All American children are bound to hear the message, at least once or twice, that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Justin Scott was one of them. He grew up in Mississippi, a place where news headlines lament a failed education system and abysmal employment statistics. Steeped in a culture where crime and poverty are standard ways of life, Scott held on to his dream of doing something big. Facing odds stacked decidedly against him, he took his love for music to heart and focused his energy on his craft. Today, we know Scott as Big K.R.I.T., one of hip-hop’s rising stars.

K.R.I.T. was born in Meridian, Mississippi, a city built around railways and manufacturing. Meridian has a rich cultural history, but as with any city in the South, it has also seen its hard times, both socially and economically. He grew up in the “heart” of Meridian’s ghetto, and as he tells it, saw a variety of colorful characters everywhere he went in his neighborhood. K.R.I.T. stayed above the influence by dedicating himself to music, and, surprisingly, baseball. He credits his time on the baseball diamond with teaching him many valuable life lessons, including what it felt like to win. He threw a no-hitter to win the state championship in Biloxi, proving he had the makings of a champion athlete. But when, as a teenager, he inherited recording equipment from a local producer, he knew that music would be his future. Now that he had the ability to record his own songs, Scott was on his way to becoming K.R.I.T.—even if it meant laying down tracks in his grandmother’s kitchen. From this point forward, he learned everything he could about making music (and even devised a few tricks of his own) hoping to catch the notice of the industry.

While he did receive attention for his early, self-produced work, Big K.R.I.T. still had a long way to go before he finally broke through. He often had to choose between buying lunch and putting gas in his car, and spent time floating around Meridian, unsure where he’d be sleeping at night. But, as you’ll hear in the video above, all the grit and determination paid off when K.R.I.T. signed to Cinematic Music Group and Def Jam Recordings, which allowed him to release his first album, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Hit play now, and listen to the inspiring story from the man himself.

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Big K.R.I.T. in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi

 

Big K.R.I.T. in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi


Big K.R.I.T. in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi

Big K.R.I.T. in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi

Big K.R.I.T. in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi

Images via Zach Cooper for Complex