Big K.R.I.T. – Live From The Underground [Review]

Let’s get a few things out of the way. I am a Big K.R.I.T. supporter. However, if you think that means I give biased reviews, check out the pain that is that Common review. I pride myself on being as unbiased as possible, just because I support you doesn’t mean I’ll lie about how an album is. I’ve been openly skeptical of how good this album could be based on how dope the mixtapes have been. I simply don’t know that he can keep putting out solid material, especially once a label starts dictating that certain records and features take place. We all know who K.R.I.T. is at this point, we all know what he’s done, and we’ve all been waiting for this album. While I’m aware that I will catch heat for this review no matter how I score it, let’s just get to it.

*All songs produced by Big K.R.I.T.

1. Lfu300ma (Intro)
In typical K.R.I.T. fashion, we get an cinematic treatment which serves as the appetizer for the rest of the album.

2. Live from the Underground
This song features K.R.I.T. spitting over a soulful track, you know, his typical shtick. In that same manner though, there’s nothing new or overwhelming about this one. It’s a good song featuring some dope production and a shoutout to 8Ball’s Lost, but other than that, it’s just a good song to ride to. It actually feels like intro part 2.

Forever tinted so you can’t peep while your bitch up in it
You call her phone she give you tone like “Why you trippin'”
Cold blooded ain’t it but that’s how it be when they want that cash
When you ain’t around anybody can be in that ass
Heard that from 8-Ball, “Homeboy Girlfriend”
If she a bopper then she probably ain’t your girl then
You claim you pimpin’ don’t be trickin’ wear a curl then
And find some paint to put some swirls in.

3. Cool 2 Be Southern
This is where the album really picks up both literally and figuratively. On an album that has been anticipated since his assault on the mixtape game began, K.R.I.T. uses this song to serve as his official coming out song to the commercial industry while being proudly southern to an industry that once shunned the south. He provides lush imagery on who he is and where he’s from complete with soul claps, humming, horns and trunk rattling bass in case you didn’t understand what he meant when he said it. I imagine that by the time this review is posted, it will be hard to go a few miles without hearing this blaring from the speakers. It definitely has a triumphant march declaring the South is back…not that it’s gone anywhere. (Update: Album just dropped and I heard this song from 2 different cars)

4. I Got This
I didn’t listen to every single leak from this album because I wanted to save something for the album. This is one of those I skipped when we posted it previously. I’m kinda glad I did because I think it gave a different impression of what the album would be like and in turn, killed some of my anticipation for the album. Not that this is a bad song, but it’s drastically different than the majority of the album. In context with the rest of the album, it does seem to blend in nicely adding a nice touch of tempo to the album and a vintage touch on the track. The high pitched tone on the track makes me think of some old school MC Breed.

5. Money on the Floor
Featuring 8Ball & MJG & 2 Chainz
Man, I remember when 8Ball & MJG used to drop shit like this regularly, pre Diddy mistake. This shit is nothing but southern goodness and really an homage to the music of the Orange Mound bred Hip Hop legends. This is another I skipped when we posted it because I already knew it would be dope…even with the 2Chainz verse.

6. What U Mean
Featuring Ludacris
Calling all strippers and strip clubs. I’d like to introduce you to a mandatory song for the playlist, you’re welcome. Hell even I find this one hard to deny. This is a song crafted for a Pimp C (r.i.p.) verse if there ever was one. While he really seems at home when draped with soulful samples, K.R.I.T. shows his diversity once again with a undeniable dance club record that refuses you to allow you to sit still. His love affair with the south and the southern car culture are very well documented on this record….hell I wish I had a slab just to blast this shit.  Luda slides on the track and drops what maybe the first commercial reference to “pink toe” on wax. He does his thing lyrically on this song and proves that he hasn’t really fallen off as far as we previously thought.

7. My Sub (Pt. 2: The Jackin’)
“My Sub” is one of my favorite songs by the southern hero. I’m not completely sold on this song that sounds like it’s begging for a Yelawolf feature. The pace of the song changes drastically after “the jackin'” and serves to work as a transition point for the album back to a slower pace. Staying true to his artistic expression, this song becomes another scene in what has become the movie of this album pairing this song with the next via story and transition.

8. Don’t Let Me Down
We go from a song that ends with the homie bein’ set up by someone he trusted to a song that talks about the experience of dealing with those failures that you can’t avoid. Everyone wants to talk about strength and being stone-faced when dealing with hardships. K.R.I.T. uses this song to say when things fail, don’t let it stop your hustle, those that have my back don’t fail me and for people that are in those times now, this is your song to drink to.

But i can’t fault them for their feelings ‘cuz i know the score
It’s hard to celebrate for others when you’re dying poor
So i keep rolling low-key, dolo, trying not to stunt
I crank my system ’til it’s clipping then i let it thump
Put all my problems in my cup while i grip the wheel
There’s too much money to be had, i ain’t sitting still
A country boy trying to make these petty ends meet
I learned my lesson, can’t trust these niggas ‘cuz they envy
Can’t stop no show, I’m about this dough, and that’s all i can say
Thank god for everything, I coulda died like yesterday
Make room for me in case my plane just ain’t meant to fly
I hope he there if I fall from the sky, hollering out don’t let me die

9. Porchlight
Featuring Anthony Hamilton
This is my favorite all around song on the album. The production sounds more soulful than most anything put out in the R&B category in the last 3 years. It’s blessed with thick basslines, blended musical harmonies, and Anthony Hamilton adding that emotionally painful touch that puts this song over the top. Any man that is out there grinding those long last hours on the corners, on the road, or otherwise outside the confines of your home, let this be your anthem. I gotta appreciate the way that he’s expressed love and dedication to the house and the lady of such without sacrificing his cool or gangster.

10. Pull Up
Featuring Big Sant & Bun B
Welcome to the beautiful lovechild of a song that is about feelin’ like the shit and a hook that may help you catch a beat down for announcing you feel that way. “When I pull up, it’s ova / betta cuff yo chick / this shit here legit”. In tune with the rest of the album, the track continues to be steeped in southern traditional syrupy slow drawl with a bounce backbeat that begs your to test your speakers. Big Sant (who’s project is coming soon) continues to show promise and provide interest while Bun B has never met a beat that he can’t ride (pause).

11. Yeah Dats Me
I told you when this song was posted that I wasn’t keeping it…hasn’t changed. I don’t like this song at all and it’s the only really off moment on the album thusfar. From the old sounding track and tempo to the – man, if you heard it, you know why I’m SKIPping this one. No need to drag this out.

12. Hydroplaining
Featuring Devin the Dude
When you take an already slow song and place it after a frantic paced song, it seems that much slower. I like this combo of Devin and K.R.I.T. but this one isn’t as memorable as “Moon $ Stars.” Then again, I was sober when I heard it. Not insinuating that  you need to be high to like the song, but I imagine that such an atmospheric sounding, layered song with the same type of subject-matter would resonate with you better if you got some of that loudpack (c) King Jerm.

13. If I Fall
Featuring Melanie Fiona
I could almost copy and paste what I said about “Porchlight” and paste it here. Without a loss of soul the production focuses more on drumwork and the lyrics seem to be part 2 to “Don’t Let Me Down.” This version is more about the sacrifices and choices one has to make to get to the greater later. The first verse mimics the sentiment that you hear from the hood about not having anyway out so they sell/jack to get a way out. The idea being that the cornered animal will attack but that doesn’t make him violent. The second verse continues in that story, speaking more about a mother’s love and concern while her baby handles his business in the streets. The last verse speaks to the way relationships are sometimes casualties to success. There is an undeniable stress put on relationships when someone is focused more on a personal goal, even if the end is about elevating a group or couple. The magic of this familiar story told in 3 verses is the way it’s told and the expression of emotions instead of the grit.

14. Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Musically, this one doesn’t get me as hype or put me in nearly the same mood as most of his music. It’s really stripped down to simple piano playing, very sparse drums and a few other elements giving it a really spiritual feeling. This is very appropriate because the story K.R.I.T. tells on this is one of my favorites. In a culture littered with misogyny and folks who don’t know their dads, we get a tale about a coming of age and the development of someone shaped by their fathers advice and not his wallet. Totally transitioning the popular “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” title into something more tangible and practical to the streets helps make this song one of my favorites by the southern poet. If I was an asshole, I’d try to make issue with it not feeling like the album or not being as entertaining as some of the other songs, but it’s much more important than many of the others and it’s not meant to be an entertaining song. K.R.I.T. is never afraid of pointing out that he makes album and not hits, and this is a perfect example. When you step back and look at the album, it’s extremely poignant that this song is not only left on an album that will be many folks first spin of a K.R.I.T. album, but when you realize that this song is on a commercial release, it feels like Hip Hop is back.

15. Praying Man
Featuring B.B. King
Much like the previous song, this is music for your soul far and above music for your speakers. Again, not saying this is a bad song by any means, but the power lies in the message for sure. K.R.I.T. takes poetic license and crafts this song on a foundation of “Strange Fruit” and blues mentality. While spiritual like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” this song seems to be a veiled gospel song…or maybe not so veiled depending on who hears it. It speaks to the way prayers are answered especially in the midst of trouble when things seem the most hopeless. This song fits in perfectly with the previous songs on this album about struggle, failure, perseverance and obstacles. The man that listens to each story of struggle and cuts him from his oppressor is clearly someone who hears him and is with him when he only sees one set of footprints in the sand. The man meets him where he is and releases him…if that ain’t God, what is? It’s also dope to note that each story has roots in the story of “us” and not the story of a southern rapper named Justin Scott aka Big K.R.I.T. Sometimes we feel alienated by the people that take the mic because we haven’t sold drugs, don’t have a record, and have never toted a gun but slavery and the idea of oppression is one that we all seem to feel no matter where we are in life. I never picked cotton, but I still feel funny about those “…fabric of our life” commercials.

16. Live from the Underground (Reprise)
Featuring Ms. Linnie
We end the album with a reprise clocking about 1/3 the BPM of the initial version. This sort of makes the album feel like it’s going into an interlude and not ending. Maybe that’s the goal. Either way, it’s definitely a soft edge draped in harmonicas, harmonies, tambourines a jam session vibe. It’s a smoothed out, southern way to end the album as we wait for the next release.

Bottom Line:
For the impatient/no frills folks: How does this compare to the mixtapes, I’m sure that’s all you want to know. So I’d say KWH is a 4.5, R4 is a 4.0 and 4E is a 3.5/4.0…this score at the bottom…

For those that read/plan to read/or just care about more than a short answer: As I stated earlier, K.R.I.T. makes no bones about making albums and not hits. This album, much like his mixtapes is another expression of that. This is where our track by track process may serve as a detriment to the album. While it allows us to talk in depth about each song and break down what we hear/learn about the songs, it can take away from what we present as the overall score. That aside, the album is a great. It does seem to blend the 3 albums personalities with stories from the streets, the personal stories, and even those other songs that seem to have shaped K.R.I.T.’s development as an artist. He describes his process as one that starts with the track, goes into the hook, and bleeds into the verses and I disagree. I think the overwhelming majority of his songs start with intent and purpose and from there, to the track and onward. His highest marks come from him being honest and making honest music with defiance to the system clamoring for the next clone fresh off the charts. He not only makes it cool to be southern, he makes it cool to be lyrical and have substance. Just like his mixtapes, this album is proudly southern and serves as a time machine to an era when the radio played what the streets needed to hear and not what the executives decided they wanted to hear. Live From The Underground may be the final jewel in the crown (preceded by Cole World, Pl3dgeCharity Starts at Home and R.A.P. Music) that now resides in the South as the kings of Hip Hop.