Album Review: Big K.R.I.T’s “Live from the Underground”by Nam Le on Jun, 06 2012
Having already released not one, not two, but three album quality mixtapes, it is fair to say that Big K.R.I.T (short for King Remembered in Time) created some high expectations for his major label debut, “Live from the Underground”. He has, after all, had two features written about him in Rolling Stone over the last year, often being described as a blend between legendary Southern groups UGK and Outkast.
Not bad for a 25 year old.
If K.R.I.T is bothered by such hype, it is hard to tell – the titles of his last two mixtapes, “Return of 4Eva”, and “4eva and a Day” seem to signal an acceptance of those comparisons, as they allude to an old Andre 3000 lyric.
Still, those were mixtapes – made to promote, not to profit. Debut albums are always a tricky thing, and a different beast altogether. Because their work is no longer independently financed, many artists are forced to cede some creative control for the first time in their lives, often with disastrous results. The list of rappers hurt by label disputes goes on and on and on: Crooked I, Joe Budden, Lupe Fiasco, Papoose, Saigon… more money, more problems, as Biggie used to put it.
Any fears of Big K.R.I.T joining that list can be put to rest rather quickly.
By the third or fourth song in, it becomes clear that “Live from the Underground” is more of the same excellence we’ve come to expect from him. The reason for this starts from behind the boards – like all of his projects, the album is entirely self-produced, giving listeners a tight, cohesive experience, filled with K.R.I.T sound, not anyone else’s. As a result, familiar chest rattling levels of bass and infectious energy (among them: Yea Dat Me, My Sub Pt. 2, and the standout of this bunch, I Got This Here), accompany a slower, more introspective soulfulness throughout the album (Rich Dad, Poor Dad, for example). Some tracks even find a happy medium between the two (Pull Up), but rest assured, all of it sounds great. You can bump “Live from the Underground” in your car speakers without worry.
Though these sounds seem to be polar opposites in intention and focus, K.R.I.T effectively melds the two together across his 16 song effort, perhaps because both are equal parts of him – he sees himself as street philosopher and gangsta, tortured soul and alpha male womanizer. At the beginning of the album, for example, K.R.I.T. can be found boasting, swagger and Southern pride on full blast: “Collard green pockets but I southern fried the flow/Candied yam drop with some cornbread to throw” (Cool 2 be Southern).
Yet, just a few songs later, on the Melanie Fiona chorused If I Fall, K.R.I.T’s thick Mississippi drawl drops the braggadocio to offer us a glimpse at who he really is: “Ain’t nothin’ easy ’bout the life I chose/Wasn’t much of a choice, just the life I know/ Smokin’ weed, drinkin’ liquor just to kill time/ When I’m fucked up, the only time I feel fine”. The shift between the two modes occurs almost effortlessly… but they are what make K.R.I.T an engaging listen in the first place – each track can cover such diverse ground, yet still feel like an honest part of his character.
Personally, I would’ve preferred a little more energy and aggression, as I believe that this is the mode he shines the best in, but that is in no way meant to discredit his efforts on “Live from the Underground.” This album is easily on par with “Krit Wuz Here”, “Return of 4Eva”, and “4eva and a Day”, although individual preference may dictate the order you rank them.
It is rare that an artist with this much buzz crafts a piece of work that lives up to it (I’m looking at you, J. Cole), but “Live from the Underground” does not disappoint. Definitely worth a listen.