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Signed to Def Jam for two years now, the Mississippi native has been plugging away, working on tracks with everyone from Freddie Gibbs to T.I. 'ReturnOf4Eva' was his first release after being signed and it's been helmed as one of 2011's best mixtapes. He's primed to repeat that success as he readies his '4EvaNADay' project for release next month. K.R.I.T.'s debut LP, 'Live From the Underground,' is next up for release in June and though he sounds confident about what he has planned, the rapper remains tight-lipped about the specifics. He does, however, promise that we'll be getting more of what made us fall in love with his music in the first place.
The BoomBox sat down with the man born Justin Scott about producing for his hip-hop colleagues, playing the tuba and his appreciation for Waka Flocka Flame.
Are you aware that you're one of Waka's favorite new artists? He mentioned you excitedly in an interview with us last year and mentioned a track that he had set up for you on his new album, 'Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family.'
I definitely saw that interview. Yeah, I did [laughs]. I'm definitely gonna work with him but this new project ['4EvaNADay'], doesn't really have any features on it. It's more of a conceptual album. As far as my actual 'Live From The Underground' project dropping, I really can't say who's gonna be on there because I definitely want to keep the mystique. But I'm definitely gonna work with Waka, man. I respect his grind and what he's been able to accomplish, so for him to show love and give me a shout-out in the midst of everything man, I definitely appreciate it.
So you had no idea he was such a big fan.
Nah, man. I haven't really had the opportunity to be around him. That was the first that I'd heard and to see it in an interview was just crazy.
Can you talk a bit about the vibe you had going into creating 'Live From the Underground'? Has it changed much during the album's progression?
Just that same consciousness, man... You know? Gritty, but what people have really come to love from my music is the soulful aspect but the only thing now is that I have to find another way to create music besides the sampling. Because I've run into a lot with sample clearances and trying to reach out to publishers and things of that nature so now I'm just trying to make music that sounds old but it's really not. I had the opportunity to work with Mike Harnett who's an amazing guitarist. I'm excited to do music, man.
Is '4EvaNADay' a preview of what the album will end up being or are you doing something totally different on that one?
Yeah, definitely. It's still... [the same] as far as subject matter or content, but it's kind of a glimpse into... I'm just really going for a creative aspect on this next project, actually trying to make a cohesive project that's more artistic than anything, in my mind. That's really where I'm trying to go with that.
What's your favorite song on there and what's it about?
One of my favorite songs is coming out really soon and may become one of the singles. We'll see, but it's all new material and it's just one of those things where I really want people... I want the anticipation... where it happens all at one time. Since this album is a concept album, if I talk about one song it might take away from the rest of them. You know what I'm saying? It's one of those where you have to listen to it from beginning to end.
How many songs have you recorded so far for 'Live From the Underground'?
Umm, I've probably recorded at least 22 or 23 strong records and I'ma try to pick from there and bump it down to 14 or 15 songs if I can, then of course, with an interlude or two, it'll be like 17 tracks. But I'm definitely more accustomed to putting 22 songs on an album, like on 'ReturnOf4Eva' or 'K.R.I.T. Wuz Here.' But this isn't the same kind of format.
In 2010, you told me you felt that you didn't have the hang of producing. Has that feeling changed at all?
I'm constantly learning. Primarily, back then as far as producing for other artists... If I was producing for myself, I'd have all the time in the world, because I'd be in my comfort zone. It's a different kind of feeling involved when you get in the studio, and you work with other artists and they got ideas and thoughts, and you try and open your ears so you can try and work together. It's really something that reflects how you are as a producer but then something that they actually feel like they can be an artist on, where they can be themselves. It's kind of a tricky thing sometimes because I never wanna take away from another artist's creative control. So I give them something that they'll feel comfortable rapping on or even create hooks and things of that nature.
You were in the school band and orchestra as a child. Do you still think you could pick up a cello or tuba?
I think I could pick the tuba up, but the cello? Not so much. You know, it's a string instrument, there's a lot going on, but with the tuba, it's three buttons for keys. I think I could... I'm pretty good about playing stuff by ear, but the cello nah, it's not that easy [laughs].
On 'ReturnOf4Eva,' you had 'Time Machine,' a song that held sentimental meaning in regard to your youth and your introduction to rap by your dad. You had 'I Gotta Stay' on 'K.R.I.T. Wuz Here,' dedicated to your grandmother. Is there a song like that on '4EvaNADay' or on the LP?
I'll tell you definitely, there's a song... And there's always gonna be a song on every project from this point on for my grandmother. 'The Vent' [on 'ReturnOf4Eva'] was dedicated to her too.
A few months ago Freddie Gibbs told us 'Rob Me A N----' was all your idea. It's so outside of your character though. Any truth to his statement?
[Laughs] I mean, as far as me being a producer and making music, as far as southern hip-hop is concerned, being a fan of Three 6 Mafia and a lot of hard core groups back in the day, that music is still in me as well. To be able to do a song like that... It's not 100 percent meaning that I'm gonna go and rob somebody but the thought process. There may have been a time in every man's life where you didn't have means, you didn't have what you wanted and the thought crossed your mind like, "Man. Man. I might..." The record didn't necessarily fit me but I knew there were other artists that it did fit and they really understood that frame of thought and that process, so as a producer it was like, "Yeah, I can do that. I can definitely make a record like that." So that's what I did and Gibbs was the perfect fit for it. I had the beat and the hook ready before we went on tour.
How does your dad feel about your career since he was the one that introduced you to a lot of rap?
My father introduced me to quality rap. I don't really want to put it in a category but it was definitely quality. It was on me to find a lot of other music that I took to. My father's definitely excited about everything that's going on, he just kinda stays humble with it too. He checks up on me on the internet, and he'll call and be like, "Man, I really like that." It's never an overwhelming kind of thing; he's always chill and relaxed. It never really shocked him, but you know, for the most part for me to get that support in the midst of everything going on, it definitely helps.
What kinds of things happening in today's landscape, either social or political, really makes you angry or pleases you?
Man, it's so many different things. I think as far as the social aspect of things, a lot of people work a job and they work very hard but you never can get a leg up, or you never can really save or put back because of so many circumstances dealing with loans and things of that nature that are built to keep you in the same loop. I know a lot of people that went to school, that owe so much money that even though they're in their career field, they can't get out of debt. Especially for the youth. It's very deterring when you have someone you look up to that went to school and it's not working out for them. So then they'd just be like, "Well, I don't even wanna do that."
At some point we need doctors and lawyers and people to run businesses and things of that nature. Music looks like fantasy, but it is a business and you have to understand business and really be on your toes, and understand what you want to do with your life instead of figuring out another person's format, try to figure out your own. People need to really step up and start telling people what's going on with the industry, publishing and things of that nature, instead of being so secretive about how it worked for you and not want to tell the next person because at the end of the day, we all gotta help each other become financially free, in the case where if you're down, you have someone else who can help you out.
Politically? I don't get into politics too tough but it's great to see people taking some kinda stance, even as far as Occupy Wall Street, and that people are really willing to protest now for what they believe in. That's great! And then a lot of musicians and artists are doing the same but not really to put the focal point on, "Yeah, I rap," but no I'm here because I really believe in this movement. I think people are starting to get tired of being overlooked. So I guess we'll see in years to come, what happens.