Big K.R.I.T. is at New York’s Sirius Radio studio, performing songs off his new mixtape, 4evaNaDay. He wears his native Mississippi around his neck, on a low-key wooden chain over a red long-sleeved shirt emblazoned with the phrase, “Above All, Move Silent.” It’s a fortune cookie-like koan that speaks directly to the 25-year-old rapper-producer, who has become an exciting name in hip-hop. Born Justin Scott, K.R.I.T. isn’t heavy on Twitter, nor does he flood the proverbial block with new music; he largely keeps his secrets to himself. But when he does let the cat – or, say, a mixtape – out of the bag, he makes a lot of noise. (4evaNaDay, with its staircase-capitalization tailor-made for Twitter, promptly became a trending topic after its release on Monday.) In between lunch and a Turntable.FM guest DJ spot, K.R.I.T. spoke to Rolling Stone about the making of his mixtape, his long-delayed debut LP and the road ahead.
How many of the songs on 4evaNaDay were originally meant for your upcoming album, Live from the Underground?
None of them! I originally started crafting this project in September, when my album got pushed back. I was like, I’ve gotta give the fans something. It didn’t really matter how jammin’ the song was or if the song had single potential. I wanted it to be free, and I wanted it to be on 4evaNaDay.
You did every beat and verse on this mixtape by yourself. Why is that?
The last tape that dropped from me (Last King 2: God’s Machine) was hosted by DJ Wally Sparks and DJ Break-Em-Off and it was comprised of a lot of features that I’ve done. Live from the Underground is going to have a lot of features, too, so I just wanted to go all in and stretch myself – show what I do on a day-to-day basis.
Do you find it easier or harder to do all the work yourself?
I’m used to producing all of my projects, doing all the beats and writing all the hooks. I would only say it was difficult because I wanted each song to coincide with the last one. It was about, “Alright, if I rap about a song while talking to my girl on the phone, how do I bring that about again at the end of the album? I have a conversation with my pops at the beginning – how do I correlate that at the end?” That’s really what was more difficult, like, how do I make a story sound cinematic on wax?
You just said you have a lot of guest spots coming up on Live from the Underground. Can you talk about who those are?
No. (Laughs) But I will say that Big Sant is on the project, and you know we dropped “Money on the Floor” featuring 8Ball, MJG and 2 Chainz. It means so much for me not to expose or tell people who’s featured on the project. In particular, there’s one feature that I want people to hear on the record…and June’s right around the corner! It’s not that far away!
The mixtape has only been out for two days, but it’s already getting a lot of praise. There isn’t an easy way to segue into this, but the Internet calls something a classic, and then forgets about it a week later. Is that something you worry about?
Nah. Just because someone can say they’re listening to something right then, they might be listening to something a week later but not tweet about it. For me it’s just dope to see people comment on it, negative or positive, because at least you listened to it. It’s a great way to see how many people are really checking for your music. For the most part though, you’ve just got to stay making quality music.
There are a bunch of samples on 4evaNaDay. Actually, first of all, “Temptation” is my favorite track on the tape.
A-ha, that’s great.
…because of course, I love strip club songs. But I’m wondering, when you flipped that Beastie Boys sample, did you first associate it with them, Odd Future or Big Tuck?
Ah, man, that’s dope. I would say I thought of Three 6 Mafia’s “I’m So High.” Yeah, you totally looked over Three 6 Mafia. You out, bruh. (Laughs) I went from Three 6 Mafia back to the Beastie Boys, and then realized, damn, that’s “Get Money” by Big Tuck. That’s how it worked for me.
You’re going on tour with J. Cole.
What are the rules of the road with Big KRIT?
Man, you’ve gotta be careful outchea! Definitely don’t go anywhere in the city you don’t know – always have someone with you, for one. Two, never give out your real hotel room. I think that’s a rule in the game, period, you know? I’m saying! Meet ’em in the lobby, and then figure things out from there. As far as paraphernalia on my bus, I’m not really about that life. I drink anyway, so you can’t really get on me about having alcohol on my bus. For the most part, though, we play it safe, man. At the end of the day, I’m really going to these cities, to these schools, to perform. If I party I’m really going to be off-campus, trust me.
You’re returning to New York’s Highline Ballroom on Thursday after getting booed there two years ago. Any nerves?
It’s a good opportunity to showcase the music, man. My show, my energy, everything about it has changed since Return of 4Eva, and also everything has changed since I was there and I got booed. It’s a lot of different kinds of emotions and excitements.
Bun B once told me that physical albums were so important to his fanbase, because he comes from a car culture in Texas. As someone who is equally indebted to the Internet and Mississippi, where do you fit in on this?
It’s still extremely important. You still have to press up your CDs and put them out in the streets. A lot of people still like to have the physical CD, the booklet, and to be able to put it in that case. I mean, my music is definitely considered the kind of music you play in your car, that gets you from Point A to Point B. So, I understand how important it is to press up my music and give it out, hand-to-hand, just as much as it is to give it out on the Internet.
Do you think that’s strictly a Southern thing?
I would like to think not! Everyone should still want to put their music out, because it’s important that people still think that you are still willing to come to them. When you’re dealing with the Internet, it’s a “come to me” situation. But when people see you out-and-about, promoting your merch and in the club, people enjoy that, too. Because it means you still haven’t forgotten about the real-life grind.