Scene | An Abstract Artist: Rapper Big K.R.I.T. Ventures Outside of His Comfort Zone
In June of 2012, it seemed as if Meridian, Miss., native Big K.R.I.T. (an acronym that stands for King Remembered In Time, born Justin Scott) was poised and ready to take over the world with his major label debut album, Live from the Underground. He was fresh off the successful release of his 4evaNaDay mixtape just a couple months prior and the album’s lead single, the infectious Willie Hutch-sampling “I Got This,” was making an impact on the airwaves.And then: nothing. The album was well received in general terms, but failed to live up to the lofty expectations of critics, fans and even K.R.I.T. himself.
“To me, it was one of those things where I dealt with so much,” he says. “I went from doing mixtapes and having the freedom of just throwing out music [whenever and without worry]…but when you’re signed and working on a major label album, it’s a bit more organized. It’s a lot that goes into it when you’re sampling. It’s a lot that goes into it when you’re creating a song.”
The uncharted waters that came with K.R.I.T.’s situation at Def Jam Records were, to an extent, too choppy for his liking and the undertow nearly ended up carrying him away.
“You have to deal with the business aspects as well,” he says. “I wasn’t 100-percent prepared to do what I normally do with a project and also deal with the business end. I think it bled over into my music. It bled over into how I felt about having to work under those circumstances. Dealing with sample clearances was one of those things that I never had to deal with before and it was mind blowing.”
The entire ordeal with his album release proved to be a humbling learning experience, but it wasn’t the first time. K.R.I.T. speaks fondly of his upbringing in Meridian — more specifically, the support of his dear grandmother, Miss Lillie.
“She was very passionate about me following my dreams and doing what it was she wanted me to do,” he says. “Ultimately, she was scared about me venturing into the music industry just because of stories she had heard growing up, but she played a big part in how I am as an individual and as a man. She was born in 1923 and instilled a lot of morals in me that carried over into how I am not only as a musician, but as a human being. I think people can hear that in my music.”
In that music, it’s not uncommon to hear samples of music by soul greats like Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch, Al Green and even Ann Peebles, but it’s difficult to ignore the influence of the recently departed Cleveland native, Bobby Womack. When asked if the two ever had a chance to meet, the answer is rife with regret.