It's ironic that the hook of Big K.R.I.T's latest song goes, "I should be paying more attention to you," because I literally could not be paying more attention to his upcoming album Cadillactica. I've said it before, but K.R.I.T is one of my favorite emcees of all time, and when it comes to the game these days, he's one of the emcees I really believe in. I have more invested in Cadillactica than any other album; without question it's my most anticipated project of the year. So, you can imagine my excitement when late Friday, "Pay Attention" dropped. But wait...
- Featuring Rico Love?
- Produced by Jim Jonsin (AKA not Big K.R.I.T)?
- "Bottle poppin' on another level"? K.R.I.T sayng the word "twerk"?
I'm not going to lie, I was a little worried about this track. Hearing about bottle popping on a radio-ready beat (and a hook from Rico) is definitely different than the "love from the underground, that's forever" K.R.I.T I fell in love with. After a few listens though, I had to admit, this single works. Especially for a song that could be played at the club or on the radio, it's damn good. Normally I hate those kind of songs, but I can get down with this.
Still, I have this nagging feeling that I can't ignore. The way I feel about this is the way I feel about Drake. I can take a step back and admire what he does - create radio-ready singles that still have an emphasis on quality - but I just can't engage them on a deeper level, because I need more from my music. It's a feeling I am quite unfamilar with when it comes to Drake.
To quote Krizzle himself, "If it don't touch my soul, then I can't listen to it" and to put it bluntly "Pay Attention" doesn't touch my soul. I'm not quite sure why. I think it's the fact that, this is a really good, radio-ready single, but it's just that, a single. "Pay Attention" sounds just like a song you would hear on the radio, like it was made for the radio. KRIT's previous radio attempts - "Money on the Floor", "I Got This", etc. - weren't exactly soul-searching, but they did have that core Southern soul that he reps so fully. By contrast, I could hear Drake or "Pay Attention"; when it comes to K.R.I.T I need that different, special edge. I don't want a K.R.I.T song that also sounds like a Drake song, I want a K.R.I.T song that, from the very first second, is unmistakably Krizzle as it grabs me and continues to tighten it's grip until I am left blue in the face (like, say, "Mt. Olympus").
For every "Just Last Week" (which I can listen to for the beat alone) he has a "Banna Clip Theory" where he shows some real depth and lyricism, so I'm not so much mad as I am disappointed. Hell, I don't even think disappointed is the word. How about hesitant? Yeah, I'm hesitant. It bothers me to the core that despite five stellar projects, K.R.I.T is not considered and elite emcee. I want so bad for the world to recognize what true hip-hop heads have known for years, and I'm worried "Pay Attention" will muddy those waters. If this is what I can expect from Cadillactica, I won't be happy. It's good, but I expect K.R.I.T to be great. As much as I love K.R.I.T, and as much as I (kind of) enjoy "Pay Attention", I want more.
Now, there's really no way to tell until the album is blessing my earholes, so maybe (definitely) I am getting ahead of myself and Cadillactica will be the album that gets K.R.I.T his just due. I love songs like "Me and My Old School" as a cohesive part of an album, I might have felt differently if I first heard it in isolation.
However, while I can enjoy "Pay Attention" on a superficial level, it's catchy and flows nicely, I'd be lying if I said it assuages my anticipation (and worry) for Cadillactica's impact. It might be unfair, but I know what kind of great emcee he is, and I don't want this single to be the one the defines him for those who don't know his better work, because quite frankly, this isn't his best work. That's fine, even MJ had off nights, but I just want to be real, because I think people are scared to criticize Krizza. It feels like he's in this strange place where his is beyond reproach from the true hip-hop heads, yet is relatively unknown to the mainstream world. We want so badly for people to love him like we do that we are hesitant to criticize him.
I don't want to sound like a purist who hates anything fun - after all K.R.I.T's balance between being real and materialistic is perfection - and I'll love anything he does...so long as it's real. "Pay Attention" doesn't have that authentic feel to it.
I love K.R.I.T and still fully believe in him. I just fear people will start paying attention to him for all the wrong reasons...
[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.]