Check out VIBE's picks for the stars that are next to blow. This story appears in the Oct/Nov issue of VIBE, currently on stands
WHAT WE SAY:
Justin “Big K.R.I.T.” Smith was certain he’d found the formula for mainstream staying power: jingly hooks, catchy beats and all-Crunk everything. In search of financial freedom, the 24-year-old Mississippian chased after a No. 1 single. But when he only saw modest traction by emulating hip-hop’s status quo, K.R.I.T. (an acronym for “King Remembered in Time”) questioned his dumb-it-down strategy. Feeling like he’d sacrificed much of his lyrical substance, he abandoned empty radio fodder and in May dropped the confessional K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, a self-produced mixtape focused on social ills (“2000 Beyond”), relationship woes (“Good Enough”) and occasional collar-popping. The equation lined up, and the soul-sample-driven project scored him Cinematic Music Group/Def Jam paperwork. Adding grander instrumentation to his vibrant memoirs, K.R.I.T.’s still-untitled debut is the perfect blueprint—his own.
WHAT HE SAYS:
“It took me five years to really figure out my sound and get comfortable rapping about my life. In the beginning stages, you’re trying to get the best club song possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you focus so much energy on one avenue of music, it can hurt your creative mind frame. Seeing how Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo Green creatively did what they thought was jamming and people embraced it, I was like, ‘Damn, that’s what I wanna do.’ It can’t just be trendy. I gotta talk about real concepts and stuff that means the world to me in order to make it timeless.” —John Kennedy