To call Live From The Underground Big K.R.I.T.’s debut album is a record label prerequisite more than anything. True, it’s his first “official” album to make its way toward a store shelf, and yes, it’s this underground kings’ first attempt at crossing into the mainstream. However, what’s established on Live From The Underground is far from an amateur’s touch. The album is brimming with peerless content and an enlivened ambience that is manifested from his spoken word introduction to his grandmother’s parting words on the closing track. Simply put, it’s Krizzle at his finest.
The first aspect which makes this album such a momentous piece of work is that it’s inherently and unquestionably Southern to the core. No better example of this comes on “Cool 2 Be Southern,” a melodically-loaded record that carries you to the Bible belt. Riding the jubilant horns and pastoral humming as if it’s Sunday afternoon, K.R.I.T. proudly announces, “Okay I’m straight up off my grandmama porch / Hollywood left, I took a southernized approach / Collard green pockets but I southern fried the flow / Candied yam drop with some cornbread to throw.” Drawing parallels to UGK’s “Chrome Plated Woman,” “Pull Up” smoothly settles in as he, Bun B and Big Sant wax poetic admiration for their newest slab. It’s clear that K.R.I.T. doesn’t shy away from his roots, following in the footsteps of his influences. In that respect, his album also displays an efficient paradigm of being fiercely ig’nant (“Yeah Dats Me,” “What U Mean”) and vividly soulful (“If I Fall,” “Porchlight”) when necessary. Scarface. Pimp C. Big Boi. K.R.I.T. is walking on that path here.
Alongside this flawless balance of Southern cadence and production, Big K.R.I.T. lyrically delivers with rhymes that “touch the soul.” Reminiscing on life lessons from his father on “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” K.R.I.T. takes heed from his advice as a grown man. Encountering his first challenge as an adolescent and contrasting that to his aspirations of becoming an artist, he raps:
“I remember when I fell from my first bike / There were no ‘are you okays’ and rarely ‘are you alrights’ / Just dirt in my pockets, handful of gravel / That’s when I realized that getting up is only half the battle / The fear of falling off will haunt me well into my teens / The moment that the world took a shit upon my dreams / ‘Cause money is the root, and love is all we had / In fact, I’m glad, I had a rich dad, poor dad.”
Following that storyline of attaining his dream, K.R.I.T. was fully aware that taking his skills to the next level meant parting with his hometown for a minute, and that is noticeable on “Don’t Let Me Down.” Over melancholic piano keys and crying guitar licks, he naturally admits, “I did all I could in my city so I had to bounce / I signed my deal and got more haters than I care to count / But I can’t fault them for their feelings ‘cause I know the score / It’s hard to celebrate for others when you dying poor.” Big K.R.I.T. takes his biggest leap as an artist with the B.B. King-assisted “Praying Man.” Discussing the chilling topic of slavery from three different vantage points that are met with salvation, K.R.I.T. sounds right at home over King’s intense guitar strums and bellowing hook. Emotional, engaging, and downright inconceivable, the performance exceeds the confines of Hip Hop as it stands today.
Even before he signed on the dotted line with Def Jam in 2010, Big K.R.I.T. was passionately adamant about creating a musical product that was timeless, that would live beyond Platinum plaques and ringtone raps. With transcendent execution, Live From The Underground fittingly builds upon this mission, and likewise never loses sight of what got Justin Scott to this point. Whether this is your very first time hearing him, an anticipated release that was foreseeable on K.R.I.T. Wuz Here or a project that was patiently (and loyally) waited on since See Me On Top, fans rejoice; the pride of Meridian, Mississippi has earned his crown.