Interview: Big K.R.I.T.
Meridian, Mississippi is probably the last place that you think would give birth to the MC that many are calling the next “one.” But that’s exactly where Big K.R.I.T. is repping for…yup, Meridian, Mississippi. A while back, my man Jas hit me up telling me about this real dope MC named Big K.R.I.T.; I was like “King Britt out Philly?” He replied, “naw, Big K.R.I.T. outta Mississippi” and I’m like “Mississippi? Naw, I’m good.” I can’t front, from time to time I can still be narrow minded and even though the hip hop game is FAR from the days of you gotta be from NYC to hold weight, I sometimes regress back that way. But I did download the mixtape the Jas put me onto called “K.R.I.T. Was Here” and when I finally did give it a run…I saw what Jas and the rest of the world were talking about. This dude K.RI.T. was nasty. “Just Touched Down” and “Hometown Hero” might as well have been the anthem to me going to work, coming back home, picking up my daughter, cleaning the whip, etc. I guess it’s like Rakim said, “it ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.” Not too long after my Meridian, Mississippi epiphany, I got the opportunity to sit down and chop it up with Big K.R.I.T about how he started rhyming, how he balances rhyming and making beats and why he thinks the two mc’s being hailed the next ones are both from the south.
How did you get started in the game?
I really started taking it serious around the time when I was 13 or 14. I was really just rapping off of other folk’s instrumentals and stuff, karaoke machine kinda thing and went from that to really trying to produce for myself. Around 13 or 14 I started on MTV music generator. That was the first program I started making beats on and from that point it kinda just came from there. Around 2005, that was the first time I really left my comfort zone and moved to Atlanta and really started doing music and from that point that’s when it really got serious.
You were one of the 11 cats chosen to be on the cover of XXL’s freshmen class issue, how was that experience?
It was definitely a blessing and an amazing experience. One, to be recognized by XXL and knowing that they do that just that accolade alone is definitely amazing. And to be around other artist that definitely do their thing and their fan base is dope. It definitely put me in a position to be in other people’s households who wouldn’t know about my music, cause with XXL think of how many people read that. And then it put a name to the face cause a lot of people didn’t know what I look like and who was actually making the music and it gave them an opportunity to see who I was and read up on me and Lord willin’ go download “K.R.I.T. Was Here.”
It’s crazy because for years, Hip-Hop has been such an up North, New York thing, yet the two MC’s that cats are saying are the next ones, are you and Jay Electronica and both of ya’ll are from the South. What are they feeding the MC’s down South nowadays?
To me rap isn’t really coastal anymore, you know different artist from all over, you know it’s really just about hip hop in general. I think we’ve always had continent subject manner, it’s just very difficult to put music out, especially being where I’m from considering you really don’t have a hip hop network or most people stereotype Mississippi and turn deaf ears as far as what we’ve got to say and what we rapping about. But for the most part, you’ve got artist from all over that just for the sake of hip hop wanna make good music man. It really ain’t a coastal thing anymore.
Sha Money XL signed you to Def Jam, and he was a big part of 50 and G Unit’s success. What have you learned from Sha so far on the business side of things?
I really been cranking it with the music. Cinematic Music Group really definitely handle more of that aspect of that and I really just deliver the music and kinda stay grounded on the level of being right in front of the people and make music that they can relate to. The game plan itself, we really going for is the organic rap and really just let the people decide if they like the music or not and put other people on to it. It’s really not a force fed thing. So being where I’m from, it has to be organic. So, I’m excited about everything going on right now and people should definitely be on the lookout for how this movement grows and how we really plan on pushing music.
Not too many cats are successful at being a dope MC AND a dope producer but you seem to be juggling both pretty good. How do you do it?
It’s difficult. For the most part because you also wanna shop beats to other artist and then normally when I’m working on a project, I’m rapping off of every beat that I make so kinda trying to balance the two and when you’re in the studio and knowing that normally I’m gonna make this beat and write this hook and I’m gonna come up with the record…it’s a lot of hard work. Especially when you get known for production just as much as you do rapping you know, sometimes artists from all over are hitting you up cause they want you to make beats for them but I’m on tour right now so it’s real difficult to get in that vibe and that zone where I can really create. But taking it from artist like Andre 3000 and other artist that rap and make beats, as far as pacing myself and not trying to burn myself out and really just picking my battles as far as just being an artist for a month or to be a producer for a month, you just gotta find a way to balance the two.
Is there one you prefer doing more than the other?
Rapping, it’s really more something I prefer more only because a beat can only be so jamming. Words on the other hand can touch people in a different manner, even if it’s acapella or spoken word or poetry. You know words are definitely more impactful but I do plan on at some point in my career just really not rapping so much and really just doing production and composing and scoring movies and stuff like that.
On “Hometown Hero” you sample Adele’s “Hometown Glory” which is one of my favorite songs. Do you listen to a lot of music outside of hip hop?
Yeah, I definitely do. Not just rap, but definitely soul like Willie Hutch, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack, The Dramatics, the Controllers, you know groups like that. And also definitely Cold Play, One Republic different artist like that as far as the music and as a producer I just listen to a lot of different genres of music.
It’s funny you name Willie Hutch and Curtis Mayfield because both of them produced and wrote two of my two favorite Blaxplotiation soundtracks, “Foxy Brown” and “Superfly” and your music reminds me of that soulfulness of the 70’s. Where does that sound come from in your music?
It definitely started being around my grandmother and gospel, I listen to the gospel stations. Thinking about my parents and them listening to the Temptations or Luther Vandross and artists like that and taking it upon myself to kinda dig deeper and find artist that really fit my personality. But, definitely music that I enjoy. One of the first artist I kinda took, to and was amazed that a lot of people weren’t really up on was Willie Hutch considering that he did “The Last Dragon” soundtrack , “The Mack” soundtrack and the music is so amazing and really indulging in his catalogue as far as the music that he put out. Bobby Womack is a great influence as far as my music. And just trying to create that same kinda soulfulness, that honesty in music that they were doing back then.
I’d rather give 1,000 cd’s away for free then to sell 100.
Mixtapes have always been a key promotional tool for new artist to get their music heard but now in 2011, mixtapes are actual albums with all original music that artist have to give away for free. Why do you think mixtapes changed from rhyming over other people’s beats to now being actual albums and why do you think mixtapes still help to get your name out there?
Definitely giving the whole music away for free. That definitely puts you in a position to let people hear your music. I’d rather give 1,000 cd’s away for free then to sell 100. And then you think about social networks and things and different avenues for artist to take in order to promote their music without having to pay a substantial amount of money. And then also in my case, I really can’t call the albums mixtapes because they’re albums period. The only difference is you’re giving it away for free. You know mixtapes are normally only blends of other songs or instrumentals and you recreate your own rendition of the song but it’s definitely an album if it’s all original music, it’s all content, its interludes, it’s mixing involved and it takes time, its hard work, things of that nature. The only difference is it’s not shrink wrapped or sold in a store. I think artist nowadays understand that the consumer isn’t fooled by your single just being jamming, they wanna hear the whole song and that’s why itunes plays a minute and 20 seconds of your record and things of that nature because it’s important that you deliver an impactful album not only just a single now.
On your “American Rapstar” you say that an A&R once told you that you can determine the worth of a song within the first 15 seconds of a song but with your music it takes the complete 3 minutes and 40 seconds to comprehend what you’re saying. With that being said, you’re not the average artist that the industry seems to be signing these days, so why do you think the industry took to you the way they did?
I think people as far as music is concerned really got me in a position to be here by asking questions and wondering why I wasn’t in a position to be putting music out on a bigger platform and I also think that labels understand that if it’s real then people take to it and get behind it. There’s no glamour and glitz behind my music, it’s definitely me rapping about my real life. And at the same time I also wanna express that as an artist you go through ups and downs, you definitely dream big and there’s gonna be a lot of people who don’t believe in what you got going on but you gotta keep pushing forward. The intro to that song…cause I heard that a lot as an artist and I’m the type of person who really enjoys doing interludes and letting the music ride in the beginning and stuff like that so if you only listen to the first 15 seconds and I haven’t even started rapping yet. It’s just about making real music and real content. As an artist, you normally got 3 minutes and 50 seconds to really express yourself in a song but who says it has to be hook, verse, hook, verse, hook verse? It can really be however you want it to be and that’s really what I was trying to say with that.
Do you feel any pressure now that you’re signed and cats have high expectations for you and your album?
I’m my worst critic at the end of the day. I really wanna make sure the music is all the way right before we put it out, if it ain’t then I’m not gonna put I out. And at the same time, I’m really self contained so when I’m in the studio, normally it’s me by myself working. It just makes it easier cause it’s just my ideas and I can really kinda just vibe out and spend as long as I want really working on the music. So either it’s a day or too or a week before I get finished with the song, it’s gonna be right before I put it out there for the masses. And I think Def Jam respects that and understands that too, just give me some time and I’ll deliver the album and everybody’s kinda cool with that.
What’s your production set up?
I always use Reason, a midi keyboard and Pro Tools. I make my beats in Reasons, I sequence them in Pro Tools and that’s kinda what just works. It’s been working for me since 2002 and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If you had to drive from Mississippi to New York and you could only take 3 cd’s with you, what would they be?
Outkast’s Aquemini. The vibe itself, the music and growing up listening to it and being so moved by what they were talking about and just listening to the music in general. Not 100% understanding the content but now that I’m older I do. So, when you go back and listen to music like that it’s like wow, cause I’m going through that right now, so I definitely understand. Probably, Tupac “All Eyez On Me” and UGK’s “Supertight.”