This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Big K.R.I.T. – 4EVA IS A MIGHTY LONG TIME
Genre: Southern Hip Hop
Favorite Tracks: “Big Bank (featuring T.I.),” “Everlasting,” “Keep the Devil Off,” “Bury Me in Gold”
One of the most immediate takeaways from 4EVA IS A MIGHTY LONG TIME is that Big K.R.I.T. is the type to wear his influences proudly on his sleeve. We already sort of knew that, as K.R.I.T. ‘s first two albums were centered around the kind of deep, bass-heavy tunes meant to be blasted by a car stereo with an oversized subwoofer, and he has firmly entrenched himself in the UGK/OutKast lineage rather than following most of the southern hip hop scene into trap music. On the second half of 4EVA, which is an honest-to-God attempt at growth and/or stylistic reinvention on K.R.I.T.’s part, he takes aim at a more jazz-informed, introspective style with political and personal lyrics.
4EVA establishes that we can ALWAYS count on K.R.I.T. to deliver with the kind of tracks he’s dishing out on side one, and deliver he does. The synth bass is fat as ever, and songs like “Subenstein (My Sub IV)” and “Big Bank” are just as potent when maxed out as anything in his back catalog. There’s also a decent potential radio single in “1999,” a silky R&B tune featuring former teeny-bopper Lloyd, which could hit many of the same notes as Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” for mainstream audiences, as both share a reliance on strong bass lines and a bit of shameless nostalgia baiting.
Side one falters on its back-end, with a trio of tracks (“Layup,” “Aux Cord,” and “Get Away”) that called to mind early Kanye West, but K.R.I.T. doesn’t have the lyrical creativity or delivery to sell these tracks, and they end up dragging down the whole operation. K.R.I.T. would have done well here to include some more of those bangers from the top end, as the later tracks from side one are made redundant by most of the album’s second half, and with 4EVA being a somewhat exhaustive listen in the first place, it’s hard to stick with the whole record in one listen.
But, like I said, K.R.I.T. wears his influences proudly on his sleeve, which turns from a trait that is either a strength or a neutral factor to a negative when one of said influences is only two-and-a-half-years old. Certain songs on the second half of 4EVA, like “Mixed Messages” and “The Light” (the latter of which even has a feature from TPAB collaborator Bilal), take very clear cues from Kendrick Lamar’s TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY, and though there are enough songs on the second side that are distinct enough from TPAB’s style to intellectually separate the two, it’s obvious that K.R.I.T. culled nearly directly from both the concept and the sound of that album.
A gospel-tinged tone reminiscent of Chance the Rapper also presents itself at times, but it’s easier to give the benefit of the doubt and attribute this to parallel thinking given K.R.I.T.’s profession of a Christian faith and deep southern roots. It’s not even that these songs are bad, or that these influences bring the record down in any way, but it’s disappointing to hear something that is supposed to be a more honest form of self-expression be so derivative.
Even with a few issues that jump out immediately at the listener, side two is more consistent in its quality than side one, and would be a better stand-alone album than the first. There’s a lot more diversity in its sound, and fewer of the songs feel like outright filler than on side one. K.R.I.T. isn’t the type of rapper who’s going to sell records based on his lyrics alone, but side two takes some of TPAB’s jazz stylings and fuses them with the synth-heavy funk sounds of late ‘90s OutKast and delivers a set of songs that aren’t very risky musically, but are solid at worst and pretty good at best.