Big K.R.I.T. ‘Believe me, I believe in energy and I believe in passion’

Big K.R.I.T. is at the front of the charge of contemporary Southern rap, with all of the soul and the grittiness of his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi flowing proudly through his veins, his Dirty South drawl an absolute treat to listen to. He’s due out in Australia for the first time ever in just two short weeks for OutsideIn Festival, alongside Bilal, Devid The Dude, Stormzy and more. We jumped at the chance to talk to one of the best young rappers in the game:

Hi Big K.R.I.T. Where are we finding you at the moment?

I’m in Atlanta right now brother, just left the radio station and I’m headed back to the studio. It never stops, always working.

Good to hear! Late night putting in work then?

Always, always.

Hit that coffee. You’ve had Cadillactica drop last year and it made number one on the US Rap charts as well as cracking the top five on Billboard. Congratulations on that. Do you feel that there’s more pressure on you as an artist now to perform to a certain standard given you’re so well established?

For me, I’m one of my own worst critics and so I always want to challenge myself to do better and do more as an artist, as a producer, as a musician and as a person and a performer. And so for me it’s like I’ve never become complacent or comfortable with what I’m doing because I always want to give people more, especially when it comes to the quality of my music and so that’s why every album I go into a full-on stress mode here and there just wanting to make sure I’m giving my all and making sure it’s cohesive and complete in a way where people really enjoy it.

Just touching on the fact that you’re also an incredibly accomplished producer, what do you try and bring to the studio when you’re producing for another artist?

Just a lot of energy man, a vibe. A lot of the time when you’re in the studio with someone, especially if you don’t know them personally, you really want to kind of just have a conversation with them man and get a good understanding of what they want to do or what they’re into musically and kind of get a feel from there. Because even with my own sound and what I normally do, with it being so Southern and so soulful and so gritty, I still want to make it to where it sounds cohesive and the person sounds like they actually belong on the record. I never want to do a song where it sounds forced man.

For sure. It’s kind of a lesser known fact that you also produce the majority of your own work. Is it more comfortable for you to have that degree of control?

I will say I do but, as of lately and especially with Cadillactica, I started producing from the perspective of just trying to sit back and learn as a writer. And so when I went in on Cadillactica I didn’t produce everything on it and that was a first for me but it was great man because it kind of freed me up on a creative writing level to go further than where I’ve gone before in my opinion. And so being able to work with people like Raphael Saadiq, DJ Dahi, Terrace Martin, Jim Jonsin, working with these people it gave me a certain freedom as a writer and it was refreshing man.

And with these collaborations, both with producers and with artists (you’ve worked with some massive names in the industry like Ludacris and Big Boi, one of your fellow Southern rap contemporaries), is the process always harmonious? How do you approach any creative differences if they occur in the studio?

I’ve definitely humbled myself when it comes to working in the studio. If you go in you have to try and understand that it’s a collective effort to try and get the best song possible. Normally the positive energy outweighs any nervousness and any egos. And a lot of people that I’ve mentioned and you’ve mentioned are just good-hearted people who really love music, so at the end of the day when we go into the studio it’s really easy to create with them. And that’s how I approach it. I mean, everybody is competitive at the end of the day but when you’re writing songs if somebody goes harder than you or spits a crazy verse, instead of becoming the kind of artist who gets frustrated and wants to go back to the drawing board I like to think it’s all for the betterment of the record so the crazier the record, if everyone is spitting hard and going crazy on the record, it’s better for the songs and so it’s important for me to just drop the ego and stay humble in the studio.

Speaking of staying humble, I saw you post a photo of your very first ever tape, Dirty Thirty, that was all the way back in 2002!

Yeeeeeahhh man (laughs)

I just couldn’t believe that was 13 years ago. Just went to show that you haven’t forgotten where you’ve come from. Has there been any point for you since then, maybe a single moment where you’ve sat back and thought to yourself ‘yes, I’ve made it’?

One of those moments was when I had the opportunity to get into the studio with BB King. That was one of those moments where I just felt overwhelmed. I’m still overwhelmed. I did think to myself that I made it. Another moment outside of that was when they gave me my own day in my city. So October 2nd in Meridian, Mississippi is Big K.R.I.T. Day. That was another moment for me where I was like I’ve done something, I’ve accomplished something and I’ve made it. It’s been a long road. I’ve been rapping since 1999, Dirty Thirty came out, as you said, in 2002 and as you can see, it happened overnight for me.

My personal favourite highlight of yours was getting Cool 2 Be Southern on the 2K15 soundtrack!

Ohhhh yeah! Yeah that was big! That was big!

I always want to get it as the random song you get with the intro video sometimes, to pump you up for a game. It’s such a ballin’ song, the beat just reminds me of like an ankle-breaker crossover man, I loved it.

(Laughs) Thanks man I appreciate that.

So you’re off to the studio tonight which means you’re obviously working on some more music as well. Have you got a lot of stuff you’re sitting on waiting to come out?

Definitely, I’m actually working from the perspective of going into the studio to give people some content, some music that I’m feeling right now. It’s not even necessarily for an album. I believe in quality over quantity so I just want to make sure it’s all the way right. Even if it’s for free or even if it’s considered a mixtape or whatever, I still believe in making it feel like an album and I still want it to compete with what other people are putting out now. I can’t help it, I’m competitive like that. I wouldn’t say it’s for my next album though but in saying that, it will be made in a way where it could be an album.

Sounds like a lot of creative freedom there. You’re about to come out to Australia on tour. Taken a while to get you out here but we’re glad you can make it. Anything you’re looking forward to doing while you’re out here?

Man that’s the thing, I have no idea what else to get into other than performing. I think just as far as touching down in Australia and just seeing what things are like over there and, on top of that, just seeing what kind of impact my music might have had over there. Because I never would have thought that me making the kind of records I was making way back in my grandmother’s house and the content I was rhyming about, I didn’t think I’d ever get the opportunity to come to Australia. So to have a tour in Australia going to more than one city, I’m real excited. I know you’re gonna be coming out to one of my shows, right?

I think you’re playing my hometown in Brisbane in a couple of week’s time and I’ll definitely be there. What can I (and the rest of your fans here) expect when we come to those shows?

Ah energy brother. Believe me, I believe in energy and I believe in passion. A lot of times at my shows, I’m not one of those people that likes to walk around the stage and getting the crowd to rap the rhymes back for me. I really believe in putting on the best show possible and it’s definitely a rollercoaster ride. People should definitely expect a lot of energy though, you can believe that.

Just to wrap it up, what can we expect from Big K.R.I.T. in the next year?

Ah man, I’ve got the Australian tour in two weeks and then I’ve got another tour starting October 22nd in the States. By that time there will be a project out. Also just trying to work with other artists and producers. Like you said, a lot of people don’t really know that I produce all my own music and so I’m just trying to broaden my horizons with that and just start producing for more artists. Not even hip hop man, talking blues, soul, trip hop and I’m even trying to get a couple of jazz records out there too so there’s a lot of things coming about on a creative level and just on a production level that I’m trying to work on. Lord willing that’s what the end of 2015 and going into 2016 will be about.

Staying busy, real glad to hear it. Enjoy yourself in the studio tonight man and we’re looking forward to seeing you get out here to Australia soon.

Man same to you brother. I appreciate it man.

Big K.R.I.T.’s Handsome tour is coming to Australia for the following dates:

Tue, Sep 22nd: Villa, Perth
Wed, Sep 23rd: Max Watt’s, Melbourne
Fri, Sep 25th: The Zoo, Brisbane
Sat, Sep 26th: Outsidein, Sydney 
Sun, Sep 27th: Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney