From the first listen of his newly-released album 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, it’s evident Big K.R.I.T. delivered a masterpiece. He found his groove, harnessed his energy, and presented his story in a no-holds-barred double-album exposé.
Instrumental, pun intended, to K.R.I.T.’s latest success is famed Atlanta producer WLPWR, the man most responsible for shaping the recording career of Yelawolf. WLPWR, born William Washington, first connected with K.R.I.T. in the studio just over two years ago, with no expectations for an album. At the time, the duo crafted "Free Agent," a track that K.R.I.T. would go on to release following his departure from Def Jam in mid-2016.
“After that,” Will tells me excitedly over the phone, “[K.R.I.T.] started talking about putting a project together and doing it independently. I said ‘Let’s do it, let’s work!’”
Together, the pair worked tirelessly, stitching together a double album with WLPWR directly responsible for five tracks—“Big Bank,” “Get Up 2 Come Down,” “Keep the devil Off,” “Everlasting,” “Price of Fame”—and his ear for arrangement and vocal cadence guiding a handful more.
Despite working with a wide range of artists—everyone from Gangsta Boo to Wiz Khalifa—WLPWR doesn’t have a shifting mindset from one artist to another. Rather, he feeds off of their in-the-moment energy. When asked about K.R.I.T.’s energy, he describes the Mississippi native as a "dynamic force" in the studio, always trying new things and fighting off stagnation.
“When someone’s really wanting to prove themselves because of their circumstances, that’s where he was,” WLPWR says. “The whole time, we were trying to meet this moment where he felt good about what he accomplished.”
Will admits he can't find one single perfect word to describe his collaborator, but I have a feeling "hunger" is the word he was looking for.
One of those dynamic and hungry moments produced album standout, “Price of Fame”: “[K.R.I.T.] felt when he walked in that day, that’s how we worked. The song ‘Price of Fame,’ he was in a special place that day. It seemed like something was bothering him, but that particular day was kind of a drab, and it turned into a really dope moment.”
In fact, the entire album was “a really dope moment,” if not “a classic moment,” according to WLPWR. “And I could tell in the studio. I didn’t have to wait until it came out. I've had this feeling before, this feeling when you leave the studio and [the album is] finally done, and you feel complete.”
Having walked away from their studio sessions with a sense of wholeness, WLPWR is elated that he had the chance to be a vital cog in K.R.I.T.’s remarkable comeback story. “For one, I feel blessed that he considered me to be the caliber of producer he wanted to work with,” WLPWR says. “When you have somebody as talented as K.R.I.T. who was always told, ‘Not yet,’ or, ‘The people won’t understand it,’ to finally get the chance to do it, it just makes for a really awesome situation.”
With a hearty laugh, WLPWR emphasizes that their relationship was predicated on a strong friendship and sense of camaraderie. “We would have sessions where we wouldn’t necessarily work on anything that I produced on, but I would just be there to help cultivate something great,” he says. “Many times, we’d have a session booked and we wouldn’t go, we’d just hang out. I think that really shows… we really became a unit.”
For WLPWR, those out of studio moments were invaluable, and apparently involved a lot of steaks. “We’ve been very good friends. K.R.I.T. and I would just meet up and go have a steak,” he tells me, laughing. “I got to have some interesting conversations with him. I learned what he was receptive to and what he was not, what he was going through at the time, and his sense of humor. Once he got comfortable with me, magic started really happening.”
That magic translated into “Price of Fame” being cut in the same hour that K.R.I.T. heard the beat, and “Keep the devil Off” being worked on until the 25th hour but somehow never getting old. Together, the duo hit their stride and never slowed down.
Steak dinners weren't the only place where their friendship flourished, either.
Will details one of his favorite memories of riding shotgun in K.R.I.T.’s Jeep:
“One of my favorite records is the sub record (“Subenstien”)! When I first heard it, K.R.I.T. pulled up at my studio and told me: ‘Come jump in the Jeep man, I gotta play you this joint.’ He’s got 15s in all of his vehicles. He’s playing this song and I’m in there really trying to be nice because my head is throbbing from the bass, but once the track ended I was like ‘Damn! That shit is incredible.’”
As for what it’s like to share a steak with K.R.I.T., Will was near-giddy trying to relay the experience. So much so that he forgot the steak order in the moment, and sent me a text a few hours after our interview with the full description: filet, Pittsburgh style, with a blue cheese crust.
You know what they say about artists who have a good taste in steaks? They make great records.