Sweet Baby Jesus hip-hop heads, the moment is finally here! Cadillactica has arrived!
I should be jumping over the moon in a joyous, jubilant celebration....
So why do I find myself overcome with anxiety?
You know when you wait so long for something, when you want something so badly, that when you finally get it you don't know quite what to do with it? That's how I feel about Big K.R.I.T's Cadillactica; I'm not mentally prepared for this moment. I spent so much time waiting for this album, praying to the hip-hop gods that it would be delivered unto my unworthy ear parts, that now that I can actually put it in my ear parts, I'm not sure I'm ready.
I've written a ton about K.R.I.T. (see here, here, here and here) because, simply put, he's one of my favorite current artists and his music inspires me. Aside from Kanye, I don't think there is an artist who I write about and listen to more than Krizzle. He is a rare constant in my ever-changing music rotation, and it's not just songs but whole projects. His music matters to me more than almost anyone else's, so how I first hear this album really matters. I need it to be so good I can't wear pants for two weeks straight. I need this to be that album. So I'm kind of scared. What if it isn't? What if, instead of soul samples and aggressive rhymes, K.R.I.T does "Shake It Off Pt.2"? Actually that would be kind of dope, but you get what I'm saying. My expectations for the album are sky high, so I'm scared to actually listen.
Well, that first time has to be some time, right? Waiting isn't going to make the album any different, I gotta sack up and press play. So I made a little listening station in my living room with all the essentials I would need to make this a proper first listen: my fancy headphones, a bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos (chip game proper), my camo Snuggie, a little bit of weed and of course Cadillactica.
I'm not going to get any more ready than that. It's time for a "1st Listen Review of Cadillactica."
[Editor's Note: If you're new to 1st Listen Reviews, you might want to start here. Long story short, they're real time album reviews, written the exact moment we first hear a song. No rewind button allowed.]
1. "Kreation (Intro)"
Sweet Baby Jesus! When that beat kicks in?! It's already a wrap. I don't know what I was worried about. Any trepidation I had vanished as soon as that beat kicks in. And the dude's voice?! He doesn't even have to "Mt. Olympus" his flow to get you; he is so commanding on the mic. I'm probably reading way too much into it, but that "let's be perfect" line gets me really tingly. Maybe I'm projecting my goals and desires onto him, but I think this is going to be that album from K.R.I.T; he truly wants to be perfect, and to create the perfect album, so that he can finally get the credit he's due. Let's be perfect, K.R.I.T.
I'm loving the shit out of that little whistle - KRIT's beats are so intricate. I love the way they progress and develop. I can----WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! OHHHHHH SHIT!!!!! When those drums kick in and his flow bubbles over?! Get the fuck out of here; KRIT isn't a rapper he's an orator. Goosebumps. When he's at his best, flow-wise, KRIT has this ability to pierce your soul so deep that you can feel his words in your marrow. Krizzle is at his best here.
3. "My Sub, Pt. 3 (Big Bang)"
Yo. I'm so excited for this song. The "My Sub" series is like an inside joke only the die hard, loyal KRIT fans will get. It's like he's saying, "I haven't forgotten where I came from. I'm still that same Return Of 4eva, sub-loving cat." It's not as crazy as I thought it would be ("My Sub Pt. 1" is so live) but I still dig it; definitely more Krizzle-driven than the beat-oriented original. It still knocks, though. Honestly, I'm not a big car, speaker or shoe guy so this doesn't really get me that much, but I still appreciate how it's presented.
WOAH! That's switch up was so clean. My god, just when I was feeling kinda meh, he changes it up. It's like "My Sub Pt. 3 & 4." I like "Part 4" much better. Can he rap over just that beat next?
I know this was released before but I didn't listen to it; I was waiting for the whole album. God damn! This man's flow is unrivaled. Every time I hear him it's like the first time. DJBooth shout out! Ok, so it wasn't a real DJBooth.net shout out, but it's still cool to hear one of my favorite rappers say the name of my employer (like here). Also, on a completely unrelated note, I could see "Cada-lac-lac-lac" replacing my OG Maco groans as the hip-hop thing I saw at random times throughout the day. Oh and I just had another goosebump moment. I can't really explain it, but after the two minute mark this song started to hit me a lot harder. I went from digging to doing my turn up dance, yelling "Fuck your bitch!" in my roommate's dog's face. Yes, I yelled "fuck your bitch" at a dog; he's fine though...went right back to sleep.
----I know NPR does incredible music stuff, but there is still something funny about hearing NPR commercials after four minutes of "Cada-lac-lac-lac"--------
5. "Soul Food"
Mmmmmmmmm; I like this. KRIT's punch-em-in-the-mouth, yell-in-a-dog's-face moments are powerful, but for me hearing that growling flow dance over a soulful flip hits me so much harder and deeper (no pause). I don't know how he can go from a BANGER like "Cadillactica" to something so smooth as "Soul Food" in a matter of seconds and have it sound so natural. So far there isn't a skip-able track. Still no "eureka" moment, where I am left straight dead, but there also isn't a weak spot. I could put this on, let it ride and not even think about changing it.
6. "Pay Attention"
I made my feelings about this one clear when it first came out, and now that I can hear it as part of a whole, I feel the exact same. It's not bad, but it doesn't have that magic K.R.I.T. spark. The low point of the album for me so far.
7. "King of the South"
Saying "K.R.I.T is king of the south" makes me pause for a second, because even as a die hard K.R.I.T fan, I feel like that titles might be someone else's - namely T.I. (or Big Boi maybe). But then he raps and I'm like, "Oh yea, nobody can rap like him." He may not have the album sales and rep that T.I. does, but in terms of pure rapping ability, how do you hear this and not think he is, at the very least, in the conversation?
8. "Mind Control"
Yo! This has a different vibe to it, but I really love it. I think this is my favorite track so far. The song has a ton of life , but that trademark KRIT bite. E-40?! That's awesome! Love having a dude from the Bay on the song after "King of the South." Who else is doing that? I'm a little worried because Wiz is looming, but Krizzle made him dope on "Only One," so why not here? Eh, Wiz ain't bad, but next to 40 and K.R.I.T he sounds a little soft. Hearing Wiz on the same song as K.R.I.T really lets you hear how much better KRIT is than your "average" rapper. Wiz ain't bad, in fact it's probably his best verse in a while - shout out lobster bisque - but he doesn't have that same presence as KRIT and it's obvious here. That hook goes.
9. "Standby (Interlude)"
This right here? This is why I love K.R.I.T. More spoken word than rap.
10. "Do You Love Me"
This beat sounds amazing under a nice seat of headphones. So textured. Honestly, I was a little worried about the production because I knew K.R.I.T wasn't behind every beat, but I haven't even thought about it. They still have that same cool, Southern-splashed vibe we have come to know and love. I'm not sure if he produced this one, but it's my favorite instrumental so far; it feels like a well crafted, rich instrumental as opposed to a speaker-bustin' beat but it's just as enjoyable.
11. "Third Eye"
A Wiz guest contribution and "Pay Attention" aside, there hasn't been an average moment on this album. I still haven't had a "oh my god" moment, but he proven to be diverse yet consistent. Each song has a different feel, but the end result leaves same satisfied feeling. Like "Pay Attention," this jam has a more R&B-type feel, but it also has a lot more substance than the single. A little jazz flute, too? Little ham and eggs comin' at ya. In all seriousness, though, this is some straight jazz at the end; I haven't ever heard something like than from K.R.I.T.
12. "Mo Better Cool"
I really like the way this album is paced. It has a more laid-back, soulful vibe than a bunch of bangers. I saw Bun and SANT and expected something that would hemorrhage my ear drums, but this is so damn smooth. I think the slower vibe has allowed the production to really shine; another rich, delicate instrumental and yet it supports three emcees with forceful flows.
Again, loving this mellow, vibe-out flavor and again, it's due in large part to the production. These read more like instrumentals than beats. There are so many subtle layers it's going to take more than one listen to really hear everything and K.R.I.T gliding atop them is just so damn clean. Production wise, I think this album might be his most noble, professional endeavor. Case in point "Angels."
14. "Saturdays = Celebration"
Whoa. Who is this Jamie N Collins cat? Note to self, check out his other stuff soon (finding a dope new artist on someone else's album is always a nice bonus). I think this is that, "Oh Shit. K.R.I.T Is the best emcee in the game" track I was looking for. I thought it would come on the back of some absurd, skull-crackin' beat, but this has a different power behind it. From the beat to the hook to K.R.I.T's verse, everything is flawless and the result is a gripping, enthralling listen. I think this a moment where K.R.I.T proves he is more artist than rapper. This is more than just a good rapper rapping on a beat, this is an artist creating an elaborate, rich, potent experience. Far and away my favorite tune so far.
15. "Lost Generation"
I was really vibing out to the first :30 seconds, doing my turn up dance, and then I realized there weren't even drums. He doesn't even need drums to make his stuff hit. These past two songs have blown me away. Really love this Lupe and K.R.I.T one-two punch. Honestly, K.R.I.T kind of dwarfs Lupe like he did to Wiz. I'm not saying Wiz and Lupe are on the same level - everybody knows Lupe can rap circles around Wiz - but K.R.I.T just has this "it" factor, this presence on the mic that is unrivaled on collaborations.
16. "Mt Olympus (Reprise)" [Bonus Track]
"Mt Olympus" is one of my favorite songs of the year, so I'm excited to hear how this version differs from the original. This is EPIC!!!!!! HOLY MOTHERFUCKING SHIT THIS KNOCKS!!!!! This production is insane!! I feel like I need to be blasting it while saving a litter of kittens from a burning, zombie filled, 12th century Gothic cathedral to fully grasps the epic-ness. I love that chior-esque flip. This is worlds better than the original and the original was one of the best of 2014; K.R.I.T just out K.R.I.T-ed himself. This is the leave my pants wet moment I was looking for. I feel like I could run through a brick wall right now. That second verse hits on a whole new level. Unreal. I just started screaming like an insane person because of this shit. Fire.
17. "Lac Lac" [Bonus Track]
Honestly, I slept on this song, mostly because I loathe Ferg, but this is nice. I'm still coming down from my "Mt Olympus (Reprise)" high, but I'm digging this regardless. The album should have ended after that Reprise though.
Part of the whole point of these 1 Listen Reviews was to come back to the album down the road and see how my first listen experience holds up after I've properly digested the album. So, in order to do that, I'll have to make some bold statements right now. Will they be true after 150,000 more listens? Who knows, but we have to try.
Right now, after one listen, what stands out to me the most is the production; I wanted K.R.I.T to prove to all that he was a dope rapper, something that some folks in hip-hop circles have doubted for four plus years, and instead he showed me that he's a dope artist. I was expecting K.R.I.T to come with some crazy, "Sookie Now" type beats, and while there are those type of moments, I'm sensing he know that he had to take the music in a different direction. It feels like these instrumentals are more textured and deep than anything we have heard from him.
I touched on it a few times, but more than hearing a dope rapper on dope beat, this feels like an artist experimenting while still staying true to their sound. As a K.R.I.T fan I still hear that same "4 Eva Na Day" artist that I hold so dear, but am also excited at the growth I hear and while I don't know yet if Cadillactica will be on endless repeat for the next three years, I'm going to find out. This isn't a great rap album, it's just a great album. Period.
Best Songs: "Cadillactica," "Saturdays = Celebration," "Mt Olympus (Reprise)"
[Editor's Note #2: Seriously though. Lucas will be doing another album review on November 11, the official release date for Cadillactica, to see what else, if anything, he can uncover about the album, if his thoughts change, etc.]
UPDATE: As promised, here's the follow up review.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]