Big K.R.I.T.’s Journey to ‘4eva Is a Mighty Long Time’ Album Begins With a Groundbreaking Moment
Money phones and iced-out chains may seem like a hip-hop prerequisite these days but there are certain rappers who have built a career off taking the understated route, namely Big K.R.I.T. While there's a glint of gold grills here and some gold rings there as he sits inside XXL's New York City office, K.R.I.T.'s artistic merit shines brighter than the few pieces of jewelry he does wear. The Mississippi native doesn't need to flash a bust down or cash to prove his worth. In fact, K.R.I.T. admits he went broke making his third album, 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time.
Coming clean about his personal finances is part of K.R.I.T.'s journey as an independent artist. Last year, the 31-year-old MC revealed he parted ways with Def Jam, the label on which he released his last two albums—Live From the Underground (2012) and Cadillactica (2014). Without a major label machine behind him now, the rapper is more hands on than ever when it comes to his career, putting all his efforts—and own money—into his music.
4eva Is a Mighty Long Time is the first album to come to fruition under the 2011 XXL Freshman's Multi Alumni imprint. With 13 mixtapes and two LPs already under his belt, he's been down this road before, but this time, Krizzle is riding solo, traveling on two distinctly different paths. He presents a double album representing duality: one side showcases the artist Big K.R.I.T. while the other highlights the man Justin Scott.
On the K.R.I.T. side of the album, trunk-rattling bangers like the Mannie Fresh-produced "Subenstein" and the lyrical fire power of "Confetti," produced by Hey DJ, prove the rhymer hasn't stepped far from his roots, whereas the project's Justin Scott section finds him taking an introspective approach on frustrations in his personal and professional life with the self-produced "Drinking Sessions" and dealing with depression on the WLPWR-crafted "Price of Fame."
Armed with one of 2017's best albums, Big K.R.I.T. is heading into 2018 with a sense of accomplishment. XXL sat down with the rapper to discuss 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, the groundbreaking moment he experienced going into the album, working with Mannie Fresh, overcoming depression, fighting against racism and his secret chalk drawings. Get involved in the conversation below.
XXL: In September, one of the first visuals we saw as a teaser for this project was you basically burying yourself, which is a pretty deep message. Why did you want to showcase that?
Big K.R.I.T.: The burying myself in the trailer that we put on for the album was basically to show the rebirth, right? The getting rid of the old, and showing a new side of myself, and all that I dealt with not only the label but just creatively and mentally. The depression and the frustration and the bitterness, and putting that aside and burying it, and now moving forward in life. I think we all do that.
You know, as we start to change and evolve in life and I just wanted to show that. It obviously was a dark format, you know what I'm saying, but sometimes we come out of the darkness into the light, and that's how it is, and I think it needed to be portrayed in that way. It was very gritty, beautiful shot. Motion Family [shot that]. I definitely think it got the point across.
Your album is 22 songs, showcasing the two sides of you as an artist and as a man. Why is this the right time in your career to showcase this duality?
It was important to do a double album for me ’cause I think I really needed to show the duality that I'm dealing with, right. I've been trying to tell people from the 4EvaNaDay, you know, and even the songs, it was always difficult figuring out a way to sequence the trunk-rattling records with the introspective records. I've always had a hard time. This was the opportunity where I can do all the trunk-rattling and go confident, lyrical prowess, go hard on one album.
Then I can tell you how it is when at home sometimes, when I'm insecure, when I'm depressed, when I deal with society, how I medicate. The things that go on in my life, but I'm still trying to stay positive and have faith and life up to a perfect thing that I had in my mind. And I feel like I needed to do that now, and I had spent so much time away that technically, to me, 22 tracks wasn't a lot of music when I used to drop mixtapes that were 22 songs and people were cool with it.
It's been three years since Cadillactica. So three years and within that time, you know, a lot of things happen. While making 4Eva Is A Mighty Long Time, what are some of the big life moments or things you dealt with on a personal level?
Aw, man, I would say first off, getting out of the studio and living life. I had spent so many years recording and making music. Then we were touring and recording and making music. I wasn't experiencing life at all. I wasn't traveling. I wasn't just going outside and looking at the trees and acknowledging so much beauty around me. It was a very robotic aspect to myself, and I think I was holding back a lot of emotions about how I maybe felt about competing so much to be this great artist and feeling like I wasn't getting what I deserved and all this. I really had to at that time, allow me to check myself, right, and remember what I really do this for, and that was necessary.
Working on this album, I invested everything into it. I pretty much went broke. I went broke ’cause this, to me, meant more than anything. That's when I realized that I was happier working on it and literally losing everything than I was when I had, when I was good with money, but the music wasn't what I wanted it to be. It wasn't coming out. I realized how much the social side of the world affected me. I felt music wasn't helping people at one point. It was so much going on with the politics and the violence, you know? That was a groundbreaking moment. Leaving and getting off Def Jam was groundbreaking for me.
Just overall figuring out that I'm still doing what I love. Really coming to that basis. I think that's really what I learned in three years. Is just being human and being vulnerable and telling people how I truly feel, and dealing with my mistakes and all my habits, and the drinking and these things and being honest about it because a lot of people were dealing with the same problems.
You mentioned the Def Jam aspect. So, you went from indie artist to then signed artist to then an indie artist again. In creating this album, what were some of the ups and downs that you experienced without having a major label behind you?
I would say the only... I can't even say that's a down because there was moments where I still was taking care of things, an independent artist that normally you wait on the label for, and I was like, "No, we got to do that now. We got to move." I think it was all upside. There was fear. I was scared because I was leaving a bubble where you got a [release] date. You drop it here. This is when we move. This is the budget. This is how you move. You just know what it is, right?
So, we was out there, and I was like, oh shit, I'm free, you know what I'm saying? Like, ah, we can just, and I can take my time. I can get this right, and I think it was more upside than anything to be totally in control of, the creative control I've always had, but in the way I presented the music to people that I respected they opinions, and it wasn't about this huge boardroom play, and... shit like that. It was, "Bro, you like this record?" "Yeah. Let's..." It was so organic and it shows now. It's just, the pressure wasn't there. It was just, hey, now I'm going to make the best music I possible can.
Your song "1999" with Lloyd is produced by Mannie Fresh. How did you get Mannie to work on that song?
Man, wow. The way that came about with working with Mannie Fresh, basically was I just went to work with him because he worked ... He was in Atlanta and I think he was working on a project, and I recorded a couple of songs just for his project and then he was like, "K.R.I.T., I got this record" and he had Lloyd was already on it and he was like, "Bro, just tell me what you think." He played it and I was like, "That's mine. I need that," right? He was like, "Bet." You know what I'm saying?
Then I went home and it took me a minute to write the verses because the vibe and the feeling. It's very easy to out-rap. To just try to go too hard and you overdo a song, right? To try to be, crank the lyrical prowess and you don't necessarily need to. So it took me a little time to just figure out a way to be happy and playful on the record, and not try to overdo it, but it's so cohesive. It feel good, you know, and it just, it works. It works, man. It's a tale of music when I remember, but they just bringing it, you know, here, now.
What about Mannie Fresh do you respect or made you want to work with him?
Mannie Fresh is a genius. Like, it's no way around that. We talking about the amount of music he's created and it's all jamming, and he's still doing it now. When you get in a room with him, the creative process is free-flowing. It's like, it's not like an overwhelming thing. It's either you rocking with it or you not, go on, play something else. Then you having conversations.
It's just easy-flowing and he can rap, right. So, it makes it a little easier when it comes to coming up with subject matter because he knows like, "Hey, do it one more time. Try it," you know. You can get that hook, right, or he can give you advice about the song if he doesn't necessarily like what you're coming with. But, it was an honor being able to work with him because I'm such a fan of him as a producer. Like, "Real Big" was an anthem in my city. So, yeah, and big talent.
"Get Away" is a song you created for people to just get away from the problems. Why did you want to include that message on the album?
"Get Away" was important to have that message on the Big K.R.I.T. side of the album because even the superhero side of you realize when you around some bullshit, right, and you have to tune it out. You have to find a piece of mind and space where you feel comfortable, and in the climate that we're in, with politically or socially or whatever, you just sometimes want to get away from it all.
You don't want to have to focus on the negativity. It made sense, even on that side to have a song that was crunk, turnt, energetic, but it has this message, and I think everybody has gotten to a point where at they job and they like, "Ahh!" I just think it needed that and then it flows out ’cause in your mind, if you do get away, where would you even go? Where are you going to go? It's just that question to ask yourself.
For you personally, what are some of the things that you want to get away from?
Aw, man. I was thinking violence, the world negativity. I don't know, the overwhelming amount of hate that sometimes is just there, or the, even the idea that we have so much positivity we find ourselves focusing on the hate, right? The racism, bigotry, these things. Just to be in a place and have, maybe everybody in a place where we can just figure out a way to be happy, or at least start talking about why we're not happy, right? Because I think everybody, we all in a pursuit of happiness because it's almost impossible to be that way all the time.
In 2017, the hate is more than ever in your face.
The hatred, the violence, it almost seems too regular. What are your feelings about that and constantly having to see it?
Well, as far as 2017 is concerned, I, where I'm from, you know, racism is a thing where it's not hidden, though. If somebody doesn't like you, they make it very much known. So y'all don't even bother. We just keep it moving. The realization that when you go out into the world, or when I would go out into the world, is that people didn't like you, but they didn't let you know. And so now, we're, it's at the forefront of now they want you to know.
So, a lot of people are like, "Wow, I didn't..." When it's always been, well, you know, it makes sense or it's always been there. It's just they didn't want you to know at the time. So, it's, now that we're out here, now that it's in the open, it's when we have to start having those real hard conversations, the real conversations. The ignorance that is there, the children see it and it's, it will be them that carry it on.
As grown people, we know it's going on. The 60, 70-year-old person that decides to call you some kind of racial slur, they're just trying to keep on or keep that energy going because they won't be here long after, right? So, we just have to start figuring out what are we going to show the kids, and how are we going to introduce them to life. How much of the negativity are we going to put in their face because just as much as you get that one kid that's like, "I don't like that. I hate that," there's going to be one kid who's like, "But why did they say that? I kinda feel that way."
So, we have to start feeding our souls differently and introducing different kinds of energy to people, not only on a media level, but what we tune into because the bad stuff gets more clicks than the good stuff. You can't help yourself because the train wreck always get more views. We have to start fixing that narrative.
"Drinking Sessions" is really personal. What inspired that?
Life and transparency. Music is my therapy and that's how I sometimes deal with my problems as well, right? That song I created, it wasn't necessarily meant to go on the album. I was going through something at that very moment and the only way I could express myself was to write about it, you know? Obviously drinking and all that and creating it, but it's important for me to tell people how I feel, what I go through.
It makes it easier to interact, to communicate, to do radio interviews, to be out in the world, when sometimes I may not be feeling up to doing and I don't feel good. It brings more of an understanding ’cause they know like, "Damn," or it's like an, "Oh, I'm going through that, too." The insecurities, the fear of dying, the medicating yourself. Whatever your vice may be, and how much you may over consume it. We all doing it, right?
So, I think it's important that we talk about that. We all like cars and we have houses and fashions and stuff like that but we all get depressed. We get sad, and I decided to talk about my sadness and my truth.
There's actually a line on "Drinking Sessions," "I'ma get rich, mama/I'm sorry I ain't got a wife or kids, mama/But look what I did, mama." For a lot of artists, especially when people are just trying to follow their dreams, the family thing kind of gets pushed to the side. Let's just talk about that line and your thought process in saying that.
I'll just start at the, "I'm sorry I ain't got no wife and kids, mama, but look what I did mama/Got a house that I barely can stay in, a car I barely can drive/I'd be a liar if I said money didn't make me feel alive."
I think that line is one of those situations where when you're so goal-oriented and you just focused on that, time can get away from you. Your goal is important and your dream is important and you go for it, and I went for it, and I'm happy, but then at that moment when it's like, man, I want to share this with someone, right? I want to share my success and I have a lady that's amazing, but then I look at my brothers and I look at my friends and most of them have kids. They're married and it's this whole other thing about life that I didn't get to.
You know how your mom is. She's like, "When am I going to have some grandbabies?" You know? Then that's something that I know she's excited about and it just was me letting her know like, I'm sorry that I haven't ventured into that side of my life yet, but I'll get there. It's a real thing when you're actually going for your goals in life, when you find yourself alone. You feel like you're the same, but everything around you changes, and two, three, four, five, years ago now. Yeah.
There's another line also on your dad. "My father's scared of dying, I can relate/I call him before every flight." Things from your parents kind of trickle down into you whether it's like old habits or this and that. What's the story behind that line?
Yeah, the line about my father and flight. I've always been scared of flying. My dad is the go-to person to call for me, right? I think maybe because he's so confident and, "All right, J. Well, have a good flight. Just call me later." Right? It's not like a, no worrying in his voice about my flight, and it kind of helps, but yeah. I think the fear of dying and the question of what happens next has just always been something in the back of my mind.
I've expressed it in my music a lot, but this time it was just more bolder in how I was feeling, because now that I'm getting older, a lot of the things that I want to do is just like man, I gotta do it now, rou know what I'm saying?
It's something about it, ’cause my 20s is like a blur now, right? Stuff I did, I wasn't even worried about it, and you start focusing on your health. How you treat yourself. How you treat other people the older you get, right, and that's that part that I'm at now. Like man, I gotta really be careful of the energy I put out here. I gotta really make sure I give my people their flowers while they're on the top side of this earth, and try to receive mine as well.
On "Price of Fame," one major topic is the downside of the fame and what kind of things go through your head. You talk about being depressed on there: "I came up to hold my fam down/Can't tell them about my depression ’cause most of them fans now." So, how has depression played a role in your life and how have you handled it?
How has depression played a role in my life and how have I handled it? It's played a major role in my life, and I'd like to think I'm handling it well because it comes and goes with all of it. I can't say I'll beat it out and never be depressed again. Not the case. I think it's about more than anything recognizing what you're going through, not trying to wave it off. Not talk about, but actually talking about it and letting it flow through, right?
So, the next time you feel sad or feel depressed about this certain topic, it won't affect you as much anymore. We get so comfortable with sad and we just be like, fuck it. I'll move on. I'll get past it. We don't talk about it. We don't acknowledge it. So when it comes back up, you're dealing with it all over again, but it's worse because you thought that you, it would never happen again.
So, I realize that I needed to be more vocal about how I feel. Don't hide my emotions and, you know, again, doing the album helped me do that and to be honest with myself when I'm not feeling OK, and to try not to fake it, you know what I'm saying? It's really easy to as, and especially with entertainers, when there's negativity that comes through, and you become a brick wall. It's, "Ah, I ain't letting that bother me. I ain't letting that bother me," but it'll shake you.
When you be sitting there by yourself in your house and you'll just fold, and that's dangerous. That's not good health-wise, mentally. And then you'll take it out on somebody you love. So definitely be vocal. Talk to someone if you have to because you have to sort these things out and you really can't do it by yourself in your head. It doesn't work that way.
Overall, the message that you want people to get from this album, what is that?
The message that I want people to get from this album? That I'm human. That I love creating music and I love like putting it together, producing. The art form itself and that you can be honest and succeed, right? You can be yourself and succeed in this industry, and it's better that way. For me, I'm unapologetically southern and country and I'm proud where I'm from, and I'ma put that out there too. That's what I want them to know.
Is there something about you that people may not know, whether it's some new skill that you acquired and never really shared with anyone or an interest that you're into recently in the past few months?
I'm a gamer. I have 2K, Battlefield, Call of Duty. It's so crazy that like some of these beats and stuff and production. Normally that's how my work day go. Beat and a game. Then it's like, make a beat and a game, and move around like that ’cause it's so not doing music. It just allows me to be like, man, I play the game then I'm going to go make a beat. Then I go right back to working.
And I love art. I can draw. I like to say aight. I met Miya Bailey and all of them, and they so amazing with it. It kinda made me be like, you know what, I'm just gonna stop drawing for a little while... But I love the art. I like chalk, doing chalk drawings and stuff like that.
So, these chalk drawings?
Never come out. You will never see them [laughs]. You'll never see them. No, I'm sorry.
Is there a chalk drawing that you're very proud of?
I guess if I was really, really proud of it, then people, I would show it to people. I'm proud of it because it's just me expressing myself other than making music. So, I don't even think I go over to try to like wow people with it. It's just to sit down and be hands on, right, but it's very Afrocentric. Big. There's one with this huge afro. You know and that idea and thought just comes from looking at the OutKast covers and what they did, right, but it's just doing something other than music.
See New Music Releases for December 2017