Interview: Big K.R.I.T. Talks Getting Out Of His Comfort Zone, Trips Abroad and Dream Collaborations
Meridian, Mississippi’s own Big K.R.I.T. is off on the road now with his Kritically Acclaimed tour set to roll through a city near you this fall. We recently had the time to talk with him the day after his latest project It’s Better This Way dropped. He talks about getting out of his comfort zone, Australia, dream collaborations and more.
Good to talk to you again, sir. I talked to you about a year ago before you came to Cleveland the last time.
Good to hear again from you too, brother. How you doing?
I’m pretty good. How about you?
I’m doing good, brother. I’m excited. man. The new project came out yesterday, called It’s Better This Way and the response has been amazing. I’m getting ready for the tour, so it’s a lot to be excited about.
The timing on that was crazy for me. I was revisiting Cadillactica and getting ready for this interview and then I go to Twitter and I see that this new project dropped and I’m like “Wow, really? And I’m talking to this brother tomorrow.”
So I had to re-adjust some stuff here and there, but it’s all good. The first thing I wanted to mention was that when I went to see ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ I heard your song “Saturdays=Celebration” in the trailer of ‘Sicario’ and I thought that was a dope look.
Now with Cadillactica, I personally like there was a tremendous amount of growth for you as an artist. For both being vulnerable enough to let other producers come in and also some of the content of the album. What would be some of the lessons you would say you’ve learned through the release of that album?
Definitely trying to get out of my comfort zone as an artist. I’m so used to producing for myself, pretty much and kind of really sticking to what I enjoy as far as drum packages and samples and the things that I use. So when I started working on Cadillactica, it was more about me trying to get out of that by working with other producers and using more obscure instruments and just challenging myself even where I was recording. I recorded went to Miami and recorded with Jim Jonsin, I went to LA and recorded a little bit. I was just trying to not be in my house and working so much. Even being able to get in the studio with the producers that I was working with — like being about to work with DJ Dahi and let him create from scratch or being able to get in with Terrace Martin or Raphael Saadiq — by doing that, it freed me up to write a little bit differently. I could dive deeper into Cadillactica. I wanted the album to sound sonically different than anything I had done before that and I tried not to sample so much too. It was only two samples throughout all of Cadillactica, which for me is a remarkable feat because normally I sample so heavy.
I was going to ask you if getting out of your comfort zones was one of your goals coming into that album. It seems like you were able to achieve that.
Definitely. Even with the It’s Better This Way project, it’s really all about becoming comfortable in my space. I’m not really chasing the sound that everybody is on or chasing what people are familiar with on radio, but just kind of finding my own pocket or my own niche and building on it as much as possible. Not doing it all by myself but rather while working with musicians who can bring certain parts to life and make sure that the music moves. When I say that, I mean that normally when you sample, you’re stuck to the grid of the sample because you might use a four to eight bar loop…but when you create original content, you have so much freedom when it comes to the instrumentation — to change things, to make breakdowns. Even the key I sing in and how I write music. It was just easier elaborating the things I come up with in my head or things I sing acapella in a voice note and then you get in with these amazing musicians and you bring these songs to life, they sound more cohesive. There was just a confidence. It may not be your favorite record on the radio or take off like that but over time, people will gravitate to my content and my sound because they know they can’t get it anywhere else.
Would you say that we’ll continue to hear the more polished sound from you as you keep moving forward or was it more of an experimental thing that you wanted to try out and get back to that comfort zone?
I’m going to stick with this. I’m definitely going to stick with where I’m going creatively. Even with the records where we get crunk and we turn up in the club that come from me, I feel that I’m able to put a message in there someway or somehow. For the most part, I really like where I’m going with the music. I like the amount of singing that’s happening and the positive platform and the things that I say in the content. I’ve done so much music throughout my career, it’s been over 270-something songs and records like “Soul Food” and “Hometown Hero” still stand out. I still perform these songs…along with a record like “Mt. Olympus.” I’m just excited to keep this feel and this vibe going musically. It’s just a brighter aspect, because I’m happy with where I am in life and it definitely shows in the music. At the same time, the person I was during ‘Krit Wuz Here‘ isn’t the person I am now as far as experiencing life and I really want to take people on this journey musically so the next album is even going to be crazier, I promise.
I saw that you went to Australia and had a string of shows over there. How was that experience?
It was beautiful. It was amazing. It’s definitely one of those places that make you say “I could vacation here, for real.” We went to Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Just the response for the music — being able to do songs like “Country Shit” and the people turn up and the people being so aware of my catalog, was mind blowing. It’s exciting to see how far the music has traveled.
I love the project, I listened to it four times the night that it dropped. Great album art as always. There was a quote from “King Pt. 4” that I wanted to bring up: “Art is art, no matter how you sculpt it, mold it, grow it…only to go unnoticed.” It seems like you’re still carrying a chip on your shoulder, can it get any heavier or has it reached capacity?
I think it can probably get heavier. I’m one of those people where I feel that musically, I still have to prove myself lyrically. It might just be the pressure that I’m putting on myself and I’ll always going to go as hard as I can to make sure that quality music is noted and understood and paid attention to. That bar wasn’t just for me. It’s a lot of other artists that I know who are lyrical giants and musicians and those OGs I grew up listening to that didn’t get the respect they deserved or weren’t noticed. That’s why I put that in there, when it comes to art nowadays shock value gets more attention than a really great body of work or great art and that’s sad. When there’s bright lights and shine, people pay attention to that but they aren’t getting anything from it perhaps versus someone digging deep and listening to something you can actually get some substance and some content from.
The “King” series is just me venting about whatever is going on, not only about the state of hip-hop but how I feel as an artist personally. If I can’t tell the world how I feel, then there’s something wrong. Musically, I’ve always been an open book and put out my emotions right there on wax and that’s what “King Pt. 4” was all about. Even with that song, I’m starting to get to a place where I’m understanding that my path is my path and it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be but that’s not going to stop me from always pushing the envelope. I’m always going to go the distance with my music no matter what, even if people aren’t paying attention or giving me a certain kind of shine like they might do with other artists. I’m still going to go as hard as I can musically and give the people that actually do listen to my music quality over quantity.
I like that you can have the balance with songs like “Shakem Off” and “86” and then still come back with a song like “Got Me Thru.” It was a nice surprise to hear the old Ludacris sample and then to have him actually be on the song.
Shoutout to the OG, because the thing is Luda’s super busy and he was able to get me that verse back in the most timely fashion — and he killed it, which made it even better. It was an amazing experience, because the song I sampled (“Catch Up” from Incognegro) was one of my favorite crunk songs growing up. So to be able to sample that and THEN put him on the song was amazing.
You have this thing to your music where you can work with someone like the late, great B.B. King or Raphael Saddiq and then still do a cut with Trinidad James — who I feel is underrated, by the way. But it covers both ends of the spectrum. What do you think it is about your music that allows you to do that?
I think because the art form is music and it’s a painting. You paint what you want on your canvas and as artists when we collaborate on a record, it’s like collaborating on a mural. Trinidad had a really great idea as far as the song he did for the people (“Black Man Pt. 1”) and I appreciate him knowing that I’m the kind of person who likes to paint those kinds of paintings as well and we can collaborate on a song and it turns into what it is. Like you said, Trinidad is not only for the people, but he’s also a very intelligent cat. The music he makes is something that he believes in and he goes off on his own route and in his own lane. I’m actually excited to see the homie get so much shine from doing a song, having it blow up and then it becoming another record that the homie Bruno Mars ended up sampling it and turning it into something else. I think it’s camaraderie at the end of the day. I never told people that I was perfect. In my projects, I’ve always dropped different kinds of vibes on records because I feel as a person I’m like that, I’m human.
Sometimes I wanna grind and get money, sometimes I wanna hit the club, sometimes I just wanna ride around in my car and sometimes I don’t feel like doing any of that and I just want to have a drink and kick it. I feel like I have to put those vibes in my music because us as humans, we all go through those different emotions. I think that’s what my music become — it’s gotten to the point where it’s so relatable, that people understand how I can do certain records because I haven’t pretended to be anything. I’m just myself. When I do these interviews, they see it. They see I’m human and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes there’s this superhuman aspect about being an artist and then get caught up in trying to uphold a persona that you couldn’t possibly uphold because you’re only human. I just never fell into that persona. I was always being myself and always told people about what I dealt with and how I felt about certain situations. I’ve exposed them to what my family was like and what my upbringing was like without feeling like I should have to hide anything. So I feel like when it was time to do a particular record, people just let me do me — and that’s a beautiful thing.
The easiest thing to be is yourself.
You really wanted to work with Bobby Womack before he passed. Were there any other legends that are still here with us that you could probably picture yourself collaborating with?
Man, definitely. Al Green. Off the rip. Al Green would definitely be one of these people that I would love to do a song with. And yeah, Bobby Womack was the one and it hurt me when he passed because that was definitely something that I had looked forward to just because of the songs that I had sampled from him. Frankie Beverly & Maze, I would love to do a song with them. Bootsy Collins. I actually tried to get Bootsy Collins on “Mind Control” on Cadillactica but we just ran out of time and it didn’t go through, but I still plan and would love to work with him. George Clinton, it would be amazing to do a song with him. Those are the people off the top right now that I could name. You know the people that are old school that my dad and them played. Ron Isley. I would love to do a project or at least a song with the Isley Brothers. That would be lovely.
And all the people you named, they’re still out here making music. So it’s definitely possible.
I know. Bill Withers. I have to say Bill Withers too. I would love to do a song with Bill Withers.
One of the songs on It’s Better This Way sounds like it might have a Bill Withers sample on it.
Yeah, definitely. I ain’t gonna say which one, but you’re right.
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