After three critically acclaimed projects released for free to the webs K.R.I.T. managed to make the expectations for his major label debut skyrocket. Will the first time he asks for a couple bucks be just as worthwhile as when he handed out his tasty freebees? The BT attempts to find out.
In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Lebron had what many are calling the best game of his career. It wasn’t a triple-double. He wasn’t stellar from the free throw line. But he took 26 field goal attempts, and made 19. He zeroed in on one aspect of the game (technically two with 15 rebounds) that would ensure that his team had the edge if he dominated that area.
Whereas some other recently lauded offerings out of the South felt the need to branch out and be a little more experimental, seeking a wider appeal, Live from the Underground took the Lebron James – Game 6 approach. Live is the archetypal Southern album with far too much soul to approach the level of caricature. Saturated with the molasses-thick bass that we’ve come to love from his region and peppered with anecdotes, slick slang, and drawl enough to wear the Big KRIT logo proudly, what you get with this first studio album is his most solid body of work since KRIT Wuz Here.
The project sways seamlessly between anthems for hooks and stories for verses over high-pitched organs and exaggerated blues licks that never let you forget that you’re on a trip through the Dirty South. Guest spots from Bun B, 8ball & MJG, Devin the Dude, and Ludacris give the impression that everyone paying attention acknowledges the passing of the mantle with the same approving head-nods that seem to be impossible to resist when listening to this album.
Live From The Underground seems like a step back for Big K.R.I.T. – at least for fans who tracked the artist over the course of his highly-acclaimed street albums. Perhaps such disappointment is to be expected now that this is his first commercial release with a well-known logo on the back cover.
But still… this? Ultra-simplistic, repetitively chopped chant choruses? Braggadocios tracks about how elements of his customized car earn him “time” with the ladies? It feels like the suit from “A&Rville” heard at the end of the title track asked K.R.I.T. to complete a Southern-rap-cliché checklist before he entered the Mainstream.
Thankfully we get a glimpse of the old, more highly-minded K.R.I.T. as the project winds down with songs like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and “Praying Man” with B.B. King. But by then, it’s too little, too late and renders the Live From The Underground moniker nothing more than a hollow promise.
First, let me say this is the first full-length I’ve listened to by Big K.R.I.T. Now to the album. K.R.I.T. begins by promoting being true to yourself and doing what you do regardless of anything; hence the title, Live From the Underground. What follows is a bit of a contradiction. A lot of songs could be considered mainstream. Still, most of them are enjoyable. Where K.R.I.T. does stay consistent is with his style; he is southern to the core throughout. “Cool to Be Southern” and “I Got This” are highlights of music that could only be a product of the south. While he’s not covering anything new, the music is still a good time. He occasionally goes deeper than flossing; “Praying Man” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” show K.R.I.T. is more than an afficionado of candy-painted whips. All in all, this is a solid album that is fun to ride around to, even if it’s not that memorable.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t the biggest K.R.I.T. fan before devouring Live From The Underground over this last week. I’ve respected his tracks but my listening palette has taken me onto different sounds. I’m almost kicking myself for not sitting down with his music more. There are some albums that you can clean your house to, others that you might want to rock in your whip, mobbin’ down the boulevard. Live From The Underground’s success, in my opinion, is that it fits in so many different scenarios. And rocks hard in all of them. I’ve spent a few chill afternoons on my porch rocking this back to back to back, and I’m not tired of it. The fact that K.R.I.T. didn’t break the mold, and produced his official major label debut is a great achievement to me, as it could’ve been hella easy for him to pick up the Def Jam rolodex and get a list of producers for this. It’s pure Tennessee, showcasing a proper ghetto griot/street prophet in his own zone. Love the live feel of a lot of these tracks, and him hooking BB King on “Praying Man” is icing on the cake.
Great album that should help define the 2012 summer for a number of heads out there.
Even though KRIT’s album got severely pushed back and he released another full-length project since it’s conception the title and the somewhat corny skits exemplifying it ring a bit false. KRIT didn’t crash onto the mainstream, he worked hard to get there and his place is well-earned. What’s a bit underwhelming about his major label debut is that the pressure to make it an ‘event’ record results in moments where it sounds like KRIT is trying to make the definitive, archetypical ‘Dirty South’ record.
While this works well on excellent songs like “Cool 2 Be Southern” it also results in an overabundance of features and a more generic feel than on his earlier projects. KRIT is at his best when he’s doing personal tales steeped in southern blues and funk, and it’s great to see the Def Jam dollars at work pairing him up with BB King for “Praying Man,” one of the greatest cuts on the album. While the album could’ve used more of KRIT’s own personality and less of a forced need to be a watermark album to it’s time and geographical origin, there are still many instances where his personality and lyricism do shine through over the lush, organic instrumentals. And those ultimately are the moments that make Live From The Underground a rewarding listening experience.