All My Life (released November 20, 2015)
In the spirit of the holiday season, Big K.R.I.T. just keeps on giving.
Barely a month ago, K.R.I.T. gave us his lastest mixtape, It’s Better This Way. In an attempt to capitalize off that momentum RBC Records, K.R.I.T.’s former record label, decided to drop All My Life — 12 tracks were recorded prior to K.R.I.T.’s Def Jam deal.
A record label trying to cash in on a former client’s success? Perish the though.
K.R.I.T., of course, isn’t too happy and has refused to support the release. I can’t blame him. But All My Life does present an interesting opportunity — a chance to see an artist during the formative years of his career.
K.R.I.T.’s major-label releases, while strong in their own right, have always paled in comparison to his early mixtape material, which really showcased his artful blend of Southern gospel, soulful jazz and Dirty South hip-hop. All My Life allows fans to hop in K.R.I.T.’s candy-coated Delorean and witness him a full decade before hitting the mainstream.
And he was as good then as he is now.
Young K.R.I.T.’s delivery is almost unrecognizable on “Here We Go,” but his trademark energy and cadence is undeniable. But as you delve deeper into the album, the K.R.I.T. we know and love begins to surface. On the first version of the title track, K.R.I.T. celebrates his newfound fame: “Now the boy turn heads and my pockets get fed because I made noise and I got myself a deal.”
That line tells the story of the album, a boy embracing manhood — and stardom — all at the same time.
“I Apologize” explores another of K.R.I.T.’s most well-known themes — the pitfalls of love in the limelight. Here he shows regret for neglecting his lady while building his career. Salvaging his relationship almost means trying to silence skeptics (“all your family say I’m gonna leave you once I made it.”) Even listeners who haven’t landed million-dollar record deals can relate to those struggles, which is why K.R.I.T.’s lyrics always hit home.
On “Team Spirit,” K.R.I.T. plays the role of the big man on campus basking in fame, like a sports star weeks away from signing his first huge contract. But this is K.R.I.T. we’re talking about, and he’s so much more than empty boasts. He brushes off naysayers on “Shawty I’m On” (“don’t let the haters stop you, stay on your grind”) while remembering the importance of staying grounded (“the word is all you got, so make sure you’re the realest”).
Even on cusp of success, K.R.I.T. never loses sight of himself. It’s what has kept his music so authentic all these years.
While the album’s themes are classic K.R.I.T., some listeners might turn up their noses at the production. Remember, these songs are nearly a decade old, which is why the “Here We Go” beat sounds like something from the State Property 2 soundtrack. I mean, I half expected Jazze Pha to yell LADIES AND GENTLEMEN at the start of “Sky Mad At Me.” The production is by no means bad, it’s just clear that they’ve been plucked from a bygone era.
The album also features alternate, but largely unnecessary, versions of “All My Life” and “Team Spirit.” The second version of “All My Life” has a better hook with less memorable production. Meanwhile, the synths on the alternate “Team Spirit” fail to convey the energy of the original track.
All My Life is a treat for K.R.I.T. completists, serving as an origin story for one of rap’s most important voices. But the dated production and lack of cohesion might be a turnoff for others.
Regardless, the album is like revisiting old yearbook pictures: Even through occasional awkwardness, it’s fun to look back and see the man K.R.I.T. would become.
Best tracks: “All My Life” (first version), “I Apologize,” “Here We Go”
3.5 stars out of 5