Big K.R.I.T. Talks Making an Impact, His Love Life, J. Cole and Rae Sremmurd’s New Music [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
With his second studio album, ‘Cadillactica,’ under his belt, Big K.R.I.T. has reached a milestone. The producer and rapper from Meridian, Mississippi pulled off a major feat by collaborating with artists who influenced his sound while growing up. Bun B, Devin the Dude, E-40 and Raphael Saadiq embraced his project with open arms, working with him without a second thought. "I have so much respect for them," he tells The Boombox.
With songs like ‘Mt. Olympus’ and ‘Soul Food,’ K.R.I.T. shed his ‘King of the Underground’ persona by creating his own lane as a conscious rapper with hand-crafted beats, which are as elevated as his lyrical content. Since November 2014, Krizzle has been promoting this album and making his rounds on his Pay Attention tour, all while using his platform as an artist to address issues from racism to his rap counterpart's lyricism. Even with all of the industry politics, the MC has managed to remain true to his brand and stick to his goal of putting the backwaters of Mississippi on the map.
We recently got the chance to chop it up with K.R.I.T., and the conversation covered a range of topics from his personal life (he opens up about his girlfriend) to his rap career (why he chose to take a different route). Find out which rapper he wants to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, why he wants people to be aware of the world around them, his connection with J. Cole and what he feels about the future of hip-hop.
The Boombox: On 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,' you wore a shirt that read, "Across cultures, darker people suffer most. Why?" Explain the importance of that statement and why you felt viewers should see it?
Big K.R.I.T.: In today’s society and with what’s going on in the world, you have to be conscious and aware of what’s going on. That shirt I wore has a quote from Andre 3000 and it’s actually part of his line -- you know one of the jumpsuits. It was one of the quotes that really spoke to me because it’s one of those questions you have to ask yourself: "Why throughout cultures do darker-skinned people have to go through so much?"
People are always judged… So posing that question surrounding a record like ‘Soul Food,' I just felt like it was perfect. It was something that was good for your mind, body, soul and spirituality. I felt like it was a powerful quote and it would make people talk amongst themselves as well.
Watch Big K.R.I.T.'s 'Soul Food' Video Feat. Raphael Saadiq
There were a bunch of solid hip-hop albums that came out in 2014. Which new album is your favorite besides your own?
I really dug [J.] Cole’s album, man. I actually got to hear it before a lot of people heard it. Just to listen to where he was trying to go and where he is going with music… being able to still make the kind of music that moves and touches people. Normally, people are like once you get to a certain point in your career people feel like you done went mainstream or you make commercial records because you have a deal. But it’s good to know that artists like us, we can still make the kind of music that no matter how much is required people can still feel it.
People still understand that we genuinely want to help people with the music. I think his album conveyed that a lot. Then sonically being able to hear his growth -- because you know he produces music like I produce music -- so I can definitely hear the growth in his music as well as his lyrical content. That’s always important as artists, we take the listeners and our supporters on this journey and we have to grow up and let our fans grow up with us. We make the kind of content that is timeless because we aren’t really trying to ride a wave.
What do you think about the new crop of artists like Rae Sremmurd? They're approach to rap and their content is different than yours. Do you feel like these are the artists the youth are gravitating towards?
It’s one of those things where I think about when I was growing up and the kind of music that I listened to, the music my older brother listened to; then there was what my dad listened to. So whatever is going on in schools and high schools -- I am not in high school anymore, I am not in junior high and I am not in college, I am done with that portion of my life. Now it is career-building and goal-orientated and trying to figure out the next steps as far as paying my taxes and things of that nature.
My mind frame has changed so the music that I listen to also has to speak to me in a way where it’s still responsible in some kind of way. For me, I listen to a lot of old school music. But shout out to Rae Sremmurd. I am excited for the young homies because they are excited and they are putting on for Mississippi in a major way. They are making the kind of music they want to make and I will never knock that. Hip-hop is supposed to be an art form, so when we say "art," it can be anything.
What is some advice you have for the younger generation of artists?
As far as where these artists are concerned, I pray that they get to the point when they grow with their music and they really keep their heads up. With this industry, the fame can destroy as well. I hope these young artists put some of their money away because you ain’t always going to be up all the time. The youth also is more in touch with marketing. They know how to use social networks; they know the ins and outs. For me, it was passing CD’s out, you know the ground-work. Social media made it where a lot of independent artists didn’t have to spend a large chunk of funds on marketing.
What collaboration with an artist didn't make 'Cadillactica' for some reason?
Believe it or not, everybody that was featured on my album is exactly who you heard on that project. It was one of those things where you go through the process of creating and making music and you make a large sum of it, but when you go to break it down and really get into the sequencing of the album… for me I never wanted to feature with an artist because they were hot at the moment or they had a hot song. The thing for me is about "Do they really fit this record? Is the vibe going to be right?"
I wanted to bring them into my world of production to do something totally different. This album is all about still having the same cohesiveness and working with artists that I respect as OG’s too. I had Bun B, Devin the Dude, E-40, Raphael Saadiq. I have always wanted to work with them and have been a fan of them like since growing up. So to have them on my album, I was honored. It was a milestone within a milestone.
Listen to Big K.R.I.T.'s 'Do You Love Me' Feat. Mara Hruby
Speaking of features on the album, there are rumors that you and Mara Hruby are a couple. Tell me about doing the collaboration for ‘Do You Love Me?’
I originally had the song written before I even decided to have her featured on it. It was one of those things where listening to it, I knew it would be better fit for a female's voice. Why not feature Mara Hruby because I love her voice and I love the soulfulness in her voice. At the same time, it’s still aesthetically a little different from what people are used to hearing from me.
It was easy because, you know, that is my girl so it wasn’t as stressful trying to reach out and sending it back and forth with another artist. She was in the studio with me and we knocked it out. We went over it together to make it sonically vibe. It was dope to be able to feature her on the album. Everybody seems to love the record and lord willing, we are going to shoot a video to it. I am excited about that and a lot of the new stuff she is creating as well. I think people are really ready to see that side of music -- that conventional soulfulness.
On your track 'Third Eye,' are you talking about her on that song too?
I am definitely talking about her [Mara Hruby] on that track.
Who do you want to win the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album: Iggy Azalea, Childish Gambino, Common, Schoolboy Q, Eminem or Wiz Khalifa?
I wouldn’t mind seeing the homie Wiz get a Grammy or Common. Either one of them would be dope to see them get a Grammy. Actually, I have been on tour with Wiz, we go way back so it would be exciting to see him get that award. The first tour I went on was the Wake and Bake Tour. A lot of people don’t credit Wiz, but he really cranked up the "I’m going to tour off my mixtape movement" back in 2010. He was one of the first people to really start doing that hard-body. Then it was Curren$y, me, then Smoke DZA. You know we all evolved since then, but it's dope to see everyone growing and building their own movements from Taylor Gang to Jet Life to Smoke having R.F.C, to me having Multi -- it's dope.
It’s interesting when you look back to 2011, compared to your XXL Freshman Class, you chose a very different path to success.
I think looking back on that cover I was the only artist who produces as well. As a producer, I wanted to prove myself not necessarily always having a radio record. I wanted to mostly be known for full-bodied content. It was a different route to take, but I was able to build a solid foundation. Even if I never have a radio smash record or I never get nominated for any awards I still have a voice in music and I would rather that then to have to always have a single and nobody’s paying attention.
I know you are busy promoting your own album, but a fellow collaborator, A$AP Ferg, is also in the process of working on his new album. You guys have anything planned for that?
Maybe. Ferg used two records from me on his mixtape and you know I would like to get back in the studio with the homie. I got a lot of respect for him because sonically and creatively, he really knows where he wants to go and it’s not really trying to be in the box. I gotta respect people who brand their own movement even when they are on a team. Shout out to A$AP Ferg, cause that ‘Lac Lac,' we may have to just do a video for that too.
Word. You need to go straight Beyonce-style and drop a ‘Cadillactica’ visual album.
That would be dope. But we ain’t done with ‘Cadillactica’ yet. We have a lot more in store for y'all. Stay tuned.