Album Review: Big K.R.I.T. – Live From The Underground

Posted: May 29, 2012 in Album Review, Best of 2nd Q 2012, Hip Hop
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Its tough to think of another rapper to come out the gate so fully encompassing the range of his great Southern predecessors.  Very few rap artists can draw comparisons from such varied rappers with their music.  His music is at times has the ability to fill the spiritual void left by the absence of Andre 3000 and at other times able to recall the legacy of Pimp C.  While artists from that generation, like Big Boi and Bun B occasionally, or maybe even David Banner when he was at the top of his game, have the ability to express that type of range in their music, K.R.I.T.’s ability to summon those powerful voices is impressive given that most of his contemporaries tend to be focused in a very specific lane conceptually and compounded by the fact that he was a child when that type of Southern rap was most prevalent.    But if there’s anything that comes through above all else in Krit’s music it’s his sense of history, tradition, faith, and all things Southern.

The fact that Krit manages to display that range not only as a rapper, but also as a producer only makes him that much more special.  Since the release of Krit Wuz Here back in May of 2010, K.R.I.T. has continued to put a full court press on the rap industry, pushing country rap tunes firmly back at the table along with the glossier southern sounds popularized in recent years by the likes of Rick Ross, TI, and Young Jeezy.  He’s managed to so powerfully push this conversation that the likes of Ludacris, Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa and TI have since tapped him for production and he’s gone on to collaborate with a who’s who of the rap game.  At the same time, Krit has continued to develop more commercially viable radio/video fodder with songs like “Money On The Floor,” “I Got This,” and “Yeah Dats Me,” which not only help his resume as a hit-making producer, but also his legitimacy as a commercially viable solo artist.  Just a few days ago, in the review of SL Jones & DJ Burn One’s Paraphernalia, I suggested that Burn One’s work with iNDEED had put him ahead of Krit in terms of being the foremost producer of Country Rap Tunes out today, which based on a comparison of 4EvaNaDay, Krits other work, and Paraphernalia was a fair statement at the time.  However, Live From The Underground certainly answers the bell as it incorporates more live instrumentation than Krit had previously utilized and also pumps Krit’s sound up on steroids, leaving Krit Wuz Here sounding like nothing more than a demo tape, albeit a very good one, by comparison.  Burn One and iNDEED’s recent work still comes off a bit more cohesive due to the their effective use of sequencing and musical transitions between tracks, while the diametric approach Krit takes between his trunk rattlers and his more contemplative work leaves some of his transitions a bit disjointed.  That said, with the step forward Krit’s taken on Live From the Underground, there’s no doubt that Krit’s firmly in the conversation for the best producer in the South period at this point.

Although 4EvaNaDay overtly used the concept of a day in the life of Krit and began with a lot of energy in the morning, settled into a zone in the afternoon, and cooled out in the evening, Live From The Underground follows a very similar path sonically and thematically, as the songs with a lot of energy and hit potential fall mostly in the beginning and middle of the album, as “Cool 2 Be Southern,” “I Got This,” “My Sub (Pt.2 The Jackin’)”, and “Yeah Dat’s Me,” seem to be the most radio/video friendly, and combined with the potential strip club anthems ( “Money On The Floor,” featuring 8Ball, MJG, & 2Chainz and “What U Mean” featuring Ludacris) most of the commercially viable material on the album is front-loaded and over by the time listener hits track 11 on the 16 cut album.  While it may have been a thin conceptual framework on 4EvaNaDay that allowed Krit to fit radio, strip club, church folk, and southern pride all within the framework of one cohesive album, the transition throughout Live From The Underground is a little bit clunkier.  What helps it work is the clumping of similar types of songs together, which allows the journey from the strip club to the pulpit to be tempered by the personal struggles of “Don’t Let Me Down,” dedications to his long-distance lover on “Porchlight” featuring Anthony Hamilton, and a Devin the Dude assisted dedication to intoxicants on “Hydroplaning.”  That said, both “Pull Up” and “Yeah Dat’s Me” both feel misplaced on the second half of the album, which is largely full of more contemplative, passionate, emotional, and spiritual music.  While its possible K.R.I.T. or someone at Def Jam simply wanted to avoid the criticism for making her album too clearly segmented between personalities/audiences, it almost seems like the sequencing of the album would’ve been cleaner if Krit had gone ahead and split the album right in half between anthem/hit potential, and his more personal narrative approach.  However, if sequencing is the biggest sticking point on Krit’s major label debut then he’s done a hell of a job maintaining the honest approach that garnered him so much attention with Krit Wuz Here, Return of 4Eva, and 4EvaNaDay.

“The album’s biggest conversation piece will likely be “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”  in which Krit spits a spoken word meets rap dedication to his father for the wealth of advice, strength of character, and love his father bestowed upon Krit, over a simple elegiac piano, violin, and vocal hum tinged drumless track (minus a few drum rolls on the chorus).  “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is followed by “Praying Man,” K.R.I.T.’s collaboration with B.B. King, and its admittedly difficult to imagine another major label rapper pulling off a blues influenced overt homage to Christianity and its liberatory relationship for oppressed blacks throughout American history.  The album fittingly then moves into a sonically unbounded reprise of “Live From The Underground,” replete with instrumental exploration and repetitious singing that harken ever so slightly to “Liberation.”

The complexity of this album comes from the fact that despite providing what is by far Krit’s most commercially viable product to date, he’s also managed to provide his deepest album to date.  If Krit manages to sell this album with some success he will have followed in the footsteps of fellow Mississippian David Banner in managing to create a mainstream album that effectively parlayed it’s more explicit content as an entree to the more complex content on the back half of the album.  For those who prefer either the anthemic Krit or the contemplative Krit, both types of music show up here in their most dynamic form to date.

This album can currently be streamed on NPR online and pre-ordered via amazon or itunes.

  1. […] by Major Labels, granted there were a few major label releases that were on the cusp of this list (Live From The Underground, The Game’s Jesus Piece, Big Boi’s Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors, Nas’s […]

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