Available on: self-released mixtape
The modern sound of Southern hip-hop might be perceived as synthesizer and drum machine happy, but the South never really abandoned those dusty crates of vinyl. There’s always been a swaying equality between the Big Oomp and Organized Noize styles of production, with equal emphasis on club records and studio albums.
Recently though, there’s been a passionate return to the turntable, cassette tape and film sounds as the main ingredients for beats among the South’s brightest producers. A new generation of beat chefs working in smoky studios around Atlanta, Nashville, Huntsville and now Meridian of Mississippi are stepping out the clubs and back into the raw format. The arrival of Big K.R.I.T.’s newest free tape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here is a perfect example of the revitalization of studio records in Southern rap.
Like most great tapes these days, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here starts at high intensity, with no intent to let up. The first two tracks are impeccable examples of thoroughbred country rap genetic engineering. ‘Return of 4eva’ begins with a quick film sample and a snare roll which function as the aural equivalent of being pushed down a flight of stairs. The listener then slams into a concrete-thick track featuring an even thicker set of vocal chords courtesy of Big Sant, before the 808s stomp you while you’re down. It’s the best way to start a tape.
Even better than starting hard is following it with a track like ‘Country Shit’, which is every bit as mean as the tape’s opener, but better constructed. It might be the prime cut of this whole animal; a deliberate balance of fat and lean. The chorus is pumped with frantic, minced vocal samples while the verses coast with sparse, filtered funk snippets and horn stabs that fly like flags over sharp 808s. This is the track you should play anyone who wants to know what Southern rap should sound like.
Big K has more than proved his talent behind the boards at this point, but his production on Wuz Here expands with a wide range of sounds and moods. Tracks like ‘Hometown Hero’ as testament to his expressive versatility, focusing on emotional impact with a combination of high-pitched vocal chops and expertly layered strings, keys and synths. If it weren’t for the familiar thugged-out 909 percussion, this track would feel almost out of place.
K also raps on every track here. Tracks like the twang-centric ‘Just Touched Down’, the misty ‘Children of the World’ and the sly ‘Gumpshun’ offer good chances to inspect Krit’s lyrical powers. On each, he proves himself to be more than comfortable with the introspective, while also busting creative metaphors and holding rhythm perfectly, yet something always seems to be missing. Maybe it’s just a twang away from Pimp C greatness; a swing too short of a leaner Eightball; a touch too rough to be a straighter Andre 3000. Either way, like many other great producers, Krit still has some work to do behind the mic, but he’s further ahead than most, and beats clearly come first for this talented man. We should be happy about that.
Even if Krit can’t quite wield mic with the best of them, he’s got friends who can. ‘Glass House’ features both the smokin’ ass Curren$y and lady-thieving Wiz Khalifa laying down braggadocio lines over a bouncy, mystical beat backed by some best live bass rap has seen in a while. The supreme mellowness of ‘No Wheaties’ is pushed into the vapor zone by laid back verses from Smoke DZA and once again, a frog-weeded Curren$y. Devin the Dude, who should require no description or introduction is dragged into the space funk of ‘Moon and Stars’, backed with some amazing vintage drum sounds and filtered guitar.
At the end of the day, or the end of the tape, Krit’s slight shortcomings as a rapper don’t detract from Wuz Here’s consistency. There are no tracks you need to skip and no areas that drag, and with a tracklist 19 long that’s no small feat. Nor is it a small feat to keep something of this length interesting, compelling and enjoyable. K.R.I.T. Wuz Here is a master example of the skill-centered new wave of country rap.