Even when he was just emerging in the blog-rap golden era of 2009-10, Big K.R.I.T. felt like a remnant from another time. The Mississippi rapper/producer was as Southern as it’s possible to be, with a deep drawl that could suddenly accelerate like a souped-up caddie. His topics of choice were car culture, faith, and music-making, and he created rousing anthems celebrating those subjects. He played the role of local boy made good at a time when the Internet was thought to be dissolving the idea of what “local” meant.
“I apologize if I’m oh-so-old fashioned” he raps during “Third Eye” from his new album, Cadillactica, and at this point, the remark can be taken in multiple ways. In the context of the song, K.R.I.T. is calling himself old school, but he’s also the kind of self-producing Southern rapper who was put on by his catalogue, as opposed to a single infectious single—no “Versace” or “No Flex Zone” for him. Instead, blogs vaunted his debut mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and he remains an album rapper at a time when albums are less important than ever.
Throughout Cadillactica, K.R.I.T. acknowledges that the music he makes is no longer quite as relevant as it was just a couple of years ago. The title track includes a less-than subtle Migos reference, and on “King of the South”, the rapper specifies that he works for the OG’s rather than the “blogspot comment box.” The most noteworthy testament to K.R.I.T.’s attitude about developments in hip-hop comes in the furious “Mt. Olympus”, the best response to Kendrick’s “Control” verse that you may not have heard yet, perhaps because it wasn’t recorded over the same beat. The song is almost worth quoting in its entirety, because no track more perfectly sets up the problem for an old-fashioned “lyrical” Southern rapper at a time when Southern rap is best known for catchphrases, singles, and forward-thinking production. K.R.I.T.’s anger on the track is stirring and his flow about eight times more impressive than you probably remember. But the fact that his ire is directed at “swagger-jackers” who popularized Southern sounds and slang is disconcerting, evidence of an artistic conservatism that may be what’s kept the rapper on a plateau for his last few projects.
Even if Cadillactica may look to some like an artist struggling to stretch, it certainly feels like the quintessence of the sound that K.R.I.T. has been working toward. On tracks like “Kreation” and “Mind Control”, there’s deep maximalist Southern funk reminiscent of Big Boi’s musical backdrop on Speakerboxxx and Sir Lucious Leftfoot. The efficacy of “My Sub: Part 3” will depend on how capable the bass in your earphones or stereo is, but it’s a fitting peak for a rapper who has “thought about the thump from the jump.” (After all, “hos can’t twerk to the hi-hat, never.”) The album is filled with the kind of soul-infused hip/hop that’s been missing from the genre. “Soul Food”, featuring the immortal Raphael Saadiq and “Saturdays=Celebration” are resurrections of a neglected art form; the way that they’re executed makes you wonder why more people aren’t making music like this.
K.R.I.T. is such a gifted storyteller that he’s often able to transcend the hackneyed concepts from which his songs are built. Take “Third Eye”, where his skeezy, new-age come-on somehow morphs into a seductive (and wholly club-inappropriate) vision of creating a family: “Picket fences, and chilling playing instruments…I saw your face, you were full of Grace, at least that’s what we named her/ My angel had an angel and I was so thankful.” Another song that deals with “Angels” (and features the unfortunate hook, “I think angels get high”) has an amazing moment where K.R.I.T. describes his friend’s fear of an apocalyptic storm in such specific detail that you remember your own fear when encountering something so elemental.
At this point in K.R.I.T.’s career, we have a clear idea of his limitations—and with a runtime nearly reaching an hour, the 17 tracks here can’t help but magnify some of the rapper’s flaws. There are empty songs on Cadillactica; “Lost Generation”, which features Lupe Fiasco, has the rappers encouraging each other’s pedantic tendencies. K.R.I.T., too, will often lay back and let his production cover a shallow 16—”Mind Control” is one of the best sounding songs on the record, but its verses, including features from E-40 and Wiz Khalifa, don’t do much to elevate the track.
And yet, like a basketball star managing to score within a wholly antiquated offense, Cadillactica is the triumph of a style that has all but been discarded. It’s no doubt a conservative record, maybe even a deeply unfashionable one, but much of its strength lies in the fact that it sounds different from everyone else out there. K.R.I.T.’s stubborn resolution to stick to perfecting one particular approach may eventually doom his growth, and it would be nice to see him move in a new direction at some point. But the power of Cadillactica repudiates the need for a change of pace—why trade in an old, reliable car when it still rides so clean?
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1yI4MCV