In 2015, Kendrick Lamar released “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and nothing has come close to its level of excellence in hip-hop since. This al- bum completely changed the way modern cul- ture thinks about how an album can deliver its themes and present itself as an artistic work. “Lemonade,” “4:44” or “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” wouldn’t exist with- out “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Even in terms of the way we talk about music, the fated comparison to Lamar’s opus (even if he doesn’t see it as such) is the inevitable conversation ender, the
thing no one really wants to bring up for fear of sounding trite and thoughtless.
So why am I bringing up Lamar’s crowning achievement in the start of a review for a Big K.R.I.T. album? Because I think the comparison is entirely apt. I think that Krit’s “4eva Is a Mighty Long Time” is a stellar rap album that balances sin- cere introspection with bombastic musical maxi- malism in much the same way that Lamar did with his 2015 epic. Even better, Krit doesn’t let the listen- er forget for a second who they’re listening to: this is a Big Krit album through and through.
There are no interviews with 2Pac and there’s no G-funk, but there is a plethora of gospel choirs and organs. There’s also charisma in spades. The first thing I noticed about this album that I abso- lutely adored was Krit’s voice. In an age where so much of hip-hop is taken from Chief Keef’s mum- bles and Lamar’s theatrical voice changing, it’s in- finitely refreshing to hear a voice like Krit’s, that is, a voice that cuts across the noise of the production
and shines like a diamond.
I’m talking here of tracks like “Keep the Devil
Off,” “Big Bank” and “Subenstein (My Sub IV),” where there is so much grandiloquence on display that it is astounding for Krit’s voice to come across as something that sticks out from the production and work so well with it. There’s also a healthy in- fusion of charisma here as well. The epic “Suben- stein” includes electric-shock sound effects, Brian Eno-ish wind chime synths and record scratches on top of a bass that is turned up to 11, and Krit cuts through all of this noise and brings it all together. It would have been so easy for this track to turn into a gimmicky mixtape-level maximalist track, but somehow it stops from being that, and the song gloriously ends with a guitar solo.
If I’m going to continue with ridiculous com- parisons for this album, the last time I heard such varied production pulled off so successfully was on Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” There’s so much going on in this album musical- ly. There are pianos, drums, guitars, sampling and choirs, which all blend perfectly. There’s also a fair bit of J. Cole on this album. The track “Everlasting” sounds like one of Cole’s cheesy love songs, only pulled off more successfully.
But why am I only comparing Krit to other, more famous rappers? Because if I talked about Krit’s string of excellent mixtapes and other stel- lar works, no one would care. The only people that care about Krit’s mixtapes are Krit’s fans. He’s al- ways been a frustratingly underground rapper de- spite his astounding prowess.
That’s no hyperbole either. In a day and age where it seems like everyone is producing, singing and poetically musing on the side, Krit makes all of these different acts come off as second nature for him. Not only is Krit just multi-talented, he’s cohe- sive. All of his talents inform each other to create a unique whole.
The track “Mixed Messages” is one of the few hip-hop songs out there where the entire basis of the song is the MC examining just how it is they live their lives. This song has Krit examining the ties between the large-scale implications of being labeled a “rapper” and still trying to be an individ- ual, looking at aspects of his life such as being in a fair and equal relationship while also inhabiting
a figure that’s typically seen as being a patriarchal womanizer.
I’m not saying this album is feministic or that Krit is showing off an inner Judith Butler on this al- bum. He’s not even close to either of those things. I am saying that Krit comes off as an artist who feels genuinely aware of the things he’s saying and feels at least some sense of responsibility for the words in his songs. He’s aware that what he is saying has the capacity to be hurtful and damaging.
There’s no clearer instance of this than in the structure of the work, as it’s a double album. The first album is the boisterous, loud Big K.R.I.T. side of the album. This half of the project also features an entirely male list of guest features.
The second album on this project is the Jus- tin Scott side, Krit’s legal name. This side of the album is more introspective and conscious. This is the side where we find Krit drinking alone and airing out his griefs and anxieties over being a modern-day MC on the track “Drinking Sessions.” The comparisons to Kendrick’s song “U” are not unfounded, and it is cool seeing the differences be- tween how these two artists handle expressing a similar situation.
This is also the side of the album where the majority of the featured artists are women. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but it isn’t generic either. In fact, I really like how consistent it all feels. What Krit lacks in terms of the cutting edge is made up for in his excellence of cohesion.
In terms of comparisons, there’s only one other artist that I can think of that has done something similar to what Krit has done here, and they did it over the course of their entire discography. I’m not talking about Kendrick, I’m not talking about The Roots, I’m not even talking about Kanye West. I’m talking about the holy grail of hip-hop: the bar, the golden standard.
I’m talking about the two ATLiens who pro- claimed that the South had something to say and then proceeded to define what hip-hop could be in the modern age. In terms of comparison, Krit has always been chasing after the legacy left by the Funk Crusader and Sir Lucious Left Foot, and with “4eva Is a Mighty Long Time,” he establishes him- self as the clear successor to the crown of southern hip-hop.