“I’mma be big, mama, I’mma get rich, mama” —Big K.R.I.T., “Drinking Sessions”
In 2017, much like 2016, 2015, and every year since the inception of his career, Big K.R.I.T. was focused on survival. The man born Justin Lewis Scott has had a brutal and winding path through the fields of hip-hop. Label splits, independent hustles, people not believing in him. K.R.I.T.’s music industry struggles have run the gamut, and the whole time, the 32-year-old emcee kept his head down and his eye on his next meal.
In 2017, K.R.I.T. dropped his opus album 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, a double-disc that showcases K.R.I.T. and Justin Scott in a spiritual cage match. The record features countless hero-cuts carrying the message of the album, but little did K.R.I.T. know that on “Drinking Sessions,” he would be laying the groundwork for closing out a chapter of his career.
Over skittering piano, with his inhibitions down and his openness amped, K.R.I.T. gets into the drink and reflects on his past by way of looking towards an imagined future—one that presents as more fulfilling and equitable than his current standing. In promising his mother that he would be rich and start a family, we get the sense that K.R.I.T. feels incomplete, if not irreverent.
The man has sacrificed so much to get to where he was on 4eva, and yet, he still struggles to feel as if he has risen to his true potential. It’s an indictment of himself, but more so, an indictment of a game that did him dirty. Material success does not satisfy his heart. With that, K.R.I.T. feels insecure in his status as an artist and a man. We get the sense that K.R.I.T. is still surviving and striving for that effervescent “more.”
“I’d be the biggest star, they told me / Signed my name on that line and when I die, that's when it’s over / Movin’ on to the set, I was just a talented black kid / But to them, I looked like a check / Another five years of slavin’ and then it’s on to the next” —Big K.R.I.T., “Drinking Sessions
As K.R.I.T. laments his fallout with Def Jam, we realize that he’s displeased with the system that gave him his star power. Not ungrateful, K.R.I.T. is merely looking around and wondering why his ship has yet to come in. K.R.I.T. has put in so much work, and yet, his moment of relief escapes him. “I was tryna be what I envisioned as a child,” K.R.I.T. confesses. In the thick of survival, he sees little resting places. We get this sentiment a few bars later, with: “I can’t hold it back, can’t control these tears, I mean after all these years / I’m still the kid writin’ poems, too shy to eat in the cafeteria.”
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“Drinking Sessions” is riddled with frustration that comes when you’ve spent years scrapping for success, only to ask, “What path is right for me?” “How,” K.R.I.T. wonders, “will I make it?”
Finally, in 2019, Big K.R.I.T. has arrived. The Southern everyman who has spent a decade in the music game surviving has finally won his battles and conquered the day. He said it himself, “K.R.I.T. HERE.” With his latest album, K.R.I.T. IZ HERE, Big K.R.I.T. showed us that he is done being hungry (“That was then, this is now”). Instead, K.R.I.T.’s plate is full, and his belly is happy. There’s food left over—he’ll share it with family—and K.R.I.T. is pleased with all that he’s accomplished (“The only thing that matters now is family”).
On K.R.I.T. IZ HERE, K.R.I.T. does not spend any time striving or aspiring towards greatness. He does not waste bars imagining all that he could have. He does not lament all the people have yet to bestow upon him. No, K.R.I.T. has everything—he made it, as on “I Made.” This song is the sound of arrival: the absence of aspiration, the dearth of droning, the sweet of security of self. Big K.R.I.T.’s star has risen to a place where he is comfortable in his celebrity; it neither terrifies nor haunts him. K.R.I.T. is not complacent; he’s solid. And as a result, he’s releasing some of the most boisterous and celebratory music of his career.
In that breath, K.R.I.T. IZ HERE is K.R.I.T.’s very own housewarming party. He litters the record with lyrical moments that capture what it means to arrive in hip-hop, to go from surviving in rap to eating a full meal every night. For instance, on “Everytime,” K.R.I.T. boasts: “If I compete with me, there’s no second place.” Gone are the days of “Drinking Sessions” and looking left and right to see other artists rising above him. They mean nothing to K.R.I.T. now; all that matters is his success and his growth.
The structure of the album affirms this fresh focus on self, with K.R.I.T. opting to place a skit after his grand entrance. The “High End Country (Interlude)” preaches the importance of waiting and patience, as if to say that after announcing his arrival with “K.R.I.T. HERE,” Justin Scott wishes to remind us this arrival did not come overnight; he wishes to educate us on the importance of taking your time to find who you are and grow comfortable with the process.
The skit appropriately pitters off into “I Been Waitin,” with its looming production and K.R.I.T.’s snarling performance. The man sounds measured and assured. With the title and subject matter of the track, it would be easy to assume that “I Been Waitin” is a bitter cut, yet K.R.I.T. sounds anything but. Looking at his story, we know K.R.I.T. has every right to turn cold to the game. Instead, he takes the high road and weathers the storm of the industry.
With that, “I Been Waitin” is an anthem for those who take their time and keep their head down, working. “I been waitin’ on my turn, life is butter, let it churn,” he spits, opening the first verse. K.R.I.T. proves himself to be down with the processes of life, and that level of acceptance only comes at a moment of arrival. Unlike “Drinking Sessions,” where K.R.I.T. is looking around, only to see all that he does not have, “I Been Waitin,” features K.R.I.T. using his past as an example for why his present moment is so sweet. Here we have a man that’s capable of presentness, a cardinal sign of making it.
Much of the album taking place in the past and present tense speaks to K.R.I.T.’s evolution as a man (“Learned From Texas”). On “Family Matters,” K.R.I.T. once again flips the topic of “Drinking Sessions,” as he no longer has to promise his mama anything. He is wealthy, successful, and here to share that success with the people who took this dynamic ride with him. Hearing K.R.I.T. spit, “The only thing that matters now is family” after listening to all his aspirations across his discography, we get the sense that Justin Scott has found peace and resolve with his station.
As Yoh tells it, K.R.I.T. IZ HERE marks a new chapter for Big K.R.I.T., one where he is secure in himself, one where he has found his voice and is shouting joy from the top of Mount Olympus. The K.R.I.T. of 2019 wants for nothing; he has all that he worked for and a satisfaction brims from his music. The record is K.R.I.T.’s most lugubrious body of work, his most playful, friendly, and banging. It does not boast a miracle of a concept; K.R.I.T. is the concept, and the man is doing fine. He said it himself: he’s here. Now, all that’s left is to celebrate together.