a collective effort. I think that’s the next step. And scoring movies. I’m a movie buff now, so I really love movies and how the music comes together, and soundtracks. I really want to dive into that and see what comes up with that.
KRIT Iz Here is out now via Multi Alumni LLC. Get it here.