Up-and-coming artists who hail from hip-hop-heavy states like California, New York, Georgia, or Florida have a built-in advantage over a rapper hailing from, say, Meridian, Mississippi. But a few things that Justin "Big K.R.I.T." Scott has going in his favor are his exceptional ability to rap and produce, which is exactly what he did on his mixtape, Big K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which boasts features from Devin the Dude, Curren$y, and Wiz Khalifa. With a flow reminiscent of Pimp C and an earnestness and depth that recalls The Dungeon Family, K.R.I.T. has created an enormous buzz in the blogosphere. We recently had the opportunity to catch him during a break at the studio to discuss the success of his recent mixtape, the rap game in Mississippi, and his musical influences...
LISTEN: Key Big K.R.I.T. Songs You Should Know...
"Country Shit" (2010)
"Glass House" f/Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa (2010)
"Good Enough" (2010)
"Moon & Stars" f/Devin The Dude (2010)
Interview By Dominic Green
Complex: What does Big K.R.I.T. mean?
Big K.R.I.T.: It means King Remembered In Time. My original name was Kritikal, but I ran into a problem with people not being able to pronounce it. I was talking to my cousin and he said I had to change my name and figure it out so I just shortened it to Krit. He said it was cool, but what does it mean? So I came up with an acronym that really meant something to me and rocked with it ever since.
Complex: When you were growing up, as a kid were you more into the streets or into the books?
Big K.R.I.T.: I was an athlete, more or less, and doing music. I mean I'm from my block, but I wasn't selling dope. I don't reflect that in my music. A lot of people respect my music because I'm not telling tall tales like, "I'm selling this and I'm a kingpin." People know that ain't me.
Complex: What sports did you play?
Big K.R.I.T.: I played baseball, which is kind of a big thing where I'm from, until high school. I was going to play in college, but I quit on the strength of doing music. I did one year at a community college in my hometown. When I dropped out, there were some deals on the table—it was like, "it's now or never," so I did what I had to do for my career.
Complex: When did you start rapping?
Big K.R.I.T.: I started rapping in 2000. Maybe 1999 or 2000. Hallway freestyles, corner-type stuff. It wasn't major until I dropped my first mixtape in 2004, and that's when we started to take it serious. So I tried to connect with DJs and really start promoting myself as an artist.
Complex: What was the name of that mixtape?
Big K.R.I.T.: See Me On Top.. It was a local thing in the beginning and then I was reaching out to DJ Folk and getting around to the Atlanta market and pushing it and getting some sort of notoriety.
Complex: Why did you start producing?
Big K.R.I.T.: I was young and I couldn't afford to pay for beats. At the same time, I was looking at the programs [producers] use that I can get my hands on and I was saying to myself, "I can do this too." So I started producing for myself and it worked out better because it didn't leave me dependent on anybody. I can put out as much music as I want to, work as long as I want to, and then make money off making these beats because some people ain't patient enough to sit down and make their own shit. They just go, "Fuck it, I'll just pay for one." I'd much rather make my own music anyway. I can do whatever track I want to and it was easier that way.
Complex: Did you started producing at the same time you started rapping?
Big K.R.I.T.: Probably a year later when I found out producers really got money. They get paid up front and on the back end, and they get paid whether they go to the show or not. So I was like, "Damn, I need to be behind those boards, too."
Complex: Have you been producing for anyone else?
Big K.R.I.T.: I have done some work for Sean Paul [from the Youngbloodz] and some other cats from Mississippi like Don Corleone. I did a record with Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y called "Glass House" which was on Kush and Orange Juice. I'm working with Smoke DZA.
Complex: When producing, is there a certain style you try to maintain for it to be labeled a Big K.R.I.T track?
Big K.R.I.T.: I can't say. I do make a lot of tracks that don't sound like something I'd make and it's probably because I produced my whole album and every record can't sound the same. So I wouldn't say people would know I produced the track off the bat. There are songs on my album that I sampled and really tried to make it work so maybe the way I chop [samples] up people could say, "Oh, that's a K.R.I.T. record." You never know, 'cause if I was to do 16 tracks on my album, I want the sound to have all different levels of production, rather than 16 samples with the same 808 and snare. You wouldn't want to listen to that.
Complex: Are you influenced to produce records by music your parents used to listen to?
Big K.R.I.T.: Yeah, no doubt. I just recently got a turntable and I got mad vinyl and I got stupid excited because there is stuff that people haven't tapped into. There are so many records and artists that came out during my parents' time that you hear nobody has ever sampled or a hook and you can flip it. I listen to Willie Hutch, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield, The Dramatics. It was a different type of game back then and a different type of feel for music. Live bands sang mostly about what they went through and not so much for the money, but that they are recording and love doing what they are doing. It comes off better when you can rap over that type of vibe and that type of feeling; that's why I really like making soul sample-type records.
Complex: How is the hip-hop scene in Mississippi?
Big K.R.I.T.: We haven't had a large presence in hip-hop, so to try to get people to listen to where we come from and try to tear down the stereotypes that people may have about our state and our lingo is difficult. Again, being from a small town, it's not like people don't believe in you, but it just might not seem possible, so you have to get out of that mind-frame and know you can do things and succeed. Whatever you're trying to do, you have to be willing to grind. Also it's so spread out, networking is a little difficult. It's hard, but we do have examples like [David] Banner and Boo Da Boss Playa, who have showed us you can come out and make this money and be successful in this game. [Banner] definitely gave people where I'm from hope that you can do you, make the type of music you want, craft your production, and succeed in this rap game. Being able to produce and rap, he kind of made us look like we will go out here and grind to succeed. So yeah, no doubt.
Complex: On "Viktorious" you say, "They been boring us/ignoring us." What did you mean by that?
Big K.R.I.T.: That statement is more of a hip-hop aspect. The industry is force-feeding us this music and I'm like, "Nah, I'll go listen to this Outkast or something else." I am on a global mission to make good music and bring that feel back. That's kind of where I am.
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