Big K.R.I.T. was pleasantly surprised recently. The night that Big Sean decided to leak his Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica-assisted “Control,” K.R.I.T. found he had a lot of new followers on Twitter. He woke up the next day to even more. Kendrick Lamar’s verse, which named him among other high-profile rappers of today, brought attention to the producer/emcee in an unexpected manner. Instead of feeling offended by the remarks, as many have been (evidenced by several response tracks from rappers), Big K.R.I.T. simply thanked Lamar for the “promotion” the next day, in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. Rather than dwell on the verse, he said he was moving forward with plans to release new music for fans, both old and new.
Those plans are the next step in what has been a critically acclaimed journey for Big K.R.I.T. The Meridian, Mississippi artist has established a solid fan base with various releases. His debut, Live From The Underground, released on Cinematic/Def Jam Records, followed two other acclaimed works, 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and 2011’s returnof4eva. Despite that recognition, K.R.I.T. seems poised for even more in the future, telling HipHopDX that he is currently working with various producers including Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, DJ Dahi and Terrace Martin. K.R.I.T. also told us he is refocusing his energy on his rhymes and delivery, as he allows producers to craft some of the beats for him.
In this interview, K.R.I.T. also talks about why it's important for him to have so many followers (on and off Twitter), but it's not for reasons other rappers may have. Surprisingly, he says it isn’t because he hopes to become known as “the best rapper alive.”
“That ain’t my full focus,” he noted. Instead, K.R.I.T. explained that it’s more important for him to help others and to save others, reaching as many people as he can with his message. K.R.I.T. also talked about surviving on mustard sandwiches during turbulent times in his life and why he doesn’t separate his music from religion.
Big K.R.I.T. Says His New Project Is Soulful With Less Samples
HipHopDX: What can we expect from your upcoming album?
Big K.R.I.T.: [I’m] keeping it soulful, and I’m also really working with a lot of producers as well. So it’s exciting, that I finally get to sit back and be a rapper. I’m used to being in front of the boards. I’m so used to mixing and so used to producing a record that sometimes it takes away from the creativity, or it takes me longer to create. Now I’m getting the opportunity to be in the studio with some dope producers. You know, Terrace Martin, DJ Dahi, Chad Hugo and people like this. It’s just different, because they work differently. The production they do is different, and the sounds they use and what they all sought from me was the kind of music I make. So we just instantly vibe with what we come up with.
DX: You said you’re working with Chad Hugo, among others. How did you hook up with Chad, and how has his music influenced your lyrics?
Big K.R.I.T.: I linked up with Chad at Bonnaroo. I guess I was reaching out to him before that, because I’m familiar with his sound and how experimental he is with music. I was just really curious with what we could come up with.
DX: And so when you got together, how did you see the effects in the music?
Big K.R.I.T.: It was kind of easy with me being a producer and him being a producer too. [I was] willing to sit back and have him play me records and try to not go for the typical thing that I would rap off of but something a little different. He is real free and raw with letting you kind of be creative. He comes in every now and then and gives you ideas or things of that nature, but he really kind of just lets you do what you want to do for the record. It’s dope. I don’t get the opportunity to work with producers as much. I was always like, “What if y’all rap the whole song?” and they’ll be like, “I don’t like it.” But we ain’t ran into that kind of problem. Everybody in there is cool. If something ain’t right or if the verse ain’t where it need to be, it’s a respect like, “Hey man, do that one over.” And it’s all love.
DX: You said you’re going in a different direction than what you’ve done in the past. How would you categorize that direction that you’re going into?
Big K.R.I.T.: It’s just really embracing Soul from a different perspective and not really sampling as much. [We’re] creating records that sound like samples, and I’m using my voice more as an instrument than anything now. Then we’re spending an enormous amount of time on making sure that the mix, EQ, the dynamics, the vibe and everything is all the way right…the sequence. All of that is extremely important to me now. It’s great, because now that I’m not producing all of this, I can spend as much time as I want on those things.
DX: You said you're using your voice as an instrument. Is that a part of changing up flows to fit different styles of music?
Big K.R.I.T.: That, and more being in tune with the singing aspect. I’m getting in tune with a lot of songs I heard growing up, the vibes, how they were singing and the amount of passion they put in their music. I’m really channeling that myself, not being scared to go a little further with content, with the subject matter and overall being in a good space while I create. I’m not really being as concerned with how people may receive it or if this is the direction that I need to go, and just going there, man, and kind of taking it as far as I possibly can.
Big K.R.I.T. On Outkast’s Influence & Hopes To Work With Andre 3000
DX: You say it reminds you of the music you heard growing up, or at least you were influenced by the music that you heard growing up. You were born in ‘86, correct? So what did you listen to growing up that is now influencing your music?
Big K.R.I.T.: Just to make it brief, I would say Aquemini or ATLiens. It’s like pushing the boundaries. I’m 100% sure that some of those records that OutKast did, they really didn’t care what people thought. They was like, “Man this is what’s great. This is what’s next. This is how we feel.” I’m kind of going to take a part from that and go there, man. Whether people totally get the project and understand it or not, I’m definitely going to take out the time on this one to make the kind of content, sonically that I really, really want. And I think that is the place that I really want to go.
DX: You talked about Aquemini. I think that’s a classic. So the OutKast influence is there. Recently, there has been some talk about Andre 3000 coming with an album. What have you heard about that, and what are your thoughts on that?
Big K.R.I.T.: I saw the same as you on the blogs. I’m excited for that, bruh. I mean, [I’ve been] waiting years for more content, more music. Being the kind of OutKast fan I am and wanting them to do another OutKast album? Hell yeah. He is the kind of artist that every time he drops something, it kind of changes the realm of music. And I’m always excited to hear what really creative minds have going on and how can you take this genre farther. He has always been one of those people to test the limits. I’m excited to hear it, just as a fan and artist, to be inspired something that would probably be totally different than what we hear every day.
DX: It would be interesting to get a call for that album, right?
Big K.R.I.T.: Hell yeah!
DX: That would be like a dream come true for a kid growing up in the ‘90s.
Big K.R.I.T.: Boy, you have no idea, man. I got mad records already.
DX: Ready for Andre?
Big K.R.I.T.: Man, just waiting on a phone call [Laughs]…just waitin' on a phone call, man.
DX: We’ll make sure we’ll late that be known.
Big K.R.I.T.: Please do.
DX: The record that you’re working on with Chad and Terrace, what is that album going to be called?
Big K.R.I.T.: I can’t say just yet, and I don’t think I’m ready to say just yet. But mention Dahi in there too man. He is a dope producer too, and I want the homie to get some shine because his tracks are crazy.
DX: For sure. What’s he brought to the table that you have been inspired by?
Big K.R.I.T.: Man, the amount of soul in his records. It’s a little bit obscure, but they’re not samples. He has really done a great job of being able to make you feel a record and it not have a sample in it or not have a hook on it. Anytime you can play me a record and I can immediately come up with the concept or it speaks to me; that’s amazing. I always pride myself on being the kind of producer that, if I made a record, that when I shopped it, it came along with hook or whatever. But to have somebody play me a record and I immediately hear what the hook is sounding like, and I can write then and come up with a verse. That’s love.
Big K.R.I.T. Says He Was Honored To Work On The Roots’ “Undun”
DX: Could you tell us about what you’ve learned from working with The Roots and what you’ve taken into your own music after that?
Big K.R.I.T.: What I learned from them is finding a space in music and really indulging in that...being yourself 100%. To me, they are like the big brothers of Hip Hop to the point where when you get the opportunity to work with them, it’s like a rite of passage. Like, I got an opportunity to be on “[Late Night With] Jimmy Fallon.” When they played one of my records it was like, “Yeah, hell yeah. I’m here now.” You know what I’m saying? You do a record with The Roots and it’s like, “Shit, I’m respected.” And then to be on the album Undun, was clean out the blue. I felt mad honored to be a part of one of their albums. They knew about my music, knew what kind of content I made and really reached out to me to be a part of that song.
DX: Wow, that’s great. It’s like that Andre call where one of your...
Big K.R.I.T.: Yeah, it was like that Andre call. It was like getting Bun B or doing a song with B.B. King.
How Overcoming Obstacles Factors Into Big K.R.I.T.’s Music
DX: I wanted to talk to you about this verse on “The Purpose,” where you say, “I was born in ‘86 despite the wolves and rats.” What was your thought process going into that verse and talking about “the wolves and rats” that you had to overcome?
Big K.R.I.T.: That can be summed up within any realm of non-believers or people that aren’t out for your best interest. When I came into this—really just moved and was really out here trying to get into this Rap game—I was like maybe 15, 16 going back and forth to Atlanta. I was really just like a baby, just like, “Hey man, I got beats. I’m rapping. Let’s work.” And so, over time, I just feel like I been through so much and dealt with so many obstacles that I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I know how to handle certain situations. That’s why I survived and returned with bear fur on my back. I’m down to continue to beat problems and prove myself; that’s what my career has always been about. It’s always been about proving myself, making people believe in something that they probably didn’t know existed, didn’t believe in or didn’t pay attention to. So in any realm, I’m used to being in the position where I gotta go through something that nobody expects me to do or say something that nobody expects me to say.
DX: That’s wild because the imagery there is like, “I was born in ‘86,” so I think of a little child. Then going into this world of wolves and rats and then coming back with not just having killed the wolves and rats, but with having bear fur on your back. That’s coming back like, “Yes, I can succeed no matter what.” But that’s an interesting image there, right?
Big K.R.I.T.: Yup, and that shit can go for everybody in life, not just in Rap music, man. It’s always going to be something that keeps you down, something negative that’s going to come around, but you got to be able to fight through it. And it’s worth it in the end. It’s always worth it in the end ‘cause once you get past that obstacle it will never come again.
DX: And if they do, you know you can overcome them.
Big K.R.I.T.: Yeah, but in the realm of Rap, it will never come up again.
The Importance Of Family & Friendship In Big K.R.I.T.’s Life
DX: The other theme in that verse is family. You talk about you came back, but you came back to feed the family. So you use those obstacles in order to use them as food for the family and then you talk about, “Who says I’m not fit to wear my father’s crown?” Where did this theme come from in that rhyme, the theme of family?
Big K.R.I.T.: Because in the beginning, kind of being like, “I'm fin’a to go do it big, I’m fin’a go rap. I’m fin’a go move. This is what I want to do.” It’s not that your family don’t believe in you. I think, more or less, they don’t understand or see, per se, the outcome because it’s very hard to. It’s kind of hard to be like, “Oh so, like how you going to do that shit? You ain’t got no money.” You know what I’m saying? It’s like, “You young. You don’t know your way around. How you going to do that?” But being able to keep pushing, putting my best foot forward and still having the family who would tell me, “I just heard your song,” or, “I saw you in this magazine. Keep pushing.” And they don't know what’s going on after the fact, when you sleeping on your partner’s couch, or staying in a hotel room or living off of mustard sandwiches…but just them being excited about one piece of work that made it through the pipeline. It kind of keeps you going. And it was one of those situations where, once I was able to drop a project like K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, and get a deal, it was important for me to be able put my partners on, to put people into positions that I started with and to be able to go home and do something for my family…my folk. It was all worth it at the end of the day.
DX: And then you talk about breaking the chains they gave you. What chains, specifically, were you speaking about on that?
Big K.R.I.T.: That was more a metaphor for the box. The chains they gave is the box they put me in. A lot of people might have thought that it was just going to be Country kind of music, and I was just going to be turnt up all the time. But no, it’s so many different sides of me, so many different ways to create a song, and I’m trying to tap into that. It’s not just rapping, again, it’s producing. It was just one of them things where I went in trying to prove a lot of people wrong. A lot of people probably thought I would just get a deal and get shelved or not get a deal at all. It was important to let all that fuel me in order to keep creating music and keep doing what I love.
Big K.R.I.T. Explains Faith’s Role In His Life, Religion & Music
DX: Finally, in that song, you say that your power lies in your faith and beliefs. Where did that strength and faith and belief come from? Was it through your upbringing or was it something that you found later on in life?
Big K.R.I.T.: It was my upbringing and what I’m reminded of everyday in life. My faith and how I feel, all of that kind of keeps me in the kind of space where I can continue to push forward. There’s a lot of negativity, and there’s a lot of things somebody can say to you to ultimately tear you down. You gotta kind of have your mind right within this industry, within life, or whatever you do. I really lean on my faith a lot. I lean on prayer a lot to guide me through turbulent times. It’s extremely important that I tell people that. Like, I’m not scared. I’m not trying to separate my music from religion. That was never my idea. That was never my plan. Being that music is the only language that everybody speaks, I’m going to take the opportunity to say exactly how I feel, what I’m going through and to tell you what helped me…what worked for me. That’s not to say that it will work for you, but with hopes that maybe that will inspire you to do something. Maybe that will inspire you to go a different route in your life and to do something positive. All that is extremely important. Aside from being the greatest rapper alive, that ain’t my full focus. That aint what I got in this to be. I got in this help people, save my folk, put food on the table and bring money to a lot of people that got ideas and dreams, but they financially can’t get out of their situation. That was why I got into this game, and I ain’t going to ever let anything cloud my judgment of that. And that is what it is.