Album birthdays always come with a little bit of existential dread. Wait, Jay Z’s The Black Album is 13 years old? College Dropout is 12?! Stankonia will be 16 this year, that album just got its learner's permit to drive. See what I mean? Feel old?
Earlier this month Big K.R.I.T.’s4eva N a Day turned four years old, and instead of being met with that same “fuck time flies,” I thought, “It’s only been 4 years?!” Considering how much I’ve listened to that mixtape and how important it has been in my life, it feels as old and as important as projects that dropped over a decade ago. It may not be timeless in the way we talk about albums that dropped in the '90s, but 4eva N a Day defies the laws of time as any truly great project does, just in a different way. In it’s own way.
Big K.R.I.T. is different. It’s hard to call him a legend because his career is happening as we speak and we don't have the luxury of hindsight. Illmatic was released on cassette, College Dropout on CD, 4eva N a Day was a free project released online. It doesn't fit the mold of any "classic" project release, and so in a way trying to craft a tribute article for an album that's only four years old is a lot harder than one turning 15 or 20. So instead of trying to convince you of it’s “classic”ness, instead of fitting K.R.I.T. into a mold I love him for never fitting into, I thought I would speak to my experience and why I love it so much. Shades of Nujabes.
For me 4eva N a Day’s legacy can be encapsulated not by saying it made people take Mississippi hip-hop seriously, not that it helped usher in the free album (instead of a “mixtape”) era, but one three song stretch, a series of songs that goes toe to toe with any three song stretch in hip-hop history. For me, 4eva N a Day’s lasting legacy is “Boobie Miles,” “4EvaNaDay (Theme)” and “Me And My Old School.”
It feels like I’ve been at DJBooth forever, and sometimes I forget there was this whole other chapter of my life. One where I was stuck in a job I hated, making no money, with a boss who I wanted to scream at but couldn’t. In those two years “Boobie Miles” became my anthem. I set that record as my morning alarm, sometimes it was the only thing that got me out of bed. I would play it on the way to work, after a meeting, and on the way home. When I listened to that record, I could last through another meeting, another commute. It was a drop of water in a desert. Just enough to get me through. I may have a different job now, but "Boobie Miles" still remains an essential part of me life.
Sacrificing my paycheck for passion has perils of its own and when I'm thinking about where I am in life, how much money I have, or where I want to live, I start to drown in stress. "Boobie Miles" is the life vest. It serves as a daily reminder that life is a marathon, not a sprint, and you won't always be in first. It’s a reminder to keep my head down and keep plugging away. If I want it bad enough, if I really bust my ass, I can do it. "Boobie Miles" isn't just a song with a dope sax-laden instrumental and some motivational words, it's a mantra, a code to life your life by.
"4EvaNaDay (Theme)" has a similar message as "Boobie Miles," although it comes with a little bit more flair. Motivational, yes, but it’s not a song about the race, it’s about finishing and moonwalking over the finish line. "Boobie Miles" makes me think about the race, "4EvaNaDay (Theme)" makes me want to go out and finish it faster than Usain Bolt. I think the main reason for its electricity is that sample. God damn. It kicks you in the teeth from the very beginning and never lets up, perfectly chopped, expertly stretched, it’s a god damn masterpiece. It also speaks to an essential part of K.R.I.T’s DNA. Part of his legacy and part of my initial intrigue was the fact that he rapped and produced. There’s an unspoken, palpable chemistry when Krizzle raps over his own flips, and it’s no more obvious than here.
In terms of the three strong stretch, it brings an energy different from “Boobie Miles and “Me And My Old School.” The other two are a little more relaxed and atmospheric, they hit so well because, sandwiched between them, is this vibrant, enthralling effort that balances the perfect amount of attitude and energy. Even to this day, even with thousands of listens, this song has never lost a drop of freshness.
“Me And My Old School”
When I first discovered K.R.I.T. I did so through the lens of a sample-loving backpacker. I loved complex, “real” lyrics and cool flips. I had no time for songs about cars or candy-paint, I viewed them as shallow and materialistic. Also, I drove a Jetta. For a while “Me And My Old School” was that song after "4EvaNaDay (Theme)" that I would play when I forgot to press "next," but the more I listened, the more I really came to appreciate this song.
I loved the jazzy sample and the atmosphere he created, but eventually it became more about the car. It's so much more authentic than I thought car raps ever could be. K.R.I.T. wasn't celebrating cars as a sign of wealth, he was celebrating cars because he loves them, because they were a part of his life and culture. Once I started to understand that something else happened, something I didn't expect. I "felt" it. Somewhere along the way, somewhere driving down Parkwood Dr. with the windows down blasting this jazzy, atmospheric number, my Jetta turned into a candy-painted Monte Carlo. For the first time in my life I felt the appeal of the automobile. I still don't know shit about cars, and I still don't really connect with songs about cars, but whenever I listen to “Me And My Old School” I look for the nearest corner to bend. Some songs are best heard windows down and bass turned up. "Me And My Old School" is one of those songs.
When I think about my life since college, these three songs all have an important place in my heart individually, and to know that they all came from the same album and came sequentially is amazing. They represent every side of K.R.I.T - the producer, the Southerner, and the underdog - so strongly that they helped me form such a strong bond with the Mississippi emcee that in just four years he's turned into one of my all-time favorites. I can't speak to classic album status, or where he fits into the GOAT conversation, but on the four year anniversary of 4eva N a Day I'm drawn back to these songs. Three songs that have very unique sounds and messages but are forever tied together. Three songs I simply can't skip.
Three songs changed how I think and feel about K.R.I.T as an artist, changed how I think and feel about hip-hop, and continue to change how I think and feel about life. It may be only three songs, a small fraction of the album as a whole, but it's three songs I'll listen to 4Eva N a Day.