The chip Big K.R.I.T. had always seemed to carry on his shoulder was certainly warranted. Because he was difficult to pigeonhole, both he and many music journalists claimed, he was pushed aside in hip-hop. The artist’s vision of the big picture and his commitment to being “remembered in time,” as his anagrammed name declares, was both his biggest boon and biggest asterisk in the conversation of “Who’s Next.” On “Viktorious,” off his breakthrough mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, he vented his frustration:
“At the end of the day these n*ggas don’t giva fuck shawty
Ya feel me?
I been doing this shit man since ’05 my n*gga I just touch down
Representin’ that Mississippi shit man I swear they don’t give me a shot cause of that shit
N*gga I’m country-er than a muthafucker but my lyrical content is crazy
I’m making my own beats
What the fuck?”
His understandable frustration finally boiled over on “Mt. Olympus.” the blistering lyrical onslaught that served as his response to Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse. Unswayed by the hooplah, he vents at a breakneck pace: “I ain’t thrown by all this propaganda […] I’m super lyrical all of a sudden, last year they claimed they couldn’t understand me.” A switch had been flicked, and it appeared the incredulous disbelief had transitioned to white-hot rage on wax. However, as Cadillactica, his second formal release on Def Jam, neared its release, the first couple singles tempered these expectations. “Pay Attention,” featuring Rico Love, was a strip club-ready record, and the Raphael Saadiq-produced “Soul Food” was a retrofitted nostalgic tribute to the “good eatin’ [and] good seasons” of his childhood. K.R.I.T.’s throbbing vein, as well as much of the signature K.R.I.T balance (hard-hitting 808s and sugar-sweet samples), was nowhere to be found. Cadillactica, this planet of an album he finally readied himself to create, was going to be different.
Yet even with all the adaptations and shifts the maturing artist has included on Cadillactica, from the jarring orchestral swelling on “Life” to the way outside production work by various voices pulls the album in different directions, the format feels consistently K.R.I.T. As he has done in the past, he jams his trunk-rattling singles toward the beginning, letting the tone mellow into his more introspective tracks as the project progresses. On Return of 4eva, for instance, this journey took the listener from the bouncy “Sookie Now” to the gentle, thoughtful “Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed & Ecouraging Racism,” “Free My Soul” and “The Vent.” On Cadillactica, the listener turns up to “King of the South” before cooling down to “Angels.” He uses his own proven recipes for cohesion, but the variety of ingredients from different producers makes his tried-and-true flavors more complex. Not every flavor melds into the pot perfectly – the growling country hook on “Saturdays=Celebration” remains difficult to digest – but overall, the pot bubbles over with excitement at the aromas rising from the mixture.
After years of grimacing because it felt like no one was listening, it seems like Big K.R.I.T. is finally smiling on Cadillactica. The beef for prestige finally squashed, he can comfortably collaborate, satisfied that he is not surrendering creative control. Ironically, his newfound comfort in collaboration may finally quash the assumption that the world isn’t willing to listen.
4 out of 5
You can purchase Cadillactica on Amazon.