Two years ago, Big K.R.I.T. was booed onstage at New York’s Highline Ballroom as he performed “Country Shit.” That same song – one of his biggest hits – at the same venue couldn’t have received a grander reception last night, igniting the sold-out crowd into a thumping frenzy. The irony of the situation was not lost on the Meridian, Mississippi rapper: “This is kind of an anniversary of some sort,” he reminisced with a smirk.
Although pegged as the official concert for his new, self-produced 4evaNaDay mixtape, the show was more of a fan appreciation, or perhaps revival, for the ardent group of supporters who have stuck with K.R.I.T. on his career trajectory of mixtapes and one-off tracks (all the while, a major label release hangs in perpetual limbo). “How many of y’all downloaded 4evaNaDay?” he asked, and from the fervor that followed, it was clear that K.R.I.T. was among fanboys and friends this time.
The rapper, dressed down in a black t-shirt emblazoned with the somewhat disconcerting phrase “Heroes Eventually Die,” looked patently at ease. He jumped into tracks from his new mixtape like “4evaNaDay (Theme)” and the soulful, horn-laden “1986.” “It was 1986, coldest year ever/ Mama could’ve cut me out the womb, but she knew better,” he spit on the latter. The tight, hour-long set featured substantial material from his past discography, including Return of 4Eva (“Sookie Now, ” “Time Machine,” “Made Alot”) and K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (“Just Touched Down,” “Hometown Hero,” “Glass House”), interspersed with cuts from 4evaNaDay. Several verses were devoted to his penchant for cars, including the irresistibly warm “Rotation,” complete with steering-wheel hand motions, and “My Sub,” the subwoofer anthem that conjures fantasies of cruising around in candy-painted Cadillacs.
Production was kept minimal, and aside from hype man/rapper Big Sant and DJ Wally Sparks, the only guest cameo came courtesy of Smoke DZA. K.R.I.T., a consummate touring act, was more than capable of holding his own, and without the usual distractions, his vocal dexterity truly shone.
That voice – that deep, oh-so-stick-to-your-ribs voice, drenched with the kind of hearty drawl only found below the Mason-Dixon line – sounded beyond pristine. Whether he rapped slow, fast, or just deviated altogether and crooned on “Highs & Lows” and “The Vent,” K.R.I.T. sounded remarkably melodious and controlled. Sometimes, while interacting with the audience, he spoke too quickly for this Midwesterner’s ears. Even then, his mumbling sounded good.
Nowhere was this more apparent than during the show’s pièce de résistance, “Country Shit.” It’s a quintessential foray into the deep South: “Let me tell you ’bout this super fly dirty dirty/ Third coast muddy water/ Shawty pop that pussy if ya wanna/ Let me tell you ’bout this/ Old-school pourin’ lean/ Candied yams and collard greens/ Pocket full of stones ridin’ clean,” he rapped with conviction. K.R.I.T. then added brotherly panache to the second verse by flipping it over to fellow Mississippi rapper David Banner’s “Like A Pimp” beat, which amped up the already-overzealous crowd. In a symbolic gesture, K.R.I.T. ended the song by stagediving into the outstretched arms of his screaming fans. Instead of getting up immediately, he stayed among the people for just a moment, clearly relishing in his return.