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)
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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Complex: How does it feel to have a lot of people speaking positively about Big K.R.I.T. Wuz Here?
Big K.R.I.T.: It's a blessing to be at the point where I can put music out and get any type of feedback that people take time out of their day to listen to it, comment or re-tweet or whatever. It's amazing and sometimes still overwhelming that I can put out a project and put my all into it, and people respond and feel the vibes and the words. That's success in a way. Even if it doesn't go any further than this, I can say I was able to put my music out there on a platform and people accepted it and listened to it.
I've been working on this project for about a year, just making songs and putting together records that fit my personality and how I want people to view me and deem me human on the album. Not seem programmed, like give you 12 songs and have you not get an idea of who I am as a person. It's 19 records from the highest of high crunk and let's-get-it-poppin' 808s to expressing myself lyrically and really being down to earth and kind of giving you a glimpse of my lifestyle and introducing personal information as far as my grandma and stuff like that. So it's really just putting it out there and letting you know that I'm an artist you can relate to and you ain't by yourself when it comes to life lessons in general.
Complex: Are cousins starting to pop up out of nowhere?
Big K.R.I.T.: [Laughs.] It's all good. Most of the people I talk to are family anyway, but I just haven't talked to them in a while and it's normally on some, "Man, I see what you're doing, I'm rooting for you and I'm proud of you." Regardless, I felt like my family was proud of me when I stepped outside of Mississippi and decided to push my music. In my family, entertainment hasn't been tapped into, so they were scared for me a little bit, but they let me do me and knew that this is what I wanted to do. My family is big. I got four brothers and a little sister, so I ain't just rockin' for myself. Extended families from my potnas and they kids so it's larger than me.
Complex: You have worked with Devin the Dude, Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, and Smoke DZA, which is a lot of clouds in the air. What was that like?
Big K.R.I.T.: I ain't even gon' front, I had got on my drinking game. I was gonna slow down, smoke a little bit and chill, but you get around these folk and man, they gets it in. You just get into a position where you're like, "Fuck it, I'ma get back into it." But the vibe is amazing because everybody is like, "Let's just make good music. Let's laugh, kick it, talk shit, and then we are going to make a jammin' record." I love it. It's still competitive in the aspect that we all want to make a good song and do the best we can because it's all love.
Complex: What are you currently working on?
Big K.R.I.T.: Trying to put out another project, so staying in the studio working on that. Me and Big Sant are in a group called The Alumni, so you can kind of hear the chemistry we have when we rap on "Return of 4eva" [off K.R.I.T. Wuz Here]. So that will be a dope project bringing back the group aspect. Working on Smoke DZA's album. Really trying to get the production thing on that and really just being a producer and artist at the same time. Trying to spread it all out.
Complex: How's the label situation looking?
Big K.R.I.T.: I got a joint venture with Cinematic Music Group. But I can't say yet. Just know it's going down in 2010.
Complex: How did you link up with Cinematic Music Group?
Big K.R.I.T.: DJ Folk introduced Cinematic to me. But along the way, DJ Wally Sparks was also real supportive and he did a tape with me called King of the Queen. He looked out and mentored me on how to approach DJs and A&Rs. Beat-wise, Freaky T. He is out of my hometown, and he really showed me how to work the programs I work and kind of put me up on sampling. It's a lot more people and I really hate to forget anybody. But that's just off the top.
Complex: How is it working with Creative Control and Dame Dash?
Big K.R.I.T.: I've been down there in the dojo. 24 Hour Karate School with Ski Beatz. Creative Control, for starters, with the visuals they are crazy. What comes out from them is amazing. I've been working with Ski and that's amazing in itself. This is Reasonable Doubt history right here. I got a record I did by myself on one of his beats and that joint is crazy. I met Dame too. We sat down and had a conversation about the game and where I'm from. That's some shit you would never thought would happen.
Complex: Do you know if one of your tracks will make it on the 24 Hour Karate School tape?
Big K.R.I.T.: I don't know. I know they are still working on it, but if Ski go ahead and throw me on one of those tracks. [Laughs.]. But I am working with Curren$y and we have a track together called "High" and it will be on Pilot Talk so look out for that.
Complex: So you listen to other music besides rap?
Big K.R.I.T.: Yeah. Coldplay is crazy. Even on "Hometown Hero," Adele is an amazing artist. We can go as far as Portishead. The fact that I'm a producer, I can't stop at a certain genre of music. I listen to power ballads, rock, Whitesnake, like I'm really trying to take it all in as a producer so it's not all one type of sound. I'm paying attention to it all.
Complex: Who are some of your influences in the rap game?
Big K.R.I.T.: Andre 3000, Cee-lo, 'Pac and B.I.G. UGK, which is obvious, 8 Ball and MJG. A lot of the Southern music is the backbone to who I am.
Complex: People have compared your sound to the Dungeon Family. Were they an influence on you?
Big K.R.I.T.: Yeah, no doubt. I was a fan of their beats. I remember listening to their music and how I felt when I first heard it. I couldn't stop playing it, and said, "I want to make this type of music." It's timeless. There is nothing else like it and that's how I approached this project and projects from here on out. I want to make that music that is forever.
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