There's very little K.R.I.T. can tell us about the everyman or the dirty south that we haven't heard a thousand times from Phonte, Devin the Dude, and OutKast. We're a young, southern-rap obsessed, recession generation and we know all about subs and wood grain (as opposed to plastic). We know "underground" is good and "mainstream" is evil, and we are suspicious of the corporate machine.
The reason you root for people like K.R.I.T., however, is that he's a rapper from the deep south (Mississippi) who speaks from the heart and does it beautifully and with measured hubris. That's a dinosaur. And a dinosaur must be preserved. So we grabbed the man born Justin Scott and placed him on a palaquin, and watched his stock soar. We cheered as he stunned, dropping mixtape after mixtape, putting peers to shame, oozing poetry and magic, riding his own beats, invoking UGK and Dungeon Family. We were smitten. And so like fiends we anticipated with feverish breaths his first proper album, Live from the Underground.
Now that it's here, it's clear he should've saved those mixtape gems for the big occasion. Underground is a delight, sure, but not without a prize. It suffers from the sometimes hazy clouds that preside over the album-making process. Oh, it still has the meat and potatoes of the Big K.R.I.T. sound and sweet production and the twang and the genuine emotions that made him underground royalty (see: "Rich Dad, Poor Dad"), but the overall sound is all over the place. It feels too scattered. In other words, it doesn't pack enough of that Big K.R.I.T. focus/magic that makes you go nuts.
The frustrating thing is that—and this seems a bit ironic—Underground serves up more of the same. While that familiarity breeds a clutch of catchy songs, it's also what keeps K.R.I.T. stuck in neutral. An album doesn't have to break new ground to be listenable. Underground is plenty listenable but K.R.I.T. can do better than listenable.
"I got a surefire way to give the game what it came for," K.R.I.T. swears on "Cool 2 Be Southern." Live from the Underground shows he's on his way, but there's still work to do.Standouts:
- "Money on the Floor"
- "Rich Dad, Poor Dad"