My top five rappers of all-time (no order):
- Lupe Fiasco
- Ice Cube
- Big K.R.I.T.
Unlike how f(x) made my top five girl groups, I did have a complete top five before KRIT made the list. Rakim got bumped off. I know, I know. God bless The God MC, I mean no disrespect. It just became difficult to deny KRIT. So how did he do it? The same way it starts for everyone: the catalog.
I’m a Day two fan. I learned of him when K.R.I.T. Wuz Here came out, but I didn’t jump on the train till I heard the Country Shit remix featuring Bun B and coincidentally, Ludacris. The booming base, the soul sample, and the southern drawl immediately caught my ear. So I found the mixtape the song was from, Return Of 4Eva, and I’m glad to say he never left my ear. The mixtape is still incredible. It starts with R4 Intro as KRIT rhymes about the moment before he steps out on stage, but the dream is interrupted by his alarm clock. The whole project runs through the entire spectrum of emotions from aspiration (Dreamin’), relaxed (Rotation), nostalgic (Time Machine), egotistic (Get Right), motivational (Another Native Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism), and everything in-between.
Musicians having music that explores the range of emotions and thoughts isn’t unique, but the results are uniquely his and his alone. To have the ear to find those lush soul samples and manipulate them to a beat that seeps into my bones is enough. But he takes it a step further and he is as gifted lyrically as anyone rapping today. Unfortunately, that southern drawl that makes him sound distinct makes him hard for people to get past. But his accent is what puts his music over-the-top. Red Eye off 4Eva N A Day is one of my favorite KRIT songs because not only does he hit all of those boxes, but the end result is greater because of it. Speaking of which, the 4Eva N A Day mixtape is one of the project I love to listen to just the instrumentals. I’ve written many essays and done other writing with just his beats in the back.
KRIT resonates with me because he’s the manifestation of southern rap. You definitely hear the UGK, 8 Ball & MJG, Outkast, and Scarface influences. But he also combines that sound with an emphasis on lyricism. Southern rap has historically, been misunderstood for deemphasizing lyrics in favor of other elements of music. KRIT not only understands that, but takes it upon himself to have it both ways. He in a lot of ways is the physical form of Andre 3000 at the 1995 Source Awards. He even says it himself on the opening track of his latest album 4Eva Is A Mighty Long Time:
Look how they hate me, but copy me/
Possibly I was the one with the components and properties/
To be the greatest of all time, but you won geography lottery/
He’s 100% a southern rapper. But that doesn’t hold him back to being great. The stigma of the south still remains, and it’s a shame. Some of his peers like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have universal praise and is beloved. Big KRIT deserves to be on that level. I place him there. He’s in my top five for not only his body of work, but he simultaneously is the past, present and future of the genre. When the conversation about who are the best rappers in the game today, I will be the one on the side screaming, “What about KRIT though?!”