DAR Hip Hop: Why Is Big K.R.I.T. Still So Underrated?

Compiled By @TrueGodImmortal and @Peagle05 

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
I was torn on what to write about when I knew we had our usual hip hop Wednesday coming up on the site. I sat for a while, pondered on another article on Nas, another on Jay-Z, maybe on Drake, J. Cole, perhaps one on Lil Wayne, Rick Ross (which will be coming soon), or maybe the man of the hour, Kendrick Lamar. As I sat pensive in thought, the sound of Cadillactica blared through my earphones and I listened to "Angels", I started to listen and think.... why is Big K.R.I.T. so underrated? Is it because his music is subpar? Does his production lack versatility? What is it? I really couldn't come up with an answer that made sense, so I decided to take a look at why he SHOULDN'T be underrated and should be recognized as one of the two best artists of the new generation next to Kendrick Lamar. Now, I'm sure there's a group of fans who disagree with that, and that's fine, to be blatant, your opinion is irrelevant here: this is my article.

Now, with that out of the way, what makes K.R.I.T. such an underrated enigma and MC? He's a recluse in a way, as he isn't in the news or the media, instead he's much more lowkey and sticks to the music, as most artists should. Now, my goal today isn't to give you a career retrospective, a discography check, or even rank his albums. No, I want to point out the reasons why K.R.I.T. shouldn't be so underrated and showcase why he is one of the brightest and best rappers of the generation. Today, that's why we're here. Let's take a look at why K.R.I.T. deserves to be in your top rappers list.

*His Mixtapes 
There's much to be said about K.R.I.T. and his music, and while the See Me On Top series was important for him, there's nothing bigger in his story than the official "debut" breakthrough mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. While honestly, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here isn't my favorite, it is his most popular mixtape so to speak and probably his most raw project. Tracks like the Smoke DZA and Curren$y assisted "No Wheaties", as well as the Big Sant featured "Return Of 4Eva" and the Devin The Dude featured "Moon And Stars" showcased the versatility within K.R.I.T. and his artistry. I think K.R.I.T. Wuz Here is the best example of what brings people into his music. He was country, lyrical, and could go from trap to pure southern soul at any given moment. My only gripe with this tape, and what makes it not my favorite, is the fact that it has a lot of tracks (20) and would probably have been an undisputed classic mixtape if they would have shaved about 3 to 5 tracks off of it. Still, for most people, this introduction to K.R.I.T. reigns supreme.

The quality of the music kept improving in my opinion as his career went along, and one couldn't deny the growth in his music on "Return Of 4Eva", his follow up to K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. With tracks like "Rise And Shine", "Dreamin", "Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed & Encouraging Racism", and "Free My Soul", you got to hear more of the in depth and vulnerable K.R.I.T., which is where he is at his best. However, the apex of that mixtape comes with the amazing sound and my personal favorite K.R.I.T. track "The Vent", which came during a time of reflection due to the loss of his grandmother. While "Return Of 4Eva" featured enough tracks to make trunks rattle, it also gave you music to grow with and listen to when times were tougher. That would be a trend that K.R.I.T. would continue as his career evolved, and he would execute this on "4EvaNaDay", his next project, which end up being better than his actual album on Def Jam. Tracks like the amazing "Wake Up", "Boobie Miles", "Handwriting", "Red Eye" all round out the mixtape that I think is the 2nd best in his entire discography as far as mixtapes. It would be his next project that truly allowed K.R.I.T. to reach the apex of his career.

His next project "King Remembered In Time" is his best work and I've always believed that it is likely to not be topped by K.R.I.T. in his career. In 2013, I was working on the toughest album of my own career while going through the toughest personal time I had ever faced, and there was one tape that I listened to daily: this project. Everything resonated with me at the right time. Whether it was the somber rhythm of "R.E.M.", the playa style of "Only One" with Wiz Khalifa and Smoke DZA, the clarity of "Banana Clip Theory", the ATLiens style honesty and vulnerability on "Meditate", the BJ The Chicago Kid assisted classic "Life Is A Gamble", or one of the greatest "breakup" hip hop songs ever in "Bigger Picture", K.R.I.T. was really at his best and I don't think there's a tape in his catalog that has the depth of this one, and this is the most relatable of all of his mixtapes which says a lot. I still listen to this mixtape regularly, and if you've been sleeping on this project, you need to get familiar with each and every song on this one. It's got enough versatility to please just about any hip hop fan, but it also possesses enough depth in the music to make the most serious hip hop fan appreciate it.

His last two projects are interesting in a major way. After his Cadillactica album, it seemed like there was a lot of pressure on K.R.I.T. to be like everyone else, and with his 2015 release "It's Better This Way", he decided to stay on his own path, which hinted at his soon to be departure from Def Jam. While tracks like the Ludacris and K Camp featured "Shake Em Off" and the Warren G assisted "No Static" hit hard, the three best songs on the project came in the form of the usual lyrical depth and soulful rhythms we've come to love from him. The title track was a great listen, as was the BJ The Chicago Kid assisted "Can't Be Stll", but there was no song better than the lush "Vanilla Sky", which honestly had a vibe that was reminiscent of Aquemini era Outkast. I've always felt K.R.I.T. was an extension of the Outkast sound in his own way, and "Vanilla Sky" definitely supports that theory. While it isn't my favorite project from him, "It's Better This Way" flows smoothly and adds to the list of mostly cohesive K.R.I.T. projects. His final release is one that's not full of his own production or new tracks, instead K.R.I.T. celebrated his independence from Def Jam by rapping over 12 popular hip hop beats in the current time. The 2016 "release" of 12 freestyles titled #12For12 was a fun listen as we got to hear K.R.I.T. completely unfiltered and rapping for the hell of it. It was a different look for him, but it worked very well. Though his last two "mixtape" releases weren't the strongest, you can see K.R.I.T. running practice laps as he readies for his first independent album, which will likely be dropping sooner than later. Though he has 2 official albums, the long list of "mixtapes" that K.R.I.T. has created is where he shines the brightest.

In reality, the most engaging thing about K.R.I.T.'s music is his production. He's got some of the most versatile production, which can range from the standard bass/trunk rattling southern instrumentals to the soulful jazzy boom bap sound that he's perfected. Whether he's got something organ and trap inspired like "Money On The Floor", which is essentially a strip club anthem (featuring 8 Ball, MJG, and 2 Chainz) in its own way, or the somber soul of the breakup anthem "Bigger Picture", or even the smooth bounce of the Wiz Khalifa and Smoke DZA featured "Only One", K.R.I.T. can do it all in terms of production. He's honestly the best mix of producer/rapper in the game, and yes, I'm including Kanye in that (since Kanye doesn't do much of both/doesn't write his own lyrics). I know, I know, that might seem like a heavy honor for K.R.I.T., but if you listened to his music, you'd understand.

There's one moment in terms of his production that recently  caught my attention and was a joy to watch. That favorite recent memory of his production came when he was on the Mass Appeal show Rhythm Roulette, and showed off his production prowess and his rhyming skills as well. It was like watching a craftsmen at work, from the sample finding to the chopping and adding the drums, all the way to him turning it into an actual song, K.R.I.T. showcased why he's one of the most slept on producers in the game. His sample and chopping ability is top notch, and the way he stacks and layers his drums is out of this world. K.R.I.T. as a producer, is better than another artist/producer in J. Cole, who is also talented in his own right, but K.R.I.T. showcases much more diversity in his style as a producer. When we talk K.R.I.T. as a producer, he deserves infinite props.

Lyrically, K.R.I.T. is one of the most in depth artists. He spits his lyrics from the most aggressive to the most vulnerable and everywhere in between. He shines from his everyday perspective which propelled songs like "Bigger Picture" and "Dreamin", but my one of my favorite K.R.I.T. verses came during an interesting time in hip hop, after Kendrick had dropped his Control verse. K.R.I.T. responded back in a way with one of his most bristling and aggressive tracks in "Mt Olympus", where he snaps throughout the booming instrumental. The lyrics speak for themselves from the hook into the actual verse itself:

"Now they wanna hear a country nigga rap/
5 albums in, I swear a country nigga snap/
Thought they wanted trap, thought they wanted bass/
Thought they wanted molly, thought they wanted drank/
Fuck them niggas, now they wanna hear a country nigga rap/
5 albums in, I swear a country nigga snap/
Thought they wanted gold, thought they wanted shine/
Thought they wanted radio, bitch make up your mind/

All this attention, I don't even know what I might even do with it/
That Control beat is like an ugly bitch that everybody done fucked raw, maybe you hit it/
Aww man, I'm more concerned why niggas been textin' my cell,
Callin' my phone/
Ask me about this Kendrick shit, that he ain't even really even diss me on/
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/
I'm buryin' niggas and pissin' on they graves/
Another nigga, other nigga name on your chain, and they call me a slave/
Niggas scared of this country boy, lord forbid I catch a body/
In the studio tryna calm your soul lookin' at your manager, I think Krizzle got me/
I put you in the trunk with these subwoofers, 5th wheel in my shottie/
I'm so prolific with these scriptures they might give me a Bible/
Page 1, come here son, mind your manners, just be cool/
I know you lame when you was in school/
The little fame you ain't used to/
And it was easy for you to move through/
English class with your own thesaurus/
Like one of these days I'm gonna be a rapper, but all my verses gonna be borrowed/
So I'm a take from all these Southern artists, that mainstream never heard of/
Recycle all of they lingo, and make sure I screw my words up/
Bravo for your swagger-jackin'
I'm overwhelmed by your dedication/
You actually fooled these people into thinking that your music was innovative/
Rap battlin' never got me out of no public housin'/
You telling me I can be King of Hip-Hop, and they wouldn't give it to Andre 3000?/"

The shots taken, the honesty spoken, and the aggression there made me listen closely and the way he spits the "Andre 3000" line was absolutely perfect in the way he delivered it. I'd crown "Mt Olympus" as one of his best verses ever, but in terms of his most in depth and gripping lyrics, that honor would have to go to his amazing and heartfelt verses on "The Vent", as it's one of his most relatable moments as an artist. The way he describes what led to his need for venting and the way he expresses the emotions he's feeling in his flow just elevates the song and the verses even higher. Here's a look at that lyrical work:

"A mother lost her child, I tried to ease her pain/
It's only God's will, she said she felt the same/
It's funny how the sun will up and battle rain/
As if the clouds couldn't stand to see me outside again/
Wrote a rhyme that was kind, with some vision to it/
Bottom line, it might expand yo mind if you listen to it/
Too much shine can dull the soul/
If you feel how I feel then I rap some more/
How can the Devil take my brother if he's close to me/
When he was everything I wasn't but I hoped to be/
I get a little honest, and I ask my self/
If the time come will you save me if I ask for help/
Send my mind on a journey to the outermost/
To document what it had seen, and CC: me the notes/
And ask Kurt Cobain why, cause I need to know/
He stopped when he had such a long way to go/
I saw love in the eyes of a perfect stranger/
She overlooked my caring heart in search of a gangsta/
Will we ever be together? Only time will tell/
She called my phone and talk to me as the hours swelled/
I put my problems in box beside my tightest rhymes/
Under lock and key, buried deep off in my mind/
And when it gets too full, and I can't close the lid/
I spaz on my family and my closest friends/
Trade my materials for a piece of mind/
I'm so close to Heaven, Hell I just need some time/
Who cares about life, and the highs and lows/
Maybe I should write another song about pimps and hoes/
Cars and clothes, Idol Gods/ Golden Cabs, Louie Scarfs/
I do this for the love, and it's free of charge/
I don't need jail to be behind bars/
This is purely art/
In my Grandma's household this was surely taught/
Don't be naive, yea these times is hard/
In the midst of all the glamor, hope you find God/
I never wished to be the burden bearer/
But souls need saving and it's now or never/
Shock value is all they wanna see/
It's us against them, and it's just you and me/
Try to take heed what I say in my songs/
Forgive me if I ever ever steered you wrong/
Most people stop for signs, but I've driven through it/
If it don't touch my soul, then I can't listen to it/
The radio don't play the shit I used to love/
Or maybe I'm just growing up/
I never seen a star on a red rug/
If I wanna see a stars I just look above/
To the Heavens"

Aside from "The Vent", K.R.I.T. has some verses that aren't as deep, but more so just lessons in true style. There is no verse in his catalog that fits this more than his verse next to Wiz Khalifa and Smoke DZA on "Only One", where he kicks off the song and completely steals it, with a lyrically smooth verse that doesn't need much substance, it just flows perfectly. This is K.R.I.T. at his most arrogant, stunting through intricate stacks of wordplay and internal rhyme schemes, all while making it look easy. Let's take a look at how K.R.I.T. kicks off the song just right:

"Now I apply pressure/
Yessuh, gold on my dresser/
Effortlessly perfected this pimpin' to the neck up/
And with it, I can dress up/
Any pro into a pretzel/
Figure 'fore, she figure more, dick might destroy her vessel/
Mo...mo... most not the lesser/ 
It's how I judge my worth/
Cause the last time I tripped over pussy was probably at my birth/
And the last time I didn't pop my trunk was probably at my church/
But as soon as I left the parking lot, I maxed it out till it burst/
Wood grain in my wheel/
Princess cut in my grill/
Butterfly my steak, shrimp and lobster on chill/
Do it how I feel, cause doin' what you love won't hurt ya/
Plus an L7 could never understand the complexity of my circle/
Or the dynamics of a twerker/
Or the inner workings of a squirter/
It's like chemistry with this codeine, two parts cup, one purple/
3 more time that's charm/ 
Bad bitch on my arm/
Come and go as I please, whole world in my palm/"

The final verse I'll share with you all is his 2nd verse on the incomparable classic "Boobie Miles", which is easily one of his best tracks ever. The jazz sample and the booming drums leads us into his opening "get money, don't be no lame... bench warmers never ride foreign, so play the game", which is a great way to start the song. However, the 2nd verse is where he really drops some gems. Let's take a look:

"They told me life is what you make it...So what you been creating on your free time?/
I'll lend you bars if you need rhyme/
Or reason/
Some people change, it's a part of life... like seasons/
Just be aware that everybody ain't your friend/
They'll be gone with the wind/ Once your jumpshot don't go in/
Or your ACL torn and you're a couple yards short/
From a Super Bowl Championship and it was down 4/
Gotta play the field, be willing to ride/
Willing to dive/
For what you desire, call your pop fly, but never collide/
With other players that play the game/
Don't be eager to run with crowds, stay in your lane/
Pass the knowledge on to your team, but carry the flame/
Cause it's yours and yours alone to brighten your way/
Put God first and free your soul/
Cause even Olympic runners sometimes lose their gold/"

Those 4 verses don't even begin to give you the full story about how talented K.R.I.T. is, but it does give you a good idea of what he can do. There's so many classic verses in his arsenal that it's a shock he isn't regarded as one of the premier lyricists today, because simply put, he is.

Admittedly, K.R.I.T. didn't really set the world on fire with his debut "album", Live From The Underground. In essence, he disappointed many with the album because it fell below the standards of his mixtapes, BUT K.R.I.T. bounced back with what I felt was a near classic on his official sophomore project Cadillactica. From the cover to the intro to the cohesion in the production, K.R.I.T. delivered with one of his best projects ever. I think the truth is, K.R.I.T. has been one of the most consistent artists thus far and this album was exactly what I had hoped of the first release. It's got enough diversity in the sound, the right guest appearances, and a blend of thought provoking music and intense rhythm. The intro "Kreation" opens the album on a great note, while tracks like "Third Eye", "Soul Food", and my personal favorite "Angels" help to give it more character as a project. To me, Cadillactica was the best hip hop album of 2014 and proved that K.R.I.T. could deliver on a major label album and not just only on a mixtape. It's a landmark moment in his career IMO.

I think this should have instantly took him from being underrated and under appreciated to a top tier MC in the mainstream's eye, but yet he's still slept on. The truth is, a talent like K.R.I.T. only comes along every so often, and with great projects/possible classics like K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Return Of 4Eva, 4EvaNaDay, King Remembered In Time, and Cadillactica under his belt, it's about time his name is next to, if not above the J. Coles, Kendricks, and Drakes of the world. He's honestly better than just about all of those names (though all three of those artists are extremely talented in different ways), subjectively speaking. K.R.I.T. to me, is one of the greatest artists of this generation and a top 10 (possibly top 5) rapper in the South period. He needs to be recognized as such.

Outro By @Peagle05
The Kawhi Leonard of Rap, Big K.R.I.T....easily the most under appreciated and underrated rapper around. His body of work is undeniable and his lyricism quite honestly is right there with Kendrick, if not better. Of course, the big difference being the label support (as K.R.I.T. often points out in hilarious digs at Def Jam in his songs). The crazy part is he has everything necessary to be one of the ridiculously large hitmakers in rap: Hard beats, blistering lyricism, and the output. On top of that, he produces his own beats. If you aren't up on K.R.I.T., stop wasting time and catch up, you're missing greatness. Simple as that.



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