Interview: Big K.R.I.T. Talks ‘Cadillactica’ Album, Rap’s Mainstream And More

Big K.R.I.T.’s ‘Week of K.R.I.T.’ impacted the online rap community like an earthquake earlier this month. With monstrous collaborations with the likes of Childish Major, Smoke DZA, Rick Ross and A$AP Ferg, old fans and new fans were talking about Krizzle. There’s no doubt that K.R.I.T. delivered the top-quality beats and rhymes that people trust him to provide.

Next up? His sophomore album, Cadillactica. Yes, like a planet named after Cadillac cars. We caught up with K.R.I.T. to discuss who some of the producers are that he’s bringing in to work with, how this album is different from his past work, whether he’s vying for a mainstream sound, and more. —Max Weinstein

VIBE: Tell me about the new album, Cadillactica. Is it true you’re bringing in other producers?
KRIT: Definitely. After doing Live From The Underground, which was a milestone to be able to produce my first major label album, I did King Remembered In Time, and at that point I really wanted to work with other producers. Just to sit down and be an artist as far as being able to rap and create in that mind state without having to make the beat and mix the record down was dope/

It was also just to learn. I was able to go back to the drawing board and sit down with 9th Wonder, so I could learn and see how he created. Sit down with Jim Jonsin and these kind of people. It inspired me once I got back to making beats, it kind of rejuvenated me as a musician as well.

For Cadillactica, I’m working with DJ Dahi, Jim Jonsin, 9th Wonder, and I’ve been getting it in with this producer Will Power. I’m excited for people to hear the project.

How will this album differ from the music you’ve done in the past?
Totally different [laughs]. Just the growth, man. The fact that I’ve been on tour for so long, I’ve done so many shows. I’ve had the opportunity to be around so many different things that inspire me and I just want to rap about ‘em. Every day it’s something new. So it’s only right that Cadillactica should stand out so far beyond K.R.I.T. Was Here and Return Of 4eva and 4eva And A Day and all these projects just because I’ve gotten older. I’ve figured out a great way to be able to put all my experiences into my music and make it visual. Now, not only am I rapping and singing about it, but it takes you somewhere. I think people are really gonna get that feel with Cadillactica.

What are some of the experiences you’re talking about on the new album?
Aw man, I can’t really talk to you about that [laughs]. Just trying to be as creative as possible, for one. Obviously, people love my music for the honesty and creating great car music that gets you from point A to point B. I’ve finally figured out a clever way of being different with that. Not sticking to the same terminology, not using the same snare or kick drum. I am really challenging myself to create something completely different, something new, and improving upon what I’ve already done.

Cadillactica is all about creating a planet. If I had the opportunity to create a planet—what would a car be called on this planet? What would a slab…how would comin’ down, like if I couldn’t say “comin’ down,” what else would I say as far as riding clean is concerned? All these things are what I’m putting into this album, so I think people are gonna be shocked with how far I can actually take it.

You dropped a couple big records for Week of K.R.I.T.’ including ‘Lac Lac’ with A$AP Ferg and ‘New Agenda’ with Rick Ross. You’ve worked with Trinidad James recently. Are you trying to reach some new fans with more mainstream visibility?
Mmm…I wouldn’t say that. All the songs that I do, normally if I’m creating, I hear the person that I want to put on the record before I reach out to them. It was one of those things where the ‘My Trunk’ record, I thought it’d be perfect for Trinidad. ‘Just Last Week’ wasn’t me trying to venture off and just work with Future because he was poppin.’ I was like, ‘I need Future on this song!’ Or A$AP Ferg, ‘I need A$AP on this song,’ so I’m gonna reach out to ‘em. I still keep my sound involved and it’s kind of tying these two things together. These people always show up and show out on the records that I do choose to put them on. They show love and jump on the records.

For the most part…I’m always gonna be underground at heart, but I want more people to hear the music. I want to create the kind of music so that it doesn’t matter that I’m from Mississippi. So in my mind, that’s what I’m doing, just trying to make timeless music. And if it happens to reach a million people, it reaches a million people.

Tell me about your experience on Def Jam. There was a large period of time between you getting signed and your first album dropping. How has the relationship been?
They really believe in letting me do my thing as far as creative control is concerned and creating the kind of music that reflects on me as an individual. There was a situation with sample clearances, things I didn’t take into consideration at first because mixtapes were my way of putting the music out there. When you’re talking about retail and sample clearances, it’s totally different. The process of dealing with that takes time and we had to do that for Live From The Underground. 2011 is when we geared up my first single in September, but my album didn’t come out until June 2012. A lot of that was because of those sample clearances and having to make sure that this person is like, “yes, you can use that” before you even remotely think about putting your album out. I dealt with that and I know that now, so when it comes to Cadillactica, I’m ahead of the curve with how I’m manauevering and taking care of sample clearances. I’m not wasting any time dealing with that.

But in the same breath, it’s exciting to know that [Def Jam] really believes in what I’m doing and letting me do me. Then we can all sit down at the table and gameplan around that.

How does spirituality play a role in your creative process and the final product of your music?
To the max. I feel like I’d be robbing people, I wouldn’t be honest with people if I didn’t express that part of my life in my music. My faith and believing has gotten me through a lot of days and a lot of times where I really didn’t think I could continue doing music. And this was before the deal. So now more than ever, because you deal with a lot of criticism when you put out a song and people may or may not like it but you deal with a lot of negativity and you have to find the positivity. You have to stay prayed up because you go to cities you’ve never been to before and you never know how somebody may feel that day. So I feel like I have to put that in my music.

I was raised that way. My grandmother instilled a lot of morals in me that I carry at this very moment. Somebody might need to hear that. Somebody might need someone to tell them that it’s gonna be okay and that things get rough, so I’ve always believe din putting that in my music.

Do you read the reactions people have to your new music when you release stuff online?
I try not to when it comes to negative things. If you got a thousand positive comments, I donno what it is about your mind or your subscious, but it will find the one negative comments off the top. I’ve gotten in the habit of putting out my music and just letting it go. Even if someone didn’t have anything good to say about it, they’re still talking about it. They still heard the song. I still appreciate at least the listen because there was a point when no one was listening. There were no comments. So at least I know people are pressing play and they want to know what it sounds like.

Tell me how you first got in touch with Dame Dash over at DD172.
That was through Jonny Shipes at Cinematic, Steve-O of GFC and Smoke DZA. When I first came to New York I did a super duper run at Shade 45. Sat down with Statik Selektah and Sway and all these people, then I ended up hollering at Creative Control, Chike and Coodie. They were working at DD172.

Curren$y was down there. It was just one of those places where it was super organic. IT wasn’t about money. Everyone was just working and all these people were just creating. That’s what the whole movement and cause was.

Did you learn anything from Dame while you were there?
I had one or two conversations with him but it wasn’t really business oriented. It was about music and we’d talk about bringing artists together just to work, things of that nature. I’d talk with Ski Beatz about production and really staying organic, bringing in bands. I learned a lot musically, not so much business.

Are there any artists you’d like to work with and haven’t had the opportunity to yet?
DJ Premier. He’s one of those producers I look forward to finding time and working with. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Organized Noize but I still want to get in some more with them and work. Timbaland is someone I definitely want to collab with and work with as well. Kanye, obviously. The Roots. I’d like to get in with Questlove.

Who are some of your favorite rappers of all time?
UGK. Outkast, the whole Dungeon Family. 8Ball and MJG. Biggie, Tupac, Nas. Project Pat. Snoop. People like that are the artists I grew up listening to. I take a lot [from them] in terms of cadence and being able to rap about where you’re from, even if it’s the smallest city ever, and make it popular. UGK was one of the first people to me that made it really cool to be country, Southern. Everything they was rapping about, it was like my backyard. It made me be like, “Alright, I want to talk about Mississippi in a positive light and give people insight to where I’m from.

What do you see your image as right now within the rap landscape? Where do you fit in?
Being myself. One of those people that really puts in as much possible time into the quality of my music. Being organic. Super amount of honesty and not trying to keep up with the times. Making the kind of music that will be around whatever. That’s extremely important for me. I’m taking a lot from the realm of how the Golden Era did it. Still having a certain amount of mystery to my music and how I create my music. I take parts from them and I pay homage to the OGs that paved the way for me to be able to do this. I don’t mind shining a light on where I came from and who gave me the motivation to even create that kind of music.

I feel like I’m a king, to say the most. That’s what the name stands for, King Remembered In Time. I definitely got my own Kingdom.

Any idea when we’ll be hearing the new album?
Just know it’s gonna be hot outside [laughs]. It ain’t gonna be cold, you won’t have to jump in the car and turn your heat on. It’ll be windows down, top dropped. You’re gonna want to travel to this project.