We don’t usually review mixtapes here at RESPECT., but it’s become near-consensus over the last couple of years that Big K.R.I.T. mixtapes are not mixtapes–they are full fledged, formidable albums. It is in fact arguable that Krizzle’s mixtapes are of a higher overall quality than what he served up on his major-label debut, last year’s Live From The Underground. King Remembered In Time does not disrupt K.R.I.T.’s streak of mixtape mastery; it plays like a coronation for the 3rd Coast’s ecstatic new king, haunted though he may be by kingship. Download and follow along with the track-by-track review:
1. “Purpose”: Right out of the gate, Big K.R.I.T. is dramatic and cinematic as always. The lonely guitar and choir samples provide the proper backdrop for K.R.I.T. to drop a quick but impassioned 16. He seems to be addressing his people, and though the verse is somewhat vague, I shivered when he demanded “Stand up and be accounted for!”
2. “Shine On (feat. Bun B)”: The male vocal sample during the verses is spectacular. K.R.I.T.’s flow is flashy, in the vein of “I Got This” from Live From The Underground, and he sounds about as snarky and comfortable as ever on the second verse. The hook is a bit lazy, as is Bun B’s verse.
3. “Talkin’ ‘Bout Nothing”: A rare misstep. This is a sluggish and basic “stuntin’” track, complete with a repetitive hook and tired topics running through the verses. A cheap, ugly key progression repeats throughout, and the drums are uncharacteristically plain and predictable. Hi-hat, hi-hat, clap you’ve heard everywhere else.
4. “King Without A Crown”: A relief and then some after the last track, which is a comment more on this tracks electrifying quality than the disappointment of its predecessor. I nearly jumped up to rock out to the opening chant, which is perfectly layered and mastered. Lyrically, K.R.I.T. deftly balances grand, sweeping lyrics with his unflappable Southern tastes; it is this balance of deep reflection and simple pleasures that is the essence of K.R.I.T. at his best. “What’s a king without a crown ho?! / What’s a car without some sound ho?!” The stutter-step drums max the energy out, and it’s hard to praise the medley of the wailing vocal sample and the guitar wah-wah enough, not to mention the inspired organ breakdown in the middle. This is the new Big K.R.I.T. anthem.
5. “REM”: This was chosen as the lead video/single, and the fact that K.R.I.T. wanted to give this song such shine is indicative of the size of the chip that still rests on his shoulder. Even after Live From The Underground was received kindly, K.R.I.T. still feels like he “failed y’all and it’s hard to live with it.” The piano work here is beautiful and the James Blake sample is inspired. This feels like the sequel to Return of 4Eva’s “Dreamin.’”
6. “Meditate”: Possibly the most discipline K.R.I.T. has ever executed a concept record with, which is good because it may also be his most clever concept. K.R.I.T. relates alcoholism to meditation, the way a true addict would attempt to justify their actions. The hook borders on corny in its harmonization, but this is balanced by the very genuine closing speech. Also, thusfar, K.R.I.T.’s guitar game is on fire, with a soulful hook echoing and evoking the nighttime; hanging out with BB King seems to have paid off.
7. “Serve This Royalty”: The hook is the most distinctive piece of the song, which, being a Cody ChesnuTT sample, is not a good sign. This is an largely forgettable track; most notable is its mismatching of a cocky concept with an intimate vibe. K.R.I.T. clumsily tries to further the theme of kingship, and while the verses are not bad, the track could be removed to little complaint.
8. “Good 2Getha”: This is a more upbeat track angling for female support, but K.R.I.T. swings too far to feel-good extreme. The up-tempo beat is a bit hokey and overall the track feels forced, but the harmony on the hook is very well executed.
9. “Just Last Week (feat. Future) [Snippet]”: Definitely the track that the king had in mind when he warned listeners a few days before the tape dropped that their speakers would suffer the consequences of his bass. Seeing as this is only a snippet, it’s likely that K.R.I.T. plans on releasing this wild moment of balling as a single for his next album. Future’s presence doesn’t do much, but the beat is a solid take on the apocalyptic trap sound that’s been dominating as of late. Unfortunately, K.R.I.T. spits with little of the ingenuity that he uses to work the keys.
10. “My Trunk (feat. Trinidad James)”: A definite highlight: nearly every positive element of the album comes together to produce an absolute banger. A featured artist going HAM? Check. Warbling bass to rattle your guts? Check. Serious guitar shredding? Check. Perhaps K.R.I.T.’s flashiest flow to date, mastering choppy pauses and slick double time? Double check.
11. “How U Luv That (feat. Big SANT)”: The Disney-like guitar is saved by a drum that kicks more than Bruce Lee in the womb. The snare will give you whiplash. The bass warbles again, this time sounding more like a frog, but it works. K.R.I.T. sounds ready to run down a cheetah and his double time is so on point, but he’s not spitting about much. Big SANT’s deep growl sounds great here, arguably better than the voice of the king himself. K.R.I.T.’s on an excellent back-to-back banger run here.
12. “Only One (feat. Wiz Khalifa & Smoke DZA)”: This is the part where listeners light up—you can tell just by the features. The production is a generic take on this album’s style: the same warbling bass is here, only used to less of an advantage; there are the familiar cowbells; and there are some spaced out keys that could have wound up on half of the other tracks here. Also, Smoke DZA’s flow doesn’t really mesh with the way K.R.I.T. and Wiz approached the track, so the closing verse is pretty disappointing. After the beat rides out though, we hear K.R.I.T. playing the part of a hustler loading up for a robbery, which serves as the perfect lead in to the next track.
13. “Banana Clip Theory”: Here, K.R.I.T. gets his Snoop Lion on. This drum roll beat is the first major stylistic departure on the album, a definite intentional move to draw attention to the heavy subject matter. K.R.I.T.’s half-sung flow fills an already poignant story-verse (“I head a gun the other day/ it spoke to me and told me power/is the only thing that we could lose”) with somber energy. Also, peep how K.R.I.T. references Nas’ “I Gave You Power,”—a much earlier song with a personified gun—with that first line break. If you are a fan of K.R.I.T.’s singing, then the chorus won’t bother you, but otherwise, it detracts.
14. “Life Is A Gamble (feat. BJ The Chicago Kid) [prod. 9th Wonder]”: K.R.I.T has always been great with sequencing, and placing this track after “Banana Clip Theory” is further proof. BJ sounds great over the hard boom-bap provided by 9th Wonder, and the simplicity of the “shake em up” hook is near perfection. Throughout the track, K.R.I.T. keeps his inspired take on the title’s cliché running throughout. This song–this tape as a whole–is proof that when K.R.I.T. dedicates himself, his pen game is extremely sharp and innovative.
15. “WTF”: This is more of a spoken word poem with a chorus than it is a typical rap song. The first verse/stanza finds K.R.I.T. venting frantically, much in the manner of 4eva In A Day’s “The Alarm.” When the hook hits, violent kick drums and a sorrowful kick deliver serious desperation: “what the fuck we gon’ do now?” In the second verse, we are treated to some smooth saxophone and a musing on the nature of one of K.R.I.T.’s latest female encounters, but it’s not as captivating as the first verse.
16. “Bigger Picture”: A bit of an exhale after the tension and heartache of the last few tracks. This is a love song that has many of K.R.I.T.’s life philosophies (“I call your phone, you don’t pick up, you text me,” in the folds. Lyrically, this is another example that K.R.I.T.’s extended-metaphor prowess is on the serious rise, matched by few in the game right now in fact. It’s possible that Krizzle just doesn’t get the recognition he deserves in this department because he is not flashy, and often lets his metaphors breathe and speak for themselves: “You love the color of yellow/but I’m working with blue.” Also, it may be the distortion, but K.R.I.T.’s voice is at an all-time best on the hook.
17. “Multi Til’ The Sun Die”: A-typical of a K.R.I.T. closer, we find him in a place of victory. The instrumental definitely speaks to triumph, with its high pitch chorus and an acoustic guitar line much like “How U Luv That” but less invasive. K.R.I.T. takes his final opportunity at the podium to thank his listeners, and anyone who was there for him. We are led out of the album with narration by Miya Bailey, who preaches both to K.R.I.T. and us about the ways to be a good and righteous king.
Overall: Big K.R.I.T. has proved yet again that there are very, very few who are on the level of his mixtape game. He has evolved as a lyricist, and he has added new elements to his production; toys and tools he employs to general success. His beats are fuller than ever; his songs are as well thought out as ever. He doesn’t seem to want to abandon the chase for a great ratchet jam, but this is clearly not his forte. Also, as has been said of K.R.I.T. before, he would be well served to follow his own advice from “Bigger Picture”: “What’s the use of doing art if I ain’t breaking the rules?” While K.R.I.T. doesn’t sound like a whole lot of other artists out right now, the revivalist-plus niche cannot carry him forever; he needs to start breaking his own rules. When he does, he will no longer be just the king of the South, but he will then perhaps contend for a more far reaching, everlasting royalty.
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