Big K.R.I.T.

4eva N A Day

(Self-released; 2012)

By Brian Riewer | 22 March 2012

It seems Big K.R.I.T.‘s successes thus far haven’t been due to his lyrical ability so much as to his honesty; the Mississippian pours his heart and soul into music. Not that most artists don’t, but then most artists don’t embrace the kind of Tony-Robbins-esque positivity Justin Scott does just to get himself out of bed and to work everyday. Last year’s Return of 4eva certainly wasn’t shy about this, as fellow staffer Colin McGowan detailed in his review, but on 4eva N A Day, K.R.I.T. shrinks his scope down to just him and one single day, submitting a concept album meant to elucidate the opposing pulls from both his want to be successful and his guilt in sometimes putting that above his faith and loved ones. The simple binary Big K.R.I.T. illustrates with the cover—a child sitting on a ledge, a Bible on one side and a bottle of liquor on the other—indulges both his Christian upbringing and how that affects the way he views himself. He’s standing at a crossroads, I think, where choosing one over the other wears on him—over the course of even one day. His shame gives planetary weight to every blunt hit, lean sip, and lazy ride through town; there is no such thing as a throwaway track here, there is only the ever-mounting battle over Big K.R.I.T.‘s soul.

Like a lot of narratives centered around a protagonist’s struggle to keep to the straight and narrow, 4eva N A Day starts heavy—past the obligatory but nonetheless sweet, sax-soaked “Wake Up”—a faith-rattling tragedy, K.R.I.T. losing his grandmother, greets the listener on the somber “Yesterday.” Picking specific memories and stringing them together like a series of context-less vignettes, K.R.I.T. revels in the warmth and comfort the memory of his grandmother holds. “Like an autumn breeze, knocking all the pecans out the trees / Baking your fruitcakes for Christmas Eve / The smell of sweet potato pie make it hard to leave,” he drawls, illuminating less her person and more her subtle influence, her legacy, as is so often the case with the people we are closest to. Fighting back tears, he closes: “Just so you know, your lectures ain’t going in vain / Accepted that you’re gone but I deal with the pain / Weather the rain, just know I won’t be the same.” The track’s production, care of K.R.I.T. himself, as is every track on this mixtape, ruminates on an undefined, airy sadness, like a Burial mix sobbing to itself under an afghan.

In step with that last line, 4eva N A Day takes a quick turn from “Yesterday” and the optimistic, good-hearted tenor of “Wake Up,” diving into the usual cadre of bitches/cars/drank/weed that fuel the words of his obvious Texan rap forebears. “Boobie Miles,” so named after the incredibly brash and prideful running back from the film version of Friday Night Lights, seems to reject the idea passed on from his grandmother in the previous song, that is, to “speak up for them: your friends, your relatives, your neighbors.” Instead of thinking his kin has his back, K.R.I.T. cuts himself off, puts everything in his own hands, and considers his place in this world to be determined only by his own success. “Get money, don’t be no lame / Bench warmers never ride foreign, so play the game,” he opens, suggesting the dog-eat-dog mentality holds even truer when you’re on top. Yet: “They’ll be gone with the wind once your jump shot don’t go in / Or your ACL torn and you’re a couple yards short / From a Super Bowl Championship and it was down four.” This simple distinction—“The only difference between a winner and a loser is a winner plays until he wins”—weighs down any of K.R.I.T.’s future grandstanding with the ineluctable ticking of the clock on yet another day. Because don’t you get tired, K.R.I.T.?

For now, though, his playboy status is uninhibited by moral ambiguity as we follow him through what would chronologically be the middle of his day. The theme song milks the same instant catchiness as that of Return of 4eva, a soul-sampled number and the mixtape’s easily most fun track (next to maybe “1986”), but also its least illuminating, just retreading the themes (heh) he’s already spent almost ten minutes introducing. Following that, K.R.I.T. cruises with “Me and My Old School” and “1986”; though wildly different in each approach—the former exuding the dark, depressed beats of UGK’s Ridin’ Dirty (1996), the latter an exuberant burst of drum fills and funk brass—both present his car as status symbol, and both make reference the Bible sacriliciously. After “Country Rap Tunes,” an ode to his fellow Mississippians, and “Sky Club,” a Smoker’s Club tour anthem that samples Sade’s “Like A Tattoo,” K.R.I.T. finally starts buckling under the weight of the mixtape’s darkest moments.

Which may be no more visceral than on “Package Store” (a liquor store for those of us not living in Alabama or Mississippi): the desperate pallor of the store’s vagrants make it clear that there aren’t any solutions at the bottom of a bottle…or in a car, for that matter. Or in becoming a rap star. Upon running into a disavowed preacher, K.R.I.T. recognizes him from church services with some level of disgust—“I know what he said but maybe I beg to differ / The only soles you like to touch were on the legs of strippers”—but quickly recants. “The only reason I know that ‘cause I used to tip ‘em,” he sighs, asking, “How could I judge when in this world we both some niggas, and we both some killers, and we both some thieves?” Soon after crossing paths with an actual killer and thief, the mugger lets K.R.I.T. go with his money and his life when K.R.I.T. tells him he’s unarmed. The robber proves a much better person than the preacher while revealing that he simply can’t find a job in a recession with a felony conviction on his record. “So instead of buying what he want, he taking what they selling,” K.R.I.T. recounts of the man’s predicament, the pain of an unwanted life of crime drowned out in whatever alcohol he can get his hands on and putting K.R.I.T.‘s philosophy—again: “The only difference between a winner and a loser is a winner plays until he wins”—in serious doubt.

The day closes and K.R.I.T. offers two different conclusions in “Handwriting” and “The Alarm”; the two parallel the opposing forces of Booze and Bible, the former a devil on one shoulder and the latter an angel on the other, each making its case to the tired K.R.I.T. And yet, this dichotomy of good vs. evil—or, to put it in less inflammatory language, material goods vs. spiritual good—truly never concludes. The last line of the mixtape is “(Do you believe) that you never loved fame / And you wouldn’t miss a dime if you lost it all today?” and despite all that K.R.I.T. has told us and the gratuitously intimate details he shares, not just here but on Return of 4eva and K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) as well, we simply don’t know. It’s a moving ambiguity he offers in lieu of resolution; a concept he’s hinted at before but grinds to its core on his latest. This may just be one day, but what wrestles within him is something that he’ll be wrestling the rest of his life. If this isn’t the most mature mixtape K.R.I.T.’s produced yet, it may very well be his most honest, and coming from this guy, that’s high praise indeed.