Let’s start this off by saying, K.R.I.T. has a large fan base whether you consider it underground or not. His latest project release, A Style Not Quite Free, dropped two weeks ago and while several dedicated fans flocked to it, that’s not our focus alone here. With the release of new music, K.R.I.T. also announced that several of his most applauded projects would be accessible on all streaming services. The projects included with ASQNF were Return of 4eva, King Remembered In Time, 4eva N A Day, and It’s Better This Way.
This announcement put K.R.I.T. in a light that shined brighter than the candy-colored, old-school cars he often raps about.
Below you can find examples of numerous social media influencers showing love and appreciation for K.R.I.T. and his newest release:
— Elliott Wilson (@ElliottWilson) August 14, 2021
What a Friday treat!
I don’t have to go to SoundCloud no more to hear old KRIT!!! 🙌🏿 https://t.co/v9unSmBijp
— Derrion L. Henderson (@DerrionLH) August 13, 2021
This love is overdue and not given often enough, as the Mississippi-born artist has traveled arguably the toughest grind a hip-hop artist could take. Can you tell me how many rappers you can name off the top of your head that are from Mississippi?
Now after you name David Banner, tell me the other ones who got in the game making their own beats to save money.
A hip-hop artist in the purest form, K.R.I.T. jumped on the scene in 2010. While showcasing himself as a triple threat (lyrical, delivering soulful production, and syncing versatile songs into projects) he had multiple hurdles to jump over from personal song selections that pitted artist creativity versus label politics to overcoming tired southern rap stereotypes.
Like his first single for example. In 2019, Dan Hyman of the Chicago Tribune did a profile on K.R.I.T. where he explains issues with K.R.I.T.’s release of “Children of the World.”
K.R.I.T. recalls one label, A & R, attempting to discourage him from releasing 2010’s “Children of the World,” a brutally honest song that remains one of his most powerful. In it, he raps about the all-too-common plight for young African American men like himself:
What good is a degree when there’s no jobs to apply?
And fast food won’t do ’cause you overqualified
I’m feeling like hustling
Tired of the food stamps and budgeting
“People need to hear this,” K.R.I.T. recalls telling A&R, which largely responded with, “Man, nobody wants to hear that. People just want to have fun. They just wanna party.” K.R.I.T. knew better: he shot a DIY-style music video for the song, threw it online, and within days it had gone viral. K.R.I.T. reflected on that experience and recognized that it taught him not only about needing to stick to his guns but also about what his audience looked to him for.
The combination of trying to appease label executives while staying true to himself, left K.R.I.T. battling with critics that claimed to have a hard time understanding him. He once rapped on what is perhaps his most defiant responsive track ever:
I ain’t drawn to all this propaganda, rap shit ’bout as real as Santa
Now I’m lyrical all of the sudden
Well last year they claim they ain’t understand me
If you haven’t yet heard “Mt. Olympus,” you’re missing out. You have never heard a better mix or production (sounds as if it came from the heavens) that acts as the backdrop to this talented and pissed-off rapper stuck in a political environment, explaining how he just wants to make good music.
As it later became known, K.R.I.T. wasn’t sure what critics nor Def Jam (his label at the time) wanted. The allure to K.R.I.T. is that he’s relatable with all-world talent. Even though he can out-rap anybody, if you’ve worked any job as an employee or inside a corporation, he is sympathizable and illustrates the power of validation.
And then came peace.
Like most people frustrated working for someone else and appeasing others, K.R.I.T. left Def Jam in 2016 and created his label: “Multi Alumni.” This move brought back-to-back fantastic projects in 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time and a personal favorite of mine, K.R.I.T. IZ HERE.
It’s no surprise that an artist with the fanbase K.R.I.T. developed was able to maintain a strong (and independent) presence, but there’s part of me that wants him to have a major label alliance so he can receive national recognition and remain a trending topic. Why shouldn’t K.R.I.T. be talked about in the same manner as the peers he came into the game with such as Big Sean, J Cole, and Kendrick Lamar?
If he was from New York or Los Angeles would the mainstream view him differently? Or is he simply a different version of Wale where he’ll continue to fly under the radar, getting just enough attention from outsiders to stay afloat while continuing to receive diehard admiration from core fans?
Music and sports have so many parallels because sometimes it takes certain situations to get nationwide respect but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter where you’re balling at. And K.R.I.T. shouldn’t have to join a “super team” to receive it either. You can’t listen to King Remembered In Time and tell me it’s not one of the best musical releases of that decade. If artists such as Lil Wayne and J Cole still want to work with you, you know the respect factor is there; and the catalog pound-for-pound you can put up almost everybody since K.R.I.T. emerged. It shouldn’t take a performance on BET aimed at police brutality to get people talking about how special K.R.I.T is.
So that’s why K.R.I.T.’s project releases (new and old) are so important. Because they shine a light on someone whose content is underground but deserves to be held next to the stars for everyone to see. Maybe this is mostly an issue his fans are championing and not really what he’s invested in fighting.
If you listen to him talk these days, and you watch his Instagram videos, you could argue he’s never been happier. His current demeanor paints what freedom as an artist should bring. But if no one else was here to paint the bigger picture….we’re here to do it, along with a fresh bouquet.
Justin Lewis Scott deserves them “4eva”, as he’s truly one of the best complete artists we’ve seen in a mighty long time.