Big K.R.I.T. is well-versed in the dual nature of man. His entire discography is packed with lyrics that split the difference between the carnal and the spiritual. Balanced between strip club rituals and Sunday morning salvation, the man born Justin Scott carved a space for himself among Southern rap royalty. Three years after his last proper studio release, it only makes sense that his latest effort, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, comes as a 22-track double album in which he thoroughly mines his personal, and artistic, dichotomy.
On the record's Big K.R.I.T. side, he rolls out the trunk-rattling, bass-heavy tracks that made him a champion of country rap tunes, while the Justin Scott side finds him coloring with a more soulful palette as he excavates his personal journey with probing depth.
The boon of material on the double LP is also a result of the creative freedom K.R.I.T. now wields since regaining independence (through his MULTI production company, with BMG distribution) after splitting from Def Jam Recordings. He took two years to complete the album, on which he shares production duties with the likes of Supah Mario, DJ Kahlil, Mannie Fresh, Bryan-Michael Cox and more. The guest features run just as deep, with T.I., UGK (including a posthumous verse from Pimp C), Jill Scott, Robert Glasper, Sleepy Brown, Cee Lo Green and Joi of Dungeon Family fame all contributing to the expansive project.
"It's a blessing to be able to drop a double album in the space that I'm in and how I've grown as an artist able to articulate myself," the rapper/producer said as we discussed the album over the phone. Track by track, he shared the anxieties and insecurities that fueled his latest blues, as well as the spiritual fortitude that kept him grounded in the gospel.
I sampled the intro for the Justin Scott album in order to make the "Big K.R.I.T." track. It's totally different sonically. It's literally Justin Scott, me, in poetic form, apologizing or giving Big K.R.I.T. some future advice about the things we've dealt with industry-wise and creatively. But I didn't want to rap it, I wanted it to be in poetic form because that's how I first started writing rhymes — when I found out that Tupac wrote poetry and then turned them into the song format, that's how I started. So I wanted the Justin Scott side to be more spoken word/poetic and then to give Big K.R.I.T. a voice — the southern, aggressive, confident vibe.
I think I was able to capture the emotion and a different tone of voice, cadence and energy on these songs.
It's about confidence, as an artist, as a rapper, as a lyricist. It's me expressing that I know where I stand in music and I know my catalog and after "Mt. Olympus," that's known.
Sometimes you think you didn't win, and you focus so much on that instead of really looking at it from the perspective of it not being your time yet. And if somebody else won and they're going hard, trying to put it in your face, they might not even know how to celebrate: 'Your confetti ain't even heavy.'
Even when people are like, "Man, K.R.I.T., why you ain't where you need to be?" Or, "Why you ain't getting this kind of light?" I will. My role is different and 'Confetti' is just that. People know, lyrically, I go in and you should never take me lightly on any record. That's my way of reminding people, like, hey [laughs].
"Big Bank" feat. T.I.
That's just me being country, being southern, over a sample-melodic amazing song with knock. I loved being able to get T.I. on it, knowing the kind of tempo and bounce that he clicks with. I just love the feel of having an energy record that you can still play in an old-school [car] — even if it don't have 15 [inch speakers] and it's factory. It's just got that theme song for a superhero vibe to it.
"Subenstein (My Sub IV)"
It's a whole car culture of sub-[woofer] people that I know appreciate how much bass I put in my songs. Not that it's necessarily a lost artform; I just remember bass in your car and how much you could rattle being a thing growing up. And I never really stopped loving that. I don't know if I've reached the end of "My Sub" as a storyline yet, but I feel like this could be the cap of it. For now, it's just fun to do them. I love the energy behind it. I love how people react to it when they play it in their car. I love tearing people's speakers up.
"1999" feat. Lloyd
Mannie Fresh gave me a jammin' track and Lloyd killed it with the hook. It had that nostalgic feel, but it felt like now. The drums and the vibe of it was me still being able to create something that could be played in the strip club, but not intentionally. It's just something to make people dance and feel good.
"Ride Wit Me" feat. UGK
Cory Mo produced that one. It was an honor and a blessing to be able to work with Bun [B]. I'm just paying homage because UGK influenced me so much, and to be able to have Pimp C's voice on a record is an honor. Just keeping it true to the South, you know what I'm sayin'.
"Get Up 2 Come Down" feat. Cee Lo & Sleepy Brown
Cee Lo rappin'! While I was making this record, I reached out to Sleepy and he was down. Then I thought, I gotta get Cee-Lo. Now, I didn't ask whether he wanted to rap or sing. I just hit the OG and was like, "Yo, I got a record I want you to get on." He heard it and hit me back: "I got you" [laughs]. For me, creatively, wherever you want to go as an artist, I'm not tripping. OG, do what you do. He sent me that back and I was like, wow. "Ride Wit Me" hadn't come about yet when I did this record. So, the way Cee Lo flips the flow and mentions Pimp [C] on the end of his verse correlates with the UGK record before it. It's perfect the way it played out.
It's like a smoke record, but underneath that I was trying to come up with a song that is actually giving some kind of inspirational insight. Everyone needs a lay-up at some point in life — just somebody to look out, something good to happen in your life to kind of push you forward. And I would like to say I had a lot of lay-ups on my way to this part of my career. When I still couldn't feed myself or I didn't know where I was going to be living, something came through that was able to keep me moving forward.
"Classic Interlude" (skit)
If an album was classic back in the day, it took so long for people to say that. But now it's like somebody barely may have heard it, but now it's a classic. I just wanted to do a play on that. Because it can be so funny to hear somebody try to describe something and they really didn't listen to it. Comic relief is always good to some degree, but with messages embedded.
This record is me giving an adieu to all the artists that I've listened to over the years and been influenced by, and wanting to put the new generation on to [acts like] Atlantic Starr, Willie Hutch, Bobby Womack. I'm just trying to be creative with the word flipping at the same time. It's super soulful.
"Get Away" is definitely that old K.R.I.T. feel, and unapologetically. I wanted to do something that felt like that. It's not a political record, but the subject matter still has that temperature that we live in today, where it's like you just want to get away from that b*******. It could be when you're going to your job and it's just not positive. It could be what's going on in society. It could be anything that you just want to get away from. It's something you can play before you go to work and it might help you get through your day, but not in a sad fashion. That's what I wanted to do and show on the Big K.R.I.T. side — have something that knocks and bounces but still give you good medicine.
In my house, I don't just always listen to rap. So it made sense for the Justin Scott side to start off without me rapping. It just needed to have a piece of music that you could vibe to. I love old school music and how it makes me feel. And writing that little eight bars of "4eva's a mighty long time" just gave it some perspective, because it is life.
I always say I like strip clubs, but I don't want my sister to dance in one. We all have these mixed messages. The things that normally aren't good for us, we do more than the things that are good for us. And I'm not the only one. We all battle with that. It's that question: Am I wrong for this? Man, we're human. Song format-wise, I've been trying to figure out how to express that for years.
The things that we decide to glorify, we really don't want the people around us to get into. And as an artist, when you paint those pictures it's really hard to not want to paint everything. When a visual artist starts painting everything around them, I don't think people say, "You normally only paint houses, what made you want to paint trees?" But when you're writing songs, people take them so literally that it can become a battle, because people only see you one way and you really want to paint another picture. And when you do paint that picture, you might run into some ridicule. But you're just being human and creative.
"Keep the Devil Off"
I'm from Mississippi, I'm from the Bible Belt. My grandmother was very much into church and gospel music, so I was raised around that. It's a part of me. It's not about trying to be overly preachy, but finding a way to keep something that sounds jamming and still has that medicine. There are no curse words. There's nothing extremely aggressive about it. It's just warning you to keep the negativity away. Keep the Devil off.
"Miss Georgia Fornia" feat. Joi
I always have a great creative experience with Joi and I knew her voice would be crazy on it. It's my song about leaving home. I left Meridian, Miss. and I moved to Atlanta and then there was the possibility of moving to L.A. So I wanted to create a song about how Mississippi would feel, what she would say to me and how I would respond.
I don't get to go home as much, either. Everything's changing. My niece and nephews get bigger. So I wanted to create a record from that perspective, almost apologizing for the time that I haven't been there.
This is what it's like to meet a woman in an environment where you didn't expect to meet her. But she didn't expect to be in that environment, either. So y'all click it off because y'all both are just so awkward in the space. Will Power produced that record. It's super jamming, it's warm and it just feels good. It's a contrast, to some degree, to "1999." Even the positioning of those songs on both albums was important to me. They contrast, but from the energy side they both flow.
"Higher Calling" feat. Jill Scott
Coming off of "Do You Love Me" [from Cadillactica], it's when you first start the love of it all. And then you've spent some time in [a relationship] for awhile you want it to build, you want to grow more with a person. You start to realize, we can create, too. I was hinting at that on Cadillactica with the intro, but this is more down to earth. This is when you've spent a certain amount of time with someone and you want to blend.
"Weekend Interlude" (skit)
We get caught up in this cycle of doing the same thing every time and not doing something different, which might open us up to more in our lives. Not only are we fueled and fed by stuff that might not be good for us, then you get hit with some stuff that you put in your body that might not be good for you. So, it's just trying to shed light on things that we sometimes don't notice. Hopefully people get it — and if not, it's just a really funny skit.
"Price of Fame"
"Price of Fame" is when you get to that point where you really start to look at success and you forget what that means. If you are successful, you're always questioning. You start to ask yourself about the environment you're in — the depression, the anxiety, the addictions that come about. You start to wonder if you were built for that kind of energy. As positive as it may be, it only takes one negative thing when you're on Front Street to tear you down. This record is just me talking about how alone I could feel around so many people, how confusing it became creating, how you want to express the things you're going through with family, but you build up this wall because you become so protective of your personal space. So you don't know who to talk to. From the views on Instagram and the videos, you're living it up. But it's so many other things that go on behind the scenes with insecurity and self-esteem. And I didn't mind talking about it.
"Drinking Sessions" feat. Keyon Harrold
This one makes my face hot just thinking about it. It's just flat-out honesty, venting. It's the battle of dealing with the need to medicate and how that feels. It's like I'm just talking and it's so sporadic and all over the place, but it's so necessary for me to say some of those things. Like, 'Man, I'm worried, I'm scared of dying. Yeah, I drink a lot.' Or, 'Yeah, I've accomplished these things but I see certain people that haven't got certain stuff and are happier than me.' They have someone to share what they've done with. I think a lot of people will relate to it. It might help somebody dealing with drinking or any kind of addiction to understand that they're not alone. I think we all have that side of us that just sometimes wants somebody to say that it's going to be OK. Right?
"The Light" feat. Bilal, Robert Glasper Jr., Kenneth Whalum & Burniss Earl Travis II
"The Light," along with "Keep The Devil Off," took probably all of the two years to get right. That record went through some transitions. Before any of the musicians were on it, it was just nothing like it is now. That goes back to being able to work with musicians and being able to get in with other producers. It gave me the mind-frame to not stop until it sounds like it sounds now. I listen to that and get excited because, even sonically, it's just a different feel. It's never the same pocket all the time and it's really just a blessing for me to be able to rap over that.
It's important that I talk about what's going on in society. I think we all worry about getting home now. You never know. With all these fears and what's going on in the world and with the government and the president and all that stuff, I just wanted to make something where, late night when you're headed home, you might play this.
"Bury Me In Gold"
Gold is such a thing, right. Growing up, it's gold chains, gold D's, gold trim, you want the gold grill. It's obviously a sign of royalty. But my realization is that for piece of mind, to see my Maker in paradise, I'd give all these things away.
It still comes from that gospel feel, that vibe, but it's just trying to get people to understand that the things we glorify, and the way we go about getting them, is going to be very detrimental to our soul at the end of the day. So we have to figure out a way to get outside of that and start thinking about what happens next. How far are you going for something that's not really going to save you in the end?