Album Review: Big K.R.I.T., 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time

4eva is a mighty long time

Big K.R.I.T.

4eva Is A Mighty Long Time (released October 27, 2017)

Big KRIT is really tired of being rap’s most underrated artist.

Can you blame him? He’s dropped more than a dozen mixtape, at least one of which is in the conversation of greatest mixtape of all time (2011’s Return of 4eva if you’re keeping score), released two strong (albeit overlooked) studio albums, is one of the game’s most dynamic producers and is the heir apparent to the Southern rap throne.

His resume speaks for itself – does it REALLY matter that your 16-year-old sister couldn’t pick him out of a lineup?

Well, honestly, I guess it does. And the frustration that comes with being immensely talented yet constantly overlooked fuels 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, a double album that wrestles with the duality of being a braggadocious, overachieving rap star and an insecure black man still searching for direction.

Unless you’re new around here, you probably know my stance on double albums – nine times out of 10, it’s a case of too much of a good thing. However, as Musiq Soulchild proved last month, it’s possible to create a two-disc set without overloading the listener.

(Something tells me that my Cousin Chris Brown won’t be as forgiving when he drops his FORTY-FIVE track double album next week. But I’ll cross that burning bridge when I get to it.)

But despite this album’s heft it never drags, feeling like an epic coming-of-age blockbuster instead of a long, drawn-out BET Blackbuster cinema feature.

It’s huge, ambitious, and easily one of the best albums of 2017.

Let’s call disc one The Rapper Disc. The opening track, simply entitled “Big K.R.I.T.” launches into the frustrations that come from being one of the rap’s best talents born south of the Mason-Dixon:

Look how they hate me, but copy me
Possibly, I was the one with components and properties
To be the greatest of all time, but you won geography lottery so
I keep kicking, flipping tables, chosen and favored
F*** being major when giant is greater

No wonder he decided to walk away from a major-label deal to do things his way. The sinister single “Confetti” warns of the dangers of being blinded by hype (“What’s a crown if you don’t protect it?/What’s a name if they don’t respect it”) but the captivating “Layup” is almost the antithesis of that song. Brimming with optimism and a hunger to succeed, KRIT proves that there’s still signs of optimism behind his jaded façade.

M-i-crooked, we done took it worldwide, worldwide, we on now
Higher, higher, higher
‘Cause we done seen low
Never turn down your fire
Gotta let your light show
Multi, the empire
Put that on my life, though
Nowadays we drive slow, scorin’ with my eyes closed

That message is layered by production that’s as soothing as a spring breeze. And when it comes to production, disc one doesn’t lack for memorable beats – “Big Bank” knocks with KRIT’s trademark Blaxploitation influences; the incredible sample of Bettye Crutcher’s 1974 “Sleepy People” makes “Get Away” one of the best-produced songs of 2017; the legendary Mannie Fresh emerges from whatever rock he’s been hiding under to make “Subenstein (My Sub IV) sound like a mad scientist’s house party; and “1999,” (another Mannie creation), becomes an homage to Juvenile’s “Back That Thang Up.”

It doesn’t just stop with Juve – the first disc becomes a bit of an ode to Southern hip-hop culture, with Bun B cosigning the new king on “Ride Wit Me,” and Cee-Lo Green and Sleepy Brown lending a hand on “Get Up 2 Come Down.” KRIT even models his flow after the iconic Scarface for a few bars.

The message of this disc is clear – if y’all won’t celebrate Southern rap, KRIT will have to do it himself. And it’s one of the best love letters you’ll ever hear.

The second disc – we’ll call this one the Introspective Disc – is a deeper dive into KRIT’s psyche. The bangers are fewer and farther between, but it gives us a clearer look at Justin Scott the man.

“Keep the Devil Off” is like a sweaty Mississippi revival, with KRIT visibly trying to shake the demons that bind him. He’s gripped by guilt on “Miss Georgia Fornia,” metaphorically apologizing for branching away from his Southern roots in his search for stardom.

But it’s the latter half of the disc where KRIT truly bears his soul. The hook for “Price of Fame” should be read to every aspiring artist before they sign their name to a contract:

Paparazzi after my shows asking me questions
God fed up with my soul so ain’t no blessing
Happiness can’t be bought or sold, I learned my lesson

That message is coupled by “Drinking Session,” a gut-wrenching, stream-of-consciousness account of KRIT’s burdens. From social injustices to crippling insecurities, the track gives uncomfortable insight into KRIT’s frustrations. Think of it as the spiritual successor of KRIT’s signature track “The Vent” – he’s much angrier than when he penned the original track six years ago, but he’s now better equipped to face those struggles.

There’s no question that 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time is a massive listen. Y’all can keep those “first listen” reviews – I gave myself an extra 24 hours before posting this review so I could properly digest the many messages presented here. However, as typical for most double albums, there is a slight lull midway through the second disc. Yes, the messages presented there are important to KRIT’s overall narrative but they do stretch out the package a bit and lack the staying power of the final few tracks.

As great as this album is – arguably, the only thing in his catalog that tops this is Return of 4eva – it’s likely that once again this phenomenal effort will go unnoticed by rap fans distracted by bluuuuudy shoes and Assembly Line Mumble Rapper No. 437.

Go ahead, keep sleeping on KRIT – it’s just fueling his fire to become even greater. Hip-hop is reaping the benefits.

Best tracks: “Get Away,” “Big Bank,” “Price of Fame,” “Layup”

4 stars out of 5

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