In 2003, T.I.P. claimed the throne to Southern hip hop. Since then, many can and will debate if he truly is or not, as compared to, say: Andre 3000, Scarface, Young Jeezy and many more. But that was 12 years ago (yep, it’s been 12 years since Finding Nemo and Return of the King; Bet you feel old, right), and it seems about the time that T.I.P. move on over. In fact, my vote for the next King would be that one producer/rapper from Meridian, Mississippi, who surely does not receive the credit that he is due. As the meme above suggests, his name is Big K.R.I.T.
For those who may not listen to Big K.R.I.T. much; essentially his discography continues the tradition of southern roots hip hop music. No, not that auto-tune heavy “turn-up” Future crap, or biweekly Gucci Mane trap mixtapes. Real “country shit”; a blend of live instruments, conscious lyrics and thoughtful production coupled with the occasional, yet warranted slap. That’s not to offend Southern Trap. The Migos and 2Chainz of the music industry know what they do best, and continually fit their niche. In addition, J Cole, hailing from North Carolina, is killing the game right now, but I wouldn’t group him into the Southern hip hop discussion. I digress.
What I enjoy most about Big K.R.I.T. is his (musical) intelligence. K.R.I.T. not only raps but produces majority of his own work. His style resembles that of OutKast, UGK, and classic Ludacris; Part folk, part funk, part melodic. He remains versatile, yet his lyricism transcends everything else. His song “Soul Food” truly touches my soul, particularly the following lines:
If it ain’t made with love then it ain’t fit to serve, I heard //
Some get bruised and battered //
Thrown away half eaten as if their seeds never ever mattered //
It ain’t ripe, it ain’t right //
That’s why most people don’t make love no more //
They just fuck and they fight
And while I’m balling my ears out listening to it, I notice that his flow is insane. Yes, on a slow and somber, piano-filled song, K.R.I.T. still devours the track (pun completely intended).
Another reason K.R.I.T. deserves the throne is his uncanny ability to produce a masterful and creative concept album. His major debut album Live from the Underground was a fictional narrative of a protagonist (probably himself) navigating after crashing his Cadillac on planet Earth. His second album, Cadillactica, is a prequel to Live; it’s about the planet that the Cadillac originated from, and its conception. While these concepts seem nerdy and off-putting, I believe that K.R.I.T.’s semi-Deltron 3030-esque adventure ties his project together well. Not many hip hop artists today can successfully master a concept album.
Furthermore, his self-proclaimed “King of the South” displays confidence in his abilities to take the torch, yet K.R.I.T. knows his limits. He also pays tribute to those whom came before and wore the pre-T.I.P. figurative crown: whether it be his OutKast tribute on “Return of 4eva”, the “Country Shit” features of Ludacris and Bun B, or his tribute to fellow Mississipian B.B. King on “Praying Man”. His recognition of legendary southern musicians concedes appreciation for the direct influence on what he is now.
I believe K.R.I.T.’s southern style presently outshines the rest and should represent the south in hip hop. Unfortunately, he fails to at a mainstream level. Together, his first two albums, released through major record label Def Jam, sold only 165,000 copies. Regardless, where he lacks in mainstream appeal, he makes up for in quality of music (yes, the two are indirectly proportional, arguably). And to answer the title question: yes, K.R.I.T. is the new King of the South, namely the Mississippi Monarch.