Black Music Month: Big K.R.I.T.

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 28th, 889@Night is highlighting Big K.R.I.T.

Justin Scott was born August 26, 1986 in Meridian, Mississippi. Now at 25 years of age, he is one of the hottest Southern hip-hop musicians and record producers, answering to the stage name of Big K.R.I.T. Scott was raised in a spiritual family, spending most of his time in church listening to sermons and performing in choir. At the age of fourteen, he started to write poetry which slowly progressed to songwriting.

K.R.I.T. learned to use his computer to record his first rap songs. “I used to play music out of my computer and rap into the microphone that was connected to a tape recorder,” he remembers. “It was like the most bootleg karaoke machine you could find. I went from doing that to actually trying to get in the studio. It didn’t become super serious until I started making beats and rapping which was around 2000. That’s when I really started to record and drop projects.”

In 2000, K.R.I.T. recorded under the stage name Kritikal, which changed to Big K.R.I.T., standing for King Remembered In Time, after he graduated from high school and moved to Atlanta to pursue his rap career. He found minor success in producing and was even able to sell some of his beats, but his true fame and fortune would not come until a decade later.

“I wasn’t really making money and it was really difficult to survive,” says K.R.I.T. “My phone was shut off and I could only receive calls. One day I was walking down the street with some Ramen noodles and I was like man, I have to go back home and work on the railroad. Then, at the end of 2009, Jonny Shipes called me and he offered to work with me for six months.”

Johnny Shipes worked for Cinematic Music, based in New York City, and went straight to work with K.R.I.T. Within a span of two months, K.R.I.T. was able to record and release a series of songs and videos that caught the attention of major record labels.

K.R.I.T.’s pastimes listening to rhythm and blues records in his Grandmother’s house which heavily influenced his career. “I’m reintroducing a type of sound from the South that a lot of the newer generation doesn’t know about and reminding the older generation of what Southern hip-hop used to sound like,” he explains.

He remembers discovering songs from artists like Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch, and Bobby Womack, which led him to incorporate his love of old-school soul into his current albums. More contemporary artists such as 8Ball & MJG, UGK, Scarface, and OutKast also made a lasting impression on K.R.I.T., “I was influenced by the third coast as far as Texas, Tennessee, and Atlanta and I was really trying to put all those sounds that I grew up listening to together to make a sound for myself.”

In May 2007, Big K.R.I.T. released his first mixtape hosted by DJ Wally Sparks entitled Hood Fame. He got over 32,000 views and garnered over 6,000 downloads. Three years later, he released The Last King, hosted by DJ Breakem Off. He became a featured artist on Curren$y’s third album Pilot Talk and Wiz Khalifa’s album Kush
and Orange Juice. Kush and Orange Juice propelled Big K.R.I.T.’s internet fame after it became the most popular search on Google and twitter.

In May 2010, Big K.R.I.T. released his third mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and received his first big break. The mixtape was critically acclaimed and caught the eye of a powerful CEO. At the time, Sha Money XL was the president of G-Unit Records and was so astonished by K.R.I.T’s talent that he signed him to the Def Jam record label within a few weeks.

After getting signed, K.R.I.T. began performing with fellow artists on tour. In October 2010, K.R.I.T. co-headlined The Smoker’s Club Tour. He joined Curren$y, Smoke DZA, and Mac Miller in Little Rock, Arkansas and opened for Wiz Khalifa on his Waken Baken tour in November in Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia.

By late 2010, it was clear Big K.R.I.T. had already made a name for himself in the hip-hop world. After receiving starred reviews from Pitchfork and Complex magazine, his popularity was undeniable. In the February 2011 issue of XXL magazine, K.R.I.T was named one of the Top Eleven Freshmen, joining the ranks of Meek Mill, Cyhi Da Prynce, Lil Twist, Yelawolf, Fred The Godson, Mac Miller, YG, Lil B, Kendrick Lamar, and Diggy Simmons. This title placed him amongst the hip-hop industry’s most promising newcomers.

In March 2011, Big K.R.I.T. released his highly anticipated and self-produced mixtape, Return of 4Eva. The album featured Ludacris, David Banner, Bun B, Big Sant, Chamillionaire, and Raheem Devaughn. Rap critic William Ketchum of
HipHopDX called Return of 4Eva “emotive, conceptual music.” Ketchum also praised K.R.I.T. for giving fans a “free album,” although it was solely a mixtape. Matthew Cole of Slant Magazine added that it was “the best mixtape of the month,” and “the rap album to beat in 2011.”

Since then, Big K.R.I.T.’s skills as a producer have been highly revered and praised as much as his lyrics and flow. Both Ketchum and Cole named K.R.I.T. the successor to Southern rap legends UGK, Scarface, and Outkast.

On April 20, 2011, rap critic Tom Breihan reviewed the mixtape for Pitchfork Magazine rating K.R.I.T.’s mixtape at 8.2 out of 10 stars and awarded him Pitchfork.com’s coveted “Best New Music” tag.

On July 1, 2011 Big K.R.I.T. produced his first studio album, Live from the Underground, on Cinematic/Def Jam Records. Many agree that his album served as a testament to his multifaceted musical talent and overall artistic vision.

K.R.I.T. credits Sha Money XL to believing in his talent and letting him stay true to his own music. “Sha reached out because he heard all of the buzz and the music,” he says. “He definitely believed in me and wanted to be part of the movement. We chopped it up and really figured out the best way for me to stay organic and be myself as an artist.”

Big K.R.I.T. is the hallmark for independent artists who want to stay true to their beliefs. “I feel like it’s extremely important that people get to know me on a personal level through my music,” he said. “This is my canvas, it’s my art and I’m really trying to paint pictures the way I see them. I’m creating compositions and not relying so much on 808s and snares. I’m really trying to make timeless music.”

The industry gained a golden star in Big K.R.I.T. whose eclectic tastes combine together to recognize and resurrect the culture of Southern 90s hip-hop.

By Stefanie Guarino

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