Album: Live from the Underground
Label: Def Jam
Release Date: 6/5/2012
In little over two years, legend in the making, Big K.R.I.T., has not only dominated the south independently as an artist but hip-hop itself while being, quite literally, a one-man band. He has produced, written, and orchestrated a collection of top-notch “free albums” that are arguably considered masterpieces in their own right. Now, with a major label debut under his belt, expectations couldn’t be higher. Concerns of K.R.I.T. compromising his country boy swagger for radio friendly audiences have loomed high. Like any fan of Big K.R.I.T., I too, questioned if Krizzle would live up to his promise of not yielding to an artist masticating industry. Not to mention, whether or not his major label debut would be lesser, greater or equal to his previous body of work.
After all, K.R.I.T. didn’t select a handful of industry beats to rap over, give us expendable mixtape projects, and then decide to present the world with an actual album. Instead, he worked counter-clockwise and presented every release as an album since his inception. With that in mind, you might presume that pitting this album against his other “albums” is a head-aching challenge that is better left alone. Unfortunately, however, that’s easier said than done. For if you’re truly, truly a fan, I guarantee many of you will either: a) champion this album and treat it in the same breath of his previous body of work, or b) be disappointed that Live from the Underground didn’t live up to your expectations.
Fortunately, what can be agreed upon is that Live from the Underground is undoubtedly cut from the same cloth as its predecessors. K.R.I.T. definitely lives up to his promise of not compromising his sound to become a pop hit poster boy. Not to mention, there isn’t a single track on the album that can be written off as a Def Jam diluted, mainstream influenced record. Southern fried to the core, songs like “Yeah Dats Me” and “I Got This” absolutely cranks and will have your body rocking side to side as if you were thrown in a mosh pit. “Cool 2 Be Southern,” is a banner-waving anthem that has K.R.I.T. breakin’ down why everybody is so antsy to “get down with the get down” in the southern caddie wagon. There’s also your subwoofin’, trunk rattlers, “My Sub (Part 2: The Jack)” and “Pull Up,” which will surely be bumpin’ and thumpin’ in a neighborhood near you.
Live from the Underground isn’t all joy riding, though. K.R.I.T. does haul and pause to look at the world through his rearview mirror. On “Don’t Let Me Down” and “If I Fall,” for example, K.R.I.T. gives testament of his trials and tribulations. However, the real gems are found within “Praying Man” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” “Praying Man,” which features legendary blues singer B.B. King, is inarguably K.R.I.T’s finest storytelling record to date. While many rappers talk about being pimped, f#@ked, and being artistically stripped down to the “white meat” by the chattel system we call the music business, none have literally taken a stance on it as a record slave and that’s exactly what K.R.I.T. does here. In each verse, he gives a ball and chain narrative of each slave struggling to find freedom, but in the end, each are all ultimately freed from their “oppressors forever” by a passing praying man. The song puts a very insightful spin on how the industry expunges its dedicated artists, and how many have ignored the cries of its musical slaves. K.R.I.T. echoes these sentiments dark humorously on his first verse as he sways from his noose and looks down at his savior saying, “I’m glad you looked up, ‘cause most people wouldn’t mind.” “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is a jewel simply because not too many artists illuminate their fathers in a positive manner. Rhyming over undulating drums and violins, K.R.I.T. shares the man-to-man wisdom his pops imparts on him such as protective sex, being true to self, and staying resilient in the face of opposition.
On an EQ scale there aren’t too many lows to the album, but there are a few worth mentioning. Strip club anthem “Money on the Floor,” which features 8Ball and MJG and 2 Chainz, doesn’t hit like “Temptation” and probably could’ve been better handled if left solely to K.R.I.T. Similarly, “What U Mean” featuring Ludacris finds K.R.I.T. being moonlighted by Luda who gives a hilarious, show-stealing verse. The forgettable “Hydroplaning” also disappoints due to stale a hook and verses shared between Dev the Dude and K.R.I.T. In addition to that, the album does suffer time to time due to monotony, after all, we have heard K.R.I.T’s same bread and butter formula album after album.
Live from the Underground may not have the same oomph as his previous projects, but because K.R.I.T. has laid down everything early for us since the beginning, it’s understandable to see why. Even though I personally wish K.R.I.T. would’ve reserved some of his best sh*t for his major label debut, he did give us two albums within the same year. So, while many (myself included) might trifle over where and how Live from the Underground should be ranked in his already certifiable discography, many more will be pleased to know that K.R.I.T.’s still doing K.R.I.T. And in an industry where many artists have completely abandoned their fans and themselves after going mainstream, that’s more than enough.