Tonight marks the first time Meridian, Mississippi rap journeyman Big K.R.I.T. has ever set foot on a Brisbane stage. He’s brought his Southern-smoked, Cadillac-riding brand of rap to our shores for the first time ever for his Handsome tour, and we got along to his gig tonight at Fortitude Valley institution, The Zoo on Ann Street.
Supporting K.R.I.T. tonight is Melbourne hip hop duo Milwaukee Banks. Comprised of producer Edo and rapper Dyl Thomas, the duo play to probably one of the sparsest Friday night crowds I’ve ever seen at The Zoo. Full disclosure: the Broncos are playing (and giving the Storm an absolute dusting) in a huge semi final at Lang Park tonight, so a huge number of Brisbaneites are either at the game or the pub or home watching, but I still feel for the pair, whose eclectic mix of electro and the Southern hip hop beats that probably brought them to the attention of their headliner are absolutely fantastic. Credit to their sheer professionalism and unwavering stage presence that they still play as though it was to a crowd of several hundred instead of several dozen.
The wait between Milwaukee Banks and Big K.R.I.T. is a lengthier one than advertised, probably to allow the very slowly growing crowd a bit more time to swell. I expected it to be a sardine tin of hip hop fans tonight, but there’s plenty of room to move. I love ya to bits Brisbane, but you done goofed on this one. Nonetheless, the moshpit of faithful marks Big K.R.I.T.’s arrival with rapture.
When I interviewed him just last month, he promised he would be bringing the energy to his live performances down here, and he did not disappoint one bit. Like Milwaukee Banks before him, Big K.R.I.T. is a true professional, and plays to the crowd as though they were 10 000 strong. His hype man and DJ does his job admirably in between tracks, and Big K.R.I.T. bounds across every inch of The Zoo stage. He kicks the set off with a face-punching rendition of Country Shit that the crowd goes bonkers for.
He rips through tracks new and old, giving the crowd barnstorming renditions of New Agenda, Rotation from the Return Of 4Eva mixtape and Lac Lac, the A$AP Ferg featuring cut from his Cadillactica sophomore album. He launches into the staccato hook from the title track off of that same album and it’s rabidly received.
Some fantastic DJ scratches gives the subwoofer tribute song My Sub Pt. 3 (Big Bang) a deliciously old school feel. The southern soul gets ramped up to 11 on the Rico Love featuring track Pay Attention, the crowd chanting ‘show out when you show up’ straight back at Big K.R.I.T. and the trap beats rattling the bones of the crowd.
The DJ is smoking a cigar onstage, giving precious few fucks. K.R.I.T.’s run through of Soul Food is sublime. He shows his appreciation to the crowd by slapping fives with just about everyone in attendance within arm’s reach. He spits through a euphoric rendition of I Got This, imploring the crowd to put their middle fingers up to mark of a snarling rebuke of ‘fuck these haters and fuck these hoes’.
The crowd in attendance may be a whole lot less than what Big K.R.I.T. is used to as one of the best and brightest young rappers of his era, but like the man they came here to see, they bring energy enough for a crowd five times as large and you get the very real sense that he appreciates it. There may not be many able to attest to it, but those who can will tell you that they witnessed something special at The Zoo tonight. As he told me in our interview, he never expected the music he started making in his grandmother’s Mississippi basement to resonate enough with an Australian audience to be able to play live to one, but the rabid few here tonight tell a different story.
Half of them may never have seen a Cadillac in person and their idea of soul food might be chicken soup (I kid, I don’t think anyone here isn’t a diehard fan well-versed in Southern tropes) but what they do appreciate is a rapper who brings the noise, who brings the charisma and the energy and who plays with the same fire and passion regardless of the circumstances. Big K.R.I.T. has all those qualities and more, is a true entertainer and a student of the game and it was an absolute pleasure to witness him perform tonight.
The man might be humble in his offstage persona, but his live show is anything but. Hopefully we see him back here sooner rather than later.