Big K.R.I.T.: Mississippi Messiah

 Big K.R.I.T.: Mississippi Messiah By Seandra Sims

A small, haze-filled concert venue off Canal Street – Santos Party House – plays the backdrop for the “Smokers Tour’s” New York stop. Backstage in a 15’ x 15’ room are 15 or so random people, many of them doing what the tour’s title invites them to do. There, tucked quietly among his own followers is Big K.R.I.T. – not smoking – but excited about the tour performances that night.

To escape the noise, he agrees to be interviewed in the only remotely hushed place available, a single-stall, graffiti-ridden bathroom that appears heavily used. Still, the Southern boy from Meridian, Mississippi, is poised like it’s a red carpet and tuxedo night, and clearly humbled by the attention. In a lowly stall 2,000 years ago, a savior was born, and in this bathroom stall, one gets the feeling that the leader of hip-hop’s next generation has just been born.

True underground Hip-Hop fans already know Big K.R.I.T. Since 2005, Big “King Remembered In Time” has been spreading his rap the old-fashioned way – from town to town and crowd to crowd. Like Jesus, he’s different from his competitors. He raps and produces his own tracks. He sampled a song from England singer Adele for his popular “Hometown Hero.” He’s a rapper’s MC – no real gimmicks or flash, just cleverly crafted spitting for his believers.

“Hip-Hop to me is like storytelling. It’s about telling your life story, so that’s what I do as far as my music,” says Big K.R.I.T. “You feel different ways all the time. One day you might feel like sh*t is all f**ked up; the next day, you’re feeling extra fly. I try to express my belief in spirituality and what I went through financially, poverty, relationships. It’s important that people understand that I’m a human being at the end of the day.”

 

On this night, the crowd at Santos shows Big K.R.I.T the most love on “Children of the World” – a soulful chastising of the industry and excess materialism, that they recite like his disciples, word for word. Two minutes into the song, he drops the background away completely. Like a good choir in a hot church somewhere deep in Mississippi, he doesn’t need the music to carry the song. “They gave me hell/like I asked for it/signing everything under the sun/but they ain’t ask for K.R.I.T.,” he chants a cappella, eyes closed, absorbing the crowd participation. Near the end, the crowd goes wild, but he’s in a trance at the moment – possibly in disbelief at his own fame.

“That’s why I signed him!” yells Def Jam’s Sha Money XL after the song, while surrounded by a small entourage of his label family. This past June, the former G-Unit architect and current Senior VP of Def Jam signed Big K.R.I.T. to a deal quickly after hearing him. Things are moving fast these days for the young rapper, who has only been with his Cinematic Music group handlers for nine months and is eager to get into the studio to record his Def Jam album. Opportunities like the “Smokers Tour,” where he shares stage time with artists like Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, and Smoke DZA, are offering prime exposure to help build Big K.R.I.T.’s growing fan base.

 

“K.R.I.T.’s buzz is from all the hard work he put in over the years prior to linking with me, and then getting with the right team – Cinematic & GFC New York,” says Jonny Shipes, president of Cinematic Music Group. “Nothing happens over night…it was a long time coming and deserved for K.R.I.T. I got a call from Sha Money XL one day telling me he was moving over to Def Jam. I played him K.R.I.T. , he went nuts, and the rest is history.”

As far as being Hip-Hop ‘s young savior, Big K.R.I.T. isn’t quick to accept the label. On “Children of the World,” he makes it clear that he doesn’t have the answers to many of life’s tough questions: “If I can’t trust my own government/who can I trust?/Shorty might have AIDS/like who can I f**k?/Sure enough that be the day/that the rubber bust.” Lyrically, he says he’ll never be afraid to dabble in topics like God and morals and being a hypocrite like some others.

 

“I think it’s extra important to be honest,” says Big K.R.I.T. “Every time you see me, I’m the same person as my music. I’m just gonna pull my weight, and hopefully at the end of the day, I do what I’m supposed to do, and hopefully I inspire another young artist to do what their supposed to do. Then we can take hip-hop back to where it was, as far as the golden era when I loved it.”

Says Shipes, “I look for timeless artists that paint pictures with their words. K.R.I.T. is an amazing artist, and, I plan on giving that to the world raw and uncut. [He]produces all his own music, sings, and can rap his f**ckin’ ass off, so I’m not worried. I would rather him have 100,000 less fans than compromise his brand.”

In a time of Barbies, light-skinned rap-singers, and heavy Louis Vuitton flossing, only the rap audience will determine if Big K.R.I.T.’s career can go the distance. After all, they crucified Jesus for being better than the others – but not before he had a chance to start the world’s largest movement.

Amen.

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