Big K.R.I.T. is built on the strength of his mixtapes, and he’s released a great deal of music. Yet Cadillactica is only his second retail album, coming after his 2012 debut Live from the Underground and 2013’s excellent mixtape King Remembered in Time. Earlier this year, listeners got an idea of what to expect from the “Week of K.R.I.T.” series, although only one of those six songs made it to the album. So hop in your terrible used car or turn on your expensive Bluetooth headphones and let’s see what’s cooking in Mississippi.
From the drop, K.R.I.T. seems to be concerned with creativity in Hip Hop, particularly his own. He’s chanting “How Bout Let’s Be Perfect” over a syncopated drum pattern that makes K.R.I.T. sound a little off-beat, like he can’t hear the music in his headphones. The first two tracks serve as a reintroduction of all of K.R.I.T.’s production trademarks: synths, occasional blues guitar, traditional southern 808s. On “Life,” he’s shouting a proclamation to make good. The song features a very loud chorus, but everything else seems to be filler for the purpose of making the loud elements that much louder. Speaking of volume, the third iteration of “My Sub” is all about the “big bang” of the 808 bass kicks, because people “can’t twerk to the hi-hat.” No arguments here. There isn’t much to hear though until the guitars come back and the ode to the sublime wonder of the subwoofer culminates. The title track to the album is surprisingly underwhelming, but it’s energetic and it would sound good in a car.
“Soul Food” with Raphael Saadiq is the first time where K.R.I.T. sounds like he’s offering his personality, in the form of his favorite childhood foods. I like this K.R.I.T. because in high school I would mow my lawn to “Neva Go Back” and “They Got Us.” This is way more pleasing to the ear than that “Fuck you and everything you stand for,” narrative. Yeah, I get it, you want to be heard, but what I’m hearing on “Soul Food” matters most because it sounds like you give a shit, K.R.I.T.
I’d never heard of Rico Love before this, but his “Drake as a choirboy” routine works well with K.R.I.T.’s lament about the good women that have passed him by. And then, we’re right back to “King of the South,” an amalgamation of every mediocre possibility K.R.I.T. has considered in his rap career. If he wants to be the king of southern Hip Hop, he’d make a more convincing overture. I’ve loved this dude’s music for several years and I can’t understand it, but he’s showing signs of slipping. And all I can say about “Mind Control” with E-40 and Wiz Khalifa is that it’s incredibly disappointing.
But all of a sudden, we’re hit with this “Interlude” song, featuring Kenneth Whalum III’s saxophone and arguably K.R.I.T.’s best display of rapping so far on the album. What’s going on here? He’s phoning in a song here and living up to his potential in the next breath. This is the J.R. Smith of Hip Hop albums. It’s incredibly inconsistent, featuring slumps where I wish K.R.I.T. was still churning out mixtapes and hot streaks where I think that K.R.I.T. really could be the best rapper in the south. He’s incorporating singing here and there, most obviously on “Do You Love Me For Real” with Mara Hruby. We have little in common, but K.R.I.T. sings like me: slow, cautious and mostly in the shower. “Third Eye” features more singing, this time about that silent connection that occurs when two people fall inexplicably head-over-heels for each other in a brief instant (“love at first sight, in other words”). Here again K.R.I.T. changes the beat with good effect. He’s got a knack for that, and it would be interesting to hear a 20-track album with 35 different beats. Maybe that’s his next plan.
As much as I thought I was going to be on Cadillactica at the beginning, it’s like a different album after the interlude. The posse cut works out, as Big Sant outshines Bun B alongside a Devin the Dude hook on “Mo’ Betta Cool.” Even “Angels” is pleasant, and to be honest, I’d rather listen to a comfortably pimpin’ Big K.R.I.T. than a K.R.I.T. screaming over bass drums. He’s letting moments of silence work for him on the second half of the album, and “Angels” is an indication of what happens when instruments besides the drums are allowed to take precedence.
I’m not going to spoil the surprise of “Saturdays = Celebration” for you, but Tom Waits sound-alike Jamie N Commons sets the stage for a very weird Big K.R.I.T. track. It’s got one of the best beats K.R.I.T. has ever made, and the rapping is on point; it’s weird because there is no way I would have expected he could still make music like this after the first half of the album. It’s like watching the sun rise after a Civil War massacre. It sounds like people returning to New Orleans for the first mass after Katrina. K.R.I.T.’s interpolated Andre 3000’s raps a couple times here and it sounds like he’s picked a role model. “Lost Generation” sounds like Jurassic 5’s version of OutKast’s “Roses,” but I’m not sure that will hold up under close scrutiny. It’s just a feeling, and I’m glad to say that my hunch about Lupe Fiasco was wrong. By that I mean, “Lost Generation” is excellent, with Lupe pretending to be the Worst Teenager Ever as K.R.I.T. delivers the hook of the year. And I’ll tell you what, Big K.R.I.T. uses “Mt. Olympus” to sum up every boast he had on the first half of the album and he puts himself to shame. This is a statement track from K.R.I.T. This is Kobe dropping 50 plus, just because. If this is his legacy, he’s made it up the mountain.
As a bonus, K.R.I.T. tacked “Lac Lac” with the lovably goofy A$AP Ferg onto the album, which is a great choice because “Lac Lac” is up there with “Egyptian Cotton” as the best entry from the “Week of K.R.I.T.” series. Thanks for reading, if you need me I’ll be walking around Missouri, softly singing “Lac Lac Lac Lac Lac…”