After giving up majors, Big KRIT is calling creative photography in more ways than one. Private label, tour and music are the priorities, but so is his human side.
Interview: Peter A. Berry
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, now out.
Short for King Remembered in Time, Big KRIT’s rap moniker is an allusion to heritage, but the 35-year-old is also focused on the present. Since the release of the first mixtape, See Me On Topin 2005, rapper born Justin Lewis Scott, released 23 solo projects and built a loyal, cult fan base while establishing himself as one of the most dynamic artists in the South.
Born and raised in Mississippi, KRIT started getting serious attention from fans and critics alike with the release of his 2010 mixtape, KRIT Wuz Here. He signed with Def Jam Recordings that same year. After releasing numerous critically acclaimed projects on Def Jam, KRIT, citing a change in relationship with the studio, chose to go the independent route and departed in 2016.
Now, he has his own label, Multi Alumni. Years of no longer feeling the pressure to create stream-friendly records and commercial singles, KRIT’s has moved into his status as a leader of the underworld, a position he has asserted. again. Digital Roses Don’t Die, a “love story” album he dropped this past February. Packed with 1970s vibrancy and soul, as well as his own nimble songwriting, the project is just the latest sign of his growth as a rapper, singer and producer.
This year, he’s focused on touring and expanding the label and roster he’s brought on board. He has also been collaborating with more artists. KRIT has a ton of ideas and concepts in the vault, but he’s taking his time when it comes to his next project.
Connecting with XXL on a chilly February evening, just a week before the release date for Digital Roses Don’t Die album, KRIT discusses Southern rap music, his respect for André 3000, the life of the head of a record label, the formation of a great lyricist and the person inside.
XXL: What have you been doing over the past six months besides working on this album together?
Big KRIT: Oh my God. Just life. I think everyone has been through a lot. Even the move from 2021 to 2022 is just an adjustment, right? It was like normal back to the day before COVID, new year, new things I would do, boom, boom, boom. It’s like, You know what? I’m still in the house. You’re still just trying to figure out everything here and there. But it’s just dialing in, starting to focus more on finishing the album. How do you feel. What does the tour look like?
At this point in my career, [it’s about] What does the performance look like and what message do I really want to send to people? Because we’ve been through a lot over the last few years, man. And so, for me, it’s just thinking about all that along with implementations and more. Just trying to be as true to myself as possible.
It sounds very useful.
How would you describe your position in current hip-hop? Is it different from where you wanted to be when you started?
It’s hard to explain, man, because so many of me try to prove myself for what
I have come from. I come from Mississippi. So I had to go to a lot of places, interact a lot with people to prove my musical prowess, not only at the production level, but also at the rapping level, and was very strict in that. Not only can I. producer, but I’m a lyricist and lead lyricist and I’m from Mississippi. So it is like that. I had to push and it became very aggressive, very frustrating at times because of the geolottery.
The music industry is self-regulating more for vacation destinations and not necessarily for venues. It could be a small town that people don’t even know about. So that created this story so I always felt like I needed to prove myself. And it doesn’t matter which room I’m in. It doesn’t matter how much music I make or how creative I am. It’s just to prove myself. And I found myself at this moment, I think maybe later Cadillactica going in 4eva is a mighty long time, where I’m not really interested in proving myself anymore because I’ve done a lot of music. We’ve been on tour and we’ve seen love and we’ve had the experience of sticking with a label and not with a label and everything being independent. And I’m just doing what I love to do. That is enough.
André 3000 is known for telling people, “the South has something to say.” Do you think Southern hip-hop is really getting the respect it deserves?
I think it is overrated. I think Southern stories sometimes have to prove themselves on lyrical grounds, just based on conversation when they talk about top lyricists or artists. I think Bun B is probably in my top five lyricists, and people don’t notice it. André 3000 might be one of the best lyricists ever and people don’t really put [him] in that directory. And I think about what Southern artists usually have to do to get in that category.
Because CeeLo and André 3000 are also great singers. And they are great lyricists that will probably interest you. But you have to become that in order to be noticed in a sense. And David Banner was one of the first people I saw how much he had to do to get noticed. He makes his own beats. He raps and he’s going to travel and he’s making these amazing records and he’s going from city to city. And he was actually one of the first people that I felt like, “I have to do both. I can’t just be a rapper. I have to make a rap for people to hear me. And if they don’t like my rap, they will like my beat. If they don’t like my beat, they’ll like my rapping. It will put me in the room with everyone. “So sometimes I feel that the amount of money you have to make, especially if you’re from the deep South, to make noise in the hip-hop industry is a lot.
You talk about lyricism a lot. For you, what makes a great lyricist?
Obviously transparent. Write it from the heart. And being able to understand the beat, the simulation, is very important. Metaphors. And how do you create a story. And everything has been talked about quite a bit, but to really touch on the topics in a way that people are not familiar with. To think of something the way people say, “Man, I never thought of it like that.” And then to do it with records that people don’t expect.
I’m back to André 3000 on this because André 3000 is going to jump into a record you know it’s a club return record and fuck and say some bad things. And you’re like, “Wait. Damn. That’s beautiful. I didn’t expect that.” On that wave. And not even too much sometimes get caught up in the jargon of what everyone else is saying. Obviously, it’s easy to get caught up in certain keywords that are really record-setting at the moment, but to get rid of it and just try your own pun, your own rhythm. I think E-40 is a great lyricist because he’ll just write the lyrics and write the lyrics. You’ll be like, “Damn, man. Hold on. What does it mean?”
You joined a big company and worked as an independent artist. Do you find it easier to make a profit independently than standing on top of a big brand? How does streaming and playing video into it for you?
Let me say first, streaming is still a different thought process and idea for everyone. Streaming is still one of those things that you’re trying to figure out. I’m lucky to be on tour. Travel remains a major part of what we do. And so it’s still the hand-to-hand aspect, really seeing people and things still being tangible, immersive, stuff like that. But streaming is still this thing up and down, where in the old days a CD was a CD. It’s a physical copy. And you know they got the CD. We are no longer in that world.
So I’m still learning more things about it. But what I value more now is the freedom to drop music whenever and wherever I want. Whatever I put into it, I can see it in what’s back. Usually, with a brand, it’s a little different from the people you might work with. You may not have any real relationship with them. You may not know who they are. But they’re still a part of your album coming out, whether they’re busy or there’s a lot of other people on the label.
I like to think of it as an airplane runway. I feel when you’re independent, it’s more like you’re in a private facility, where your plane takes off when you want, “Okay, I’m ready to go.” But when you’re with a label, it’s like a big airport. There are many possible planes taking off in front of you, or your plane may have to wait a little longer because it is about to take off.
You’ve got your own brand, Multi Alumni. What is it like to be in control of something and be able to help more people?
This was the first year that it really became the narrative of what it was to be in some sense for other artists. But I am transparent. A lot when it comes to the musical side, the only thing I want for an artist to come to me, usually I want them to have made their own music in some sense. They see what they are. The only thing I want to do is control the quality. Ideas like, “Well, maybe let’s change this rock drum, this trap. Maybe the hook could be a little stronger.”
At this point, what do you want people to remember?
Oh my God. I mean, clearly a king of what I do. Humble. Crystal-clear. I mean, most of the music is what people know about me. But on the human side, right? As a person, especially when dealing with people throughout my career, I really am who I am and I really help in some way.
When it comes to mental health. When it comes to substance abuse and these things we as artists don’t get a chance to say much because of how they might have affected us. I am definitely and still am one of those people that I very much understand how music inspires people and how some songs that I have done in the past may have turned people on. . But, in those songs, perhaps there was some rhetorical rhetoric that I now know I had to change. It was me rapping about my own mistakes and shortcomings as well as my mental health and depression and anxiety and being in treatment.
So that’s one of those things that people call the King to be remembered in time, not only for music, but for being a real supporter of people getting spiritual help and physical, then self-aware and aware of triggers. And then saying that to have a really healthy concept of myself and really find true happiness is the most important thing to me in a sense. I’m part of the music industry, but I’m human, right?
Read the cover story with Playboi Carti and see other magazine interviews with Fivio Foreign, Latto, DaBaby, Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J, Joey Bada $$, Denzel Curry, Hit-Boy, RZA, Saba, Morray, Nardo Wick, Kali, Sleepy Hallow, SSGKobe , ATL Jacob, Pink Sweat $, Saucy Santana, Jason Lee, Angie Randisi and Colby Turner in the new issue of XXL magazine, now available in newsstands and in XXL’s online store.
Check out the exclusive cover story of Playboi Carti’s XXL Magazine Spring 2022
https://www.xxlmag.com/big-krit-interview/ Big K.R.I.T. Interview – New Music, Respect for Southern Rap