(Today's Reader Review finds Will Schmidt giving his thoughts on Big K.R.I.T.'s mixtape-slash-album Return of 4Eva. I know a lot of you two have been waiting to talk about this guy: leave your thoughts for Will below.)
Justin Scott, know across numerous blogs as Big K.R.I.T. (King Remembered in Time), has released a couple of high profile street albums or mixtapes. Never quite sure what the difference is supposed to be. Anyway, I sat down tonight with the intention of poring over his second big release, Return of 4eva, to see if it stacked up against his previous K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Working out of Mississippi means that he hasn’t exactly seen much of the limelight, but K.R.I.T.'s been working steadily since 2005 and was rewarded with a record deal with Def Jam earlier this year. He’s worked alongside Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa and Smoke DZA, but calm down, he’s not all about the Mary Jane.
For me, Big K.R.I.T. is all about destroying stereotypes. When K.R.I.T. Wuz Here exploded onto the scene, I looked at the artist name, album title and cover art and remarked, “Now this will be a colossal waste of my time.” At a cursory glance, it came off as typical South swag bullshit. I kept seeing it pop up everywhere, though, and I figured I might as well give it a try, and I was blown away. Needless to say, when I got wind of Return of 4Eva, I was counting down the days to the release. I listened to it and loved it, and one day after my classes were over I decided to sit down, listen, and write, and the product of those two hours sits below for you.
I’ve listened to both of the guy's major mixtapes several times and I’m a fan of both, so know that I hold a positive bias on this guy before you read.
1. R4 INTRO
Starts off with boisterous horns and a solid bassline before the live drums kick in as Big K.R.I.T. previews the show, which is very fitting for an intro. It has the ring of a concept album, but let me reassure you that this is nowhere near as contrived of a theme before Max cuts someone with a shattered Wu vinyl. The fanfare returns before the track cuts to an alarm clock and somebody yelling for K.R.I.T. to wake up so he can start producing. Disappointing, but it leads into…
2. RISE AND SHINE
…a very soft, yet purposeful backing featuring flute and guitar mixed with some modern boom bap as K.R.I.T. spits some positivity and life lessons. K.R.I.T.’s accent is more Southern than most, and he really bends (read: mangles) some words, either by default or for the sake of the rhyme.
3. R4 THEME SONG
R4 is short for Return of 4eva, if you haven’t cottoned on to that by now. In addition to being one of the new potentially great rappers in my opinion (and they’re all broken down geographically: J. Cole has the East, Freddie Gibbs and/or XV owns the Midwest, Kendrick Lamar has the West, and Krizzle is steady laying claim to the Dirty Dirty. How convenient. Naturally I expect disagreement, but don’t use the comment section to bitch about that. Send me a tweet [@Will_StL] or something and we’ll talk), K.R.I.T. is one hell of a producer.
One of the first singles to come forward from the project. This beat was one of the main reasons I was so excited about Return of 4Eva; I sincerely think K.R.I.T. is one of the most talented producers of his generation. BK rhymes about his journey to his current plateau of critical success: “Just know that I was once considered just a dreamer / but I paid my dues and turned so many doubters to believers”. A very relaxing and uplifting song, and one of the album’s best.
In keeping with Southern tradition, there are a few songs on here designed to be played loudly whilst one cruises his or her neighborhood. The drums are pretty standard, save for the fill sample every 8 bars or so. The melody sounds like sunshine, and the lyrics are above-average braggadocio. Add that to a pretty good, albeit clichéd, hook, and you have a very nice song.
6. MY SUB
And the second track made for ridin’ comes right after the other. If you’re looking for deep lyrics, you won’t find them during this sequence of the album, as the drums are simplistic and the melody is predictable. This song is alright, but it’s really only enjoyable at parties or while driving to work in your Ford Taurus.
7. SOOKIE NOW (FEAT. DAVID BANNER)
These last three tracks are a little depressing, given what K.R.I.T. has done lyrically in the past, but at least the beat on “Sookie Now” has a little more complexity and drive to it. I’ve never been a big fan of David Banner (I’ve never had the luxury of owning a Chevy with butterfly doors, to be fair). Maybe it’s because I’m from St. Louis, maybe it’s something else, but the traditional Southern pattern of eighth-note hi-hats coupled with bland snares/claps and bass hits never really did it for me. Next time I’m down South, I’ll snap into a Slim Jim and give it another shot, I guess. The Mad Men sample at the end was neat though.
8. AMERICAN RAPSTAR
K.R.I.T. goes back to his commentary of hip-hop here, and I think he sounds more impassioned and comfortable here as opposed to, uh, “Sookie Now”. (What the fuck is a “sookie”?) This is the other single, and it’s companion and BFF “Dreamin’” go hand-in-hand as BK does his best to detail the struggles and experiences of living and trying to make it as a rapper. He’s really good at utilizing vocal samples: “American Rapstar” features one of the best examples of that.
9. HIGHS & LOWS
I really like this song now. It’s a fusion of Krizzle’s pimpin’ mentality and his refreshing honesty, and it works well on this song in my opinion. The “rapper singing his own chorus” is such a risky tactic because of how hit-or-miss it is, but it works on here, with K.R.I.T. earning bonus points for comparing the game to a mixing board. He’s actually a decent singer and manages to add a little to the song (unlike Eminem, whose squeaking warbling usually makes me throw shit at whoever’s closest). You’ll be in for a pleasant surprise at the three-minute mark as K.R.I.T. flexes his versatility muscles.
10. SHAKE IT (FEAT. JOI)
More singing, but I’ll be honest: it sounds a little contrived here. The sleigh bells are surprisingly inoffensive here, as K.R.I.T. experiments with a new flow. This song keeps my interest mainly because of the contrast of played-out song material and unique decisions in the production and execution fields. Joi seems to do mostly backing vocals on the hook, although she has more of a presence toward the end, but she doesn't make or break the song.
11. MADE A LOT (FEAT. BIG SANT)
I really wish there was a typo and we had a feature from someone named Big Santa, but alas, it’s merely K.R.I.T’s label mate and smoking buddy. K.R.I.T. doesn’t do anything exceptional with his rhymes, but he manages to sound interested enough to make this song worth listening to. The beat is the true star here, with a plinking piano and some more vocal samples. Sant kind of sucks, but he does sound swagged out, and I guess in some circles that’s all that matters. K.R.I.T. ends the song on a high note with his mini-verse.
12. LIONS AND LAMBS
The beat for this song sounds like a calmer, modernized version of OutKast’s “Babylon”, although I’m probably not the first person to say that. I don’t know if this is a legitimate grievance, but it seems like when artists have a strange accent they’re automatically allowed a lot more leeway with rhyming and the like. K.R.I.T. sounds smooth and sincere, and the beat is mellow as fuck. If you can’t tell, I really like this song.
13. KING'S BLUES
It’s becoming a pattern for K.R.I.T. to start with his choruses and rhyme later; not sure how I feel about this on a technical level, but it’s an interesting change of pace from the traditional method. The drums are the same they’ve been throughout the album, while a distorted guitar winds it’s way across time signatures as Justin lays claim to his throne. Humility is certainly still dead in our chosen genre. The saxophone that showed up late to the party was a nice touch.
14. TIME MACHINE (FEAT. CHAMILLIONAIRE)
Pardon the ignorance of my view of Chamillionaire as David Banner with a dorkier name. This song is more formulaic than I’m used to hearing from K.R.I.T., but whatever. K.R.I.T. calls for the good ol’ days of his youth (although when you compare this to one of his earlier songs entitled “Neva Go Back” you have to wonder what happened to him between recording the two releases). This song really drags along, but he somehow maintains his enthusiasm long enough for Chamillionaire to stumble into the booth and rap about nothing for about forty-five seconds, which is just about the same amount of time it took to write out his check. I like this song one day and can’t deal with it the next.
15. GET RIGHT
“This is just an anthem for the players”. Now that you know that, you can save this for your parties. Something in my dorm was broken every time I heard the phrase “Party like it’s 1999”. That, and rhyming anything with “rock of Gibraltar” should be retired. Violation of this law will result in a penalty: a fine if the judge is merciful, and recording an EP with Waka Flocka Flame if he has absolutely no soul. The first half of the hook is catchy as fuck, which makes me wonder why K.R.I.T. let his weed carriers finish off the rest of the refrain.
The phrase “Yeah, bitch, I know you hear the train coming” made me pause for a second. The bassline is pretty fat, but it’s about the only thing I remember from this song.
17. PLAYERS BALLAD (FEAT. RAHEEM DEVAUGHN)
I wonder if Radio Raheem speaks in melodic chords. Probably. This is probably at least partially a nod to OutKast’s “Player’s Ball” and mostly an ode to the Southern belles that apparently reside on and around K.R.I.T.’s bed. For as soft as this song is, it moves at a quick clip. Very nicely done, Mr. Scott.
18. ANOTHER NAÍVE INDIVIDUAL GLORIFYING GREED AND ENCOURAGING RACISM
If you can read, you can figure out the implied acronym in the title. K.R.I.T. lays down some of his deeper lyrics on one of his more pleasant beats. The trumpet that makes an appearance in the chorus is nearly perfect (in the opinion of this music nerd). I’m not black, but I can appreciate the meaning of this track even if I’ll never really understand the full impact of the word. Great song.
19. FREE MY SOUL
This beat is sleepier than Charles Hamilton’s voice. K.R.I.T. starts it off by singing about how he’s afraid his accomplishments won’t measure up. The more songs he makes, the more I unwillingly think of him as the Southern version of Common.
20. THE VENT
If you haven’t ever seen Nyle’s “Let the Beat Build” video, do so now. Then listen to this song a few times. Those are some of the best recent examples I can provide of how to build a mood throughout the course of a song. This is easily the most personal song on Return of 4Eva, and it’s one of the most beautiful lyrically, as well. I don’t usually use that word, but it’s too applicable to pass up on this occasion. It’s a bit lengthy, but it’s the most introspective and somber five minutes and twenty seconds of my day whenever I listen to it. Best song on the album.
21. COUNTRY SHIT (REMIX) (FEAT. LUDACRIS & BUN B)
And just like that, the mood is murdered in its sleep. I’ve never understood the Ludacris hype (cultural thing, I suppose), although Bun B is consistent and the beat is nice. Also wins the award for “What the fuck did he just say?” the first time I heard the chorus. Great song if you’re the mood to go ham, but a bad song for bedtime stories.
SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN?: So class, today we looked inside the mind of one Justin Scott, stylized as Big K.R.I.T. for giggles, and learned that indeed, the South got something to say. I’m probably higher on K.R.I.T. than most of y’all two, but most people I’ve introduced to him like him to some degree. Return of 4Eva is a free album, you lucky son of a bitch, and I recommend it highly.
- Will Schmidt
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)