The Experienced Listener Presents: King Remembered In Time, by Big K.R.I.T.


King Remembered In Time by Big K.R.I.T.

King Remembered In Time by Big K.R.I.T.

The Experienced Listener Presents:  King Remembered In Time, by Big K.R.I.T.

Me and my students don’t have the same tastes in music.  …I hate to admit it, but I’ve gotten old; even at just 30, when I say “Goodie Mob”, my students are totally oblivious to the movement called Soul Food that came out in 1995 (Age Against the Machine drops August 27th by the way!!)

Anyway, my point in bringing that up is to say that Big K.R.I.T. was one of the first artists that both I and my students could relate to.  …To the point I didn’t even listen to him; I merely heard his voice on a track some years ago and said, “Yep, that’s pure Dirty South on that microphone right there.  Big K.R.I.T., you say?  Yeah, he’s alright with me.  I don’t even need to hear the rest.”  Call me prejudiced, but I know Dungeon Family/UGK/8 Ball & MJG influence when I hear it, and you can’t bring that sound without bringing some level of substance with it.  I was a K.R.I.T. fan on credit.

It wasn’t until my homeboy shot me 4 Eva N a Day that I learned something about K.R.I.T. that intrigued me:  my homeboy told me that Big K.R.I.T. produces his albums himself.  Now that was something new; I don’t recall the Dirty South forefathers being quite as self-sufficient.  Plus, I could really identify with having to be both MC and beatmaker; it’s a struggle, but it also results in a purer artistic process.  So when King Remembered In Time came out, I knew exactly what I was listening for:  Everything.

I would be remised if I didn’t give special acknowledge to the track Shine On in this review.  Of the aforementioned southern rap acts that influenced Big K.R.I.T., UGK might be #1.  And out the gate, on just the second track of this project, Bun B himself makes an appearance to give his blessing as K.R.I.T. embarks.  Peep Bun’s contribution:
They say man make money, money don’t make the man/

But it’s a little bit of both/

Cuz it will take some change, for you to make some change/

That ain’t just some shit I wrote/

Man thats natural fact, and not evolution/

My mind game still evolving/

And I’m gonna keep on rolling like 24s/

And this world just keep revolving/

Good at problem solving, cuz im good at starting shit in first place/

And it feels so good to be where I’m at man, cuz where I was, was the worst place/

But time change, so I keep hustling, boys trying to make my time cease/

But I’m laid back with my dime piece, shining hard like my time piece, and its on/

King Without a Crown was the first track on this project that I found myself hitting repeat several times on.  I had to get past the flagrant and deliberate use of the word ‘ho’; I’m so used to there being a separation between certain elements— like substance and pimp slang— it was weird for me getting both at once.  Beyond the ‘bad word’, the track is chock full of intelligence and articulation. On the production tip, my favorite part of this track is where the drum swaps out and the church organ takes the lead.  I love it because it’s the part where he actually begins talking about God in his verse; the switch actually makes sense.  This is the reason why I like the idea of MCs doing their own production; since the MC knows what he wants to say, he can make the beat say the same thing he’s saying in a way that no one else can.  Pure artistry.

REM— rapid eye movement.  It’s the state we go into in our sleep when our rested minds begin to emit peculiar wavelengths and we are at our greatest potential to dream.  And our eyes, for whatever reason, flicker around as if we’re following some fast-moving object.  So it’s appropriate that the chorus on the next track, REM, goes how it goes:

I don’t know about my dreams/

I don’t know about my dreams/

All that I know is/

I’m falling, falling falling, falling/

Might as well fall in/

I don’t know about my dreams/

In a nutshell, the song talks about K.R.I.T.’s struggle to amount to the standard that he’s set for himself.  The first verse emphasizes disappointment, but the second verse is the one that held on to me, because it conveys resilience in the face of that disappointment.

I don’t know about my dreams/

Cause I’m more spiritual than lyrical/

Produced my whole album, nothing short of a miracle/

Was I wrong to be so heavy-hearted?/

I refuse to give up what I started/

For false awards and cover boards in every store/

A different shore is a bore when all my people poor/

Yeah there’s some broads galore but yeah I wanted more/

Fuck a reality show, I’d rather do a tour/

I’d rather crowd surf/

Before I live as if God ain’t real, I’d rather DIE first/

Bury me inside a cemetery/

Remember me as just a visionary/

I’m more Geronimo Pratt than OG Bobby/

They love the fact you made it but hate the fact you got it/

The stairway to Heaven is packed, I’m in the lobby/

Too scared to go to sleep cause most times I often doubt my dreams/

The real privilege in listening to this song for me personally was hearing him drop this line:
Before I live as if God ain’t real, I’d rather DIE first/

Maaan, the way he said “DIE first”, I can tell he and I are reading from the same Book.  Now find a green pasture to lie down in and try to digest what I just said right there…

I like the way that REM is juxtaposed with the next track, because if you just looked at the titles you would find a similar theme occurring.  Meditate is my kinda track—  no extra thump, no frantic hats.  Just some nice guitar improvs, enough baseline to define a rhythm, and some thought-provoking words meant to induce reflection.  One of my favorite students ever once asked me when rappers would get back to making music you could just vibe to.  Well, Merry Christmas, Retta Jay!!
I don’t wanna hear what I’ve done wrong/

I’ll deal with my problems when I get home/

I’m better off when I’m all alone/

I know I said I’d stop but I’m not that strong/

I just wanna meditate/

I feel that way even now as I write this.  More of this, less of some other things, by all means.

Moving on, you’ve got to love the way that the next track Serve This Royalty starts off.  A sista’s voice comes on smoothly and pours these words:

Uh , the way the Brotha talks is beautiful.  The way he talks is beautiful.  Uh… the Brotha is beautiful.  The way he makes love to me is beautiful… You know, that’s my man!

…Do you know how good it is to hear a Black woman giving praise instead of throwing backhanded compliments or emphasizing the negative?  That alone made me want to listen to this track at least 60 times.  All the talk I hear about sistas wanting to be with kings— but with all the hate and bitterness, I often wonder if these sistas would know how to speak in the presence of that kinda royalty?  …Let’s talk about it sometime, hit me up.

The second verse on this song is pure poetry:

Whatever your heart desires/

And to those that oppose our dreams and goals I set the world on fire/

Go to war with giants of all kinds/

So when you sleep without your King beside you you sleep fine/

I be you knight in shining armor, swing down with a hammer like Thor for those that want drama/

Travel high and low for those expensive garments that I/

Peel off your frame after I fight in your honor/

Cuz we can rule as far as the eye can see/

If you down for the cause as long as your body breathe/

Bet the heir that will proceed as Kings that’s after me/

But be colder than doors we close you’ll have to be/

There’ll be tyrants that want nothing more than apathy/

To defile on the kingdom of real and happiness/

But history will whisper of our reign/

Before I give my all, I need to know one thing/

Can you serve this royalty/
To complement the intro featuring the female voice, Big K.R.I.T. puts a recording in the end of a man’s voice saying:
Thats right, she’s behind me 100%, man

She believes in everything I believe in

And whatever I do, she go and ride along with me and do it at the same time, you know?

With no doubt in her mind cuz she know that I’m positive, and she knows that I’m out to get over, and she knows that I’mma try and get a piece of this country

What a dream, right?… Following up with similar content, Big K.R.I.T. really lets his Dirty South go on the track Good 2Getha.  Here he, again, flexes his prowess on the production end:  a bass-tempo track over a retro-gangsta soundset?  Now, in a way, I don’t like this track; I’m an ATL-bass miser, and I’m very picky about my tick-and-bump.   But one thing I must admit is that K.R.I.T. rode this track with absolutely perfect cadence.  A lot of rappers, though they have very distinct voices and catchy deliveries, truly struggle with simply staying on beat.  K.R.I.T. sets himself apart on this joint.  He doesn’t flow like Big Boi— who has so much timing control that he deliberately stumbles around on beats— but he does put his syllables in the most logical places without sounding like he’s struggling or forcing it, which protects the overall rhythm.  I wouldn’t even talk about this basic element if it wasn’t such a lost art.  When I was younger, it seemed like all the bass rappers from the South did this effortlessly, and as time went on MCs just started suffering from… fat tongue or sumn.  Drymouth.  Poor breathing.  Don’t know what to call it.  Glad somebody in this new generation is immune to it.
Before I move on, shout out to Ashton Jones on the track!!  I’m feeling some of the late great Teena Marie in these pipes, and that definitely ain’t a bad thing.

The next four tracks on the album— Just Last Week, My Trunk, How U Luv That, and Only One— definitely take this project into a different direction.  It’s the more decadent, flashy side of the Dirty South legacy— frankly, the side I’m not all that big a fan of, but that I nevertheless have respect for.

How U Luv That is one of the tracks on this project that peaks out the pimp side of the meter.  I won’t break down K.R.I.T.’s verse on this one for content, but I will say this:  Pimp C was smiling when K.R.I.T. dropped it.  Both the hook and the verse have his swag all over them.  But for just a second, let’s talk about this featured cat Big SANT.  …Dude can rock a mic.  With no over-the-top wordplay or trickey, SANT spits game on the track and does it in such a way that you gotta listen.  Crisp, crisp delivery; as crisp as the acoustic twang in the background.  Reminds me of Killer Mike, minus the baritone— am I using that right?  We’ll just call it the ‘boom’ then— boom in his voice.

Only One featuring Wiz Khalifa and Smoke DZA takes me way back.  I’ve never been to a strip club, but that phat bassline brings plenty of inappropriate images from my childhood right back to remembrance.  …Not that I spent my childhood in a strip club; BET generation, I saw a lot of flesh, it is what it is.  The names of acts like ‘Tela’ and ‘Do or Die’ flash across my mind like ticker tape; that being said, I think the sound can best be described as Dirty South by way of Texas.  Again, well-done on the production tip by Big K.R.I.T.
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 high to my worth/

Cuz the last time I tripped ova 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/

Butter fly my steak, shrimp and lobster on chill/

Do it how I feel, cuz 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/

Its 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/

Now, no disrespect to Wiz Khalifa, I like the brotha.  But, personally, I felt like Smoke DZA and Big K.R.I.T. were on the elevator on this track, and the Wiz took the stairs; it happens, and we oughta be able to be real about it.  Peep DZA’s verse:

Rightt/

You ain’t the only nigga gettin’ money got it down to a science/

Big nigga, bank teller, think I play for the Giants/

Dead fresh, walk by and get a moment of silence/

Don’t be mad because we livin’ dog, be mad at the Mayans/

Riding deciding live maine or peeking/

Who said hustlers can’t be king/

Wrists got crowns on ’em bad hoes is beasting mista/

Slide the first day, instant upgrade/

Thompson my jacket, Black Label my denims/

Very rare my kicks, this petty cash that I’m spendin’/

With the rich folks bout to blend in/

Got a obsession for this game Bob Lemon/

Gangsta, hustla, shit I bleed it, keep these niggas heated/

I don’t do reservations I walk in and get seated/

Best believe it this harlem kids the meanest/

Trippy stickin’ at the table smell the smoke but they don’t see it/

That’s a photo-finish if I ever saw one.  And iron sharpeneth iron— I think these two need to collab more often to see if they can pressure each other to higher heights.

Banana Clip Theory… the sound of this track is the future of southern Hip Hop.  It’s not a new sound, but maybe a new sound for this region; kinda put me in mind of Umi Says by Mos Def when I first heard it.  But then, the South is known for our HBCU’s and their spectacular bands, so the drums aren’t a big deal.  Except that the drums on this one… if I didn’t know better, I’d say this track samples the Arabic from Toonami’s Deep Space Bass album that came out yeeears ago!  Now that’s futuristic.  Not just futuristic— progressive.  However, don’t be fooled:  this track is not a joyous affair at all.  Only a joy to listen to.  After all, if you’ve been listening to Hip Hop any amount of time, you probably know what a banana clip is.

So what is bananas about the clip?  Well, the song is about the vicious cycle of violence and retaliation we see so often especially in our communities (shout to Chicago by the way; can we rethink this whole self-inflicted genocide thing?)  Theoretically, violence solves nothing.  Theoretically, violence begets more violence.  And theoretically, most perpetrators of violent acts, especially deadly ones, would take their actions back if given a second chance.  But in this life, second chances are nothing to bank on.  So I appreciate Big K.R.I.T. making this song to remind our people of this important fact.

The sound of Big K.R.I.T.’s project takes an even more unexpected turn on the next track, Life is a Gamble.  The East Coast makes landfall on the production of this track; nevertheless, KRIT rides on the instrumental like it’s just another country road.  On that note, my dude manages to quotes C.L. Smooth on the track.  Just a few years ago, I remember having a discussion with my students about how they couldn’t get into East Coast rapper or instrumentals; it’s good to see the South now integrating other dimensions of Hip Hop culture to our special brew.

K.R.I.T. comes back to love on his poetic track Bigger Picture.  There’s nothing worse than when the people closest to you don’t perceive the vision that God has put into your mind.  I have a saying that I live by:  “Let the fruit be the proof”.  And K.R.I.T. takes a similar stance in his hook, as he says:

 

I wish you saw the bigger picture/

I wish you saw the bigger picture/

If I make it I’ll come back to get you/

Clear as day but you don’t see the vision/

I wish you saw the bigger picture/

What we got deserves some patience/

Cause this ain’t no finger painting/

I wish you saw the bigger picture/

Beautiful and modern all the same/

But what’s a photo if it’s out of frame/

I wish you saw the bigger picture/

(I’ll paint all the world for you)/

I pray you see the bigger picture/
So there it is:  the motivation for being a success sometimes is so that the people you love will believe in you enough to allow you to bring them along on your journey.  A very poignant track as the album comes full circle.

Now, Big K.R.I.T. is no question the continuation of the Dirty South legacy that I grew up on.  But he represents the entirety of that movement.  Meaning, he’s not just the Goodie Mob and all of their soulfulness and spirituality; he’s also UGK and all of their pimpology.  He’s a reimagining of the dichotomy and paradox that has always managed to exist in the south— remember when OutKast’s catch line was “The Playa [Big Boi] and The Poet [Andre 3000]”?  Well, this time we have an artist who manifests the two at the same time.

Now, just like I have students who love him, I have students who aren’t so crazy about him.  One in particular (who I won’t name cuz that’s my lil homie) is from Baltimore; she doesn’t like his accent.  Just a matter of personal preference there; for someone like me who came up in this Dirty South environment, the accent is a return home to the music I grew up on.  Granted, I didn’t listen to a lot of UGK (strict parents), but you can easily pick Pimp C’s influence out of Big K.R.I.T.’s delivery.  So yeah, if you’ve got a more East Coast ear, you may not take to K.R.I.T. as quickly.  At the same time, however, you’ve got to respect his lyricism; there’s a difference between not digging a vocal texture and not digging wordplay and diction.  The brotha’s got a handle on penmanship.  And a handle on studio boards to match.  I’m bout to retrograde and grab all his projects because I really feel like I’ve been missing out.  Seriously.

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