T Nation

Rapper Big K.R.I.T

I just wanted to shed some light on probably my favourite musician right now. His name is Big K.R.I.T, he’s been in the hip-hop game since 2005 but has really broken through in the last couple of years. His debut album Live from the Underground came out last year to critical acclaim and success. However, it’s his mixtapes that really stand out. He’s released three free mixtapes over the past three years, all of which could pass as top-rated albums. He recently released the third mixtape King Remembered in Time that I can’t get enough of it - I’ve been bumping in nearly everyday, like what I did with the previous mixtape.

Everyone’s been hyping Jay Cole and Kendrick Lamar over the past few years as the saviours of modern hip-hop, and probably rightfully so, but KRIT, although he has been receiving his share of high praise, deserves just as much adulation as them IMO.

He’s a southern rapper so he has that definitely discernible UGK and Outkast influence but don’t just judge him as just any rapper from the south. I really like him because of how distinct his sampling is - a lot of rock, Motown, jazz and funk, which seems to be a thing of the past. I definitely feel he effectively combines an old-school sound with a modern vibe.

Oh, and he produces most of his stuff. Super talented. If you’re a hip-hop head I highly recommend you download the free mixtapes, you can thank me later:

Album:

One of my favourite tracks:

This shit sucks. There goes three minutes and thirty-six seconds of my life that I can never get back.

He flows like a stubborn shit coming out of my ass after I drank a half-gallon of milk. Half of it sounds more like shitty spoken word than actual rapping. His delivery has little to no rhythm and it comes across as pretty monotone, other than that weird, off-putting way he has of pronouncing the “-all” sound.

I would kill to hear someone attempt a rap song in something other than 4/4 time. I know it would be hard and might even sound kinda weird, but I’d love to hear someone try to rap in 7/8 time, which is definitely a time signature that can groove despite being an odd time signature (see: The Ocean by Led Zeppelin). Or how about something in 6/8 or, GASP, 5/4 time? If a guy can flow well, he can sound good over multiple time signatures. I’m sure Jay-Z could pull it off.

Why is it that hip-hop has literally zero progression? How about a song that is IN 4/4 but has a displaced backbeat in it instead of ALWAYS being on 2 and 4? Is it beyond comprehension to introduce some fucking syncopation into the narrow world of hip-hop? And by funk, I don’t mean some James Brown samples but some actual, original funk.

And why don’t we see more live bands not called The Roots making music? It seems like, other than The Roots, every time a rapper introduces a live guitar sound into his music it’s just some warped attempt at “going rock”, like that Godawful shit that Lil’ Wayne put out a few years ago.

I like this one

His beats are tight.

I will also agree with DB that some real funk should be sampled more. The idea of an actual band is also appealing

Makes me miss the likes of Curtis Mayfield and Issac Hayes.

Anyone who raps about boobies is OK in my book.

[quote]super saiyan wrote:
Anyone who raps about boobies is OK in my book.[/quote]

Unfortunately not about an extremely long pair of titties.

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:
Anyone who raps about boobies is OK in my book.[/quote]

Unfortunately not about an extremely long pair of titties.[/quote]

I was picturing a long stretch of highway and each mile was marked with a different set of boobs.

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:
Anyone who raps about boobies is OK in my book.[/quote]

Unfortunately not about an extremely long pair of titties.[/quote]

I was picturing a long stretch of highway and each mile was marked with a different set of boobs.[/quote]

The boobs get increasingly more beautiful and alluring in an effort to counteract the boredom of the driver and prevent sleep accidents right? I think you’re on to something.

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:
Anyone who raps about boobies is OK in my book.[/quote]

Unfortunately not about an extremely long pair of titties.[/quote]

I was picturing a long stretch of highway and each mile was marked with a different set of boobs.[/quote]

The boobs get increasingly more beautiful and alluring in an effort to counteract the boredom of the driver and prevent sleep accidents right? I think you’re on to something.[/quote]

But then every once in a while throw in some old or disfigured boobs to keep everyone on their toes.

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:
Anyone who raps about boobies is OK in my book.[/quote]

Unfortunately not about an extremely long pair of titties.[/quote]

I was picturing a long stretch of highway and each mile was marked with a different set of boobs.[/quote]

The boobs get increasingly more beautiful and alluring in an effort to counteract the boredom of the driver and prevent sleep accidents right? I think you’re on to something.[/quote]

But then every once in a while throw in some old or disfigured boobs to keep everyone on their toes.[/quote]

Miss. Mile Seventeen thinks that was a great idea.

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]Big Kahuna wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:
Anyone who raps about boobies is OK in my book.[/quote]

Unfortunately not about an extremely long pair of titties.[/quote]

I was picturing a long stretch of highway and each mile was marked with a different set of boobs.[/quote]

The boobs get increasingly more beautiful and alluring in an effort to counteract the boredom of the driver and prevent sleep accidents right? I think you’re on to something.[/quote]

But then every once in a while throw in some old or disfigured boobs to keep everyone on their toes.[/quote]

Miss. Mile Seventeen thinks that was a great idea.[/quote]

LOL… gross

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
This shit sucks. There goes three minutes and thirty-six seconds of my life that I can never get back.

He flows like a stubborn shit coming out of my ass after I drank a half-gallon of milk. Half of it sounds more like shitty spoken word than actual rapping. His delivery has little to no rhythm and it comes across as pretty monotone, other than that weird, off-putting way he has of pronouncing the “-all” sound.

I would kill to hear someone attempt a rap song in something other than 4/4 time. I know it would be hard and might even sound kinda weird, but I’d love to hear someone try to rap in 7/8 time, which is definitely a time signature that can groove despite being an odd time signature (see: The Ocean by Led Zeppelin). Or how about something in 6/8 or, GASP, 5/4 time? If a guy can flow well, he can sound good over multiple time signatures. I’m sure Jay-Z could pull it off.

Why is it that hip-hop has literally zero progression? How about a song that is IN 4/4 but has a displaced backbeat in it instead of ALWAYS being on 2 and 4? Is it beyond comprehension to introduce some fucking syncopation into the narrow world of hip-hop? And by funk, I don’t mean some James Brown samples but some actual, original funk.

And why don’t we see more live bands not called The Roots making music? It seems like, other than The Roots, every time a rapper introduces a live guitar sound into his music it’s just some warped attempt at “going rock”, like that Godawful shit that Lil’ Wayne put out a few years ago.

[/quote]

You only listened to one song.

How about this? BB King actually recorded the song with him, it’s not a sample.

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
This shit sucks. There goes three minutes and thirty-six seconds of my life that I can never get back.

He flows like a stubborn shit coming out of my ass after I drank a half-gallon of milk. Half of it sounds more like shitty spoken word than actual rapping. His delivery has little to no rhythm and it comes across as pretty monotone, other than that weird, off-putting way he has of pronouncing the “-all” sound.

I would kill to hear someone attempt a rap song in something other than 4/4 time. I know it would be hard and might even sound kinda weird, but I’d love to hear someone try to rap in 7/8 time, which is definitely a time signature that can groove despite being an odd time signature (see: The Ocean by Led Zeppelin). Or how about something in 6/8 or, GASP, 5/4 time? If a guy can flow well, he can sound good over multiple time signatures. I’m sure Jay-Z could pull it off.

Why is it that hip-hop has literally zero progression? How about a song that is IN 4/4 but has a displaced backbeat in it instead of ALWAYS being on 2 and 4? Is it beyond comprehension to introduce some fucking syncopation into the narrow world of hip-hop? And by funk, I don’t mean some James Brown samples but some actual, original funk.

And why don’t we see more live bands not called The Roots making music? It seems like, other than The Roots, every time a rapper introduces a live guitar sound into his music it’s just some warped attempt at “going rock”, like that Godawful shit that Lil’ Wayne put out a few years ago.

[/quote]

Track starts at 35s

[quote]H1989S wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
This shit sucks. There goes three minutes and thirty-six seconds of my life that I can never get back.

He flows like a stubborn shit coming out of my ass after I drank a half-gallon of milk. Half of it sounds more like shitty spoken word than actual rapping. His delivery has little to no rhythm and it comes across as pretty monotone, other than that weird, off-putting way he has of pronouncing the “-all” sound.

I would kill to hear someone attempt a rap song in something other than 4/4 time. I know it would be hard and might even sound kinda weird, but I’d love to hear someone try to rap in 7/8 time, which is definitely a time signature that can groove despite being an odd time signature (see: The Ocean by Led Zeppelin). Or how about something in 6/8 or, GASP, 5/4 time? If a guy can flow well, he can sound good over multiple time signatures. I’m sure Jay-Z could pull it off.

Why is it that hip-hop has literally zero progression? How about a song that is IN 4/4 but has a displaced backbeat in it instead of ALWAYS being on 2 and 4? Is it beyond comprehension to introduce some fucking syncopation into the narrow world of hip-hop? And by funk, I don’t mean some James Brown samples but some actual, original funk.

And why don’t we see more live bands not called The Roots making music? It seems like, other than The Roots, every time a rapper introduces a live guitar sound into his music it’s just some warped attempt at “going rock”, like that Godawful shit that Lil’ Wayne put out a few years ago.

[/quote]

Track starts at 35s
[/quote]

Not a fan. Besides, just like I was griping about, once the dude actually starts rapping, the drummer plays a pretty straightforward groove, in 4/4, with the backbeat strictly on 2 and 4. He played some funkier, displaced backbeat stuff during the intro, but the part where the dude is actually rapping is pretty mundane drumming. Not that he isn’t a good drummer, but I’m thinking more along the lines of something like the drums in “Mother Popcorn” or “I Got the Feelin’” by James Brown, or the groove during the main riff of “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin. If you listen to the drums during the main riff on No Quarter, the backbeat on the snare is on two, the and of three, the and of four (one and TWO and three AND four AND five and SIX and seven and EIGHT), six and eight.

Mother Popcorn is a super funky groove on the drums with a displaced backbeat. There’s a lot of ghost notes played on the snare throughout, a trademark of Clyde Stubblefield’s, but the accented notes on the snare are on two, the and of four, the e of seven and on eight (one e and u TWO e and u three e and u four e AND u five e and u six e and u seven E and u EIGHT). It’s a two-measure groove (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8) and the backbeat is only right on the quarter note twice, on the second and last quarter note of the groove.

Cold Sweat is a simpler groove with a displaced backbeat on the and of four in a two-measure groove (one and TWO and three and four AND five and SIX and seven and EIGHT and).

That’s what I mean by a displaced backbeat, for those who aren’t drummers out there. A lot of hip-hop adds an extra accented snare note somewhere in there or maybe they might remove a snare note entirely on two or four, but it’s never displaced. That’s where the funky, syncopated sound of James Brown comes from in many ways. It’s simple, but it breaks up the rhythm a little bit and makes if funky.

Shit, even Whole Lotta Love by Zeppelin features a displaced backbeat in a one-measure groove, with the backbeat coming on 2 and the and of four (one and TWO and three and four AND one and TWO and three and four AND).

It would require whoever’s rapping to have a bit of a syncopated delivery instead of flowing along nice and smoothly. And what about something in a 7/8 meter? You know, one and TWO and three and FOUR and five and SIX and seven and and one and TWO and three and FOUR and five and SIX and seven and and etc etc. The opening riff to The Ocean is in 7/8 and it grooves just as well as anything I’ve heard in 4/4 time. “March of the Pigs” by NIN has three measures of 7/8 and then two measures of 4/4 (basically 7/8, 7/8, 7/8, 8/8) and it sounds killer as well.

Why is there literally nothing like this in hip-hop? Why is this particular musical genre not progressing AT ALL? It’s the same shit today that it was 25 years ago, for the most part. The only thing that’s really changed is the type of samples used. I’ve noticed that there’s WAY more shit out there with 1/16 notes played on the hi-hats, but even then, it’s ALWAYS straight 16ths on the hi-hats instead of accented 1/16 notes, with the accent on the 8th notes (ONE e AND uh TWO e AND u THREE e AND u FOUR e AND u).

I think this song is a perfect illustration of where hip-hop drumming/beats could be going but isn’t, except for what ?uestlove is doing these days. But even then, it’s not a displaced backbeat, it’s simply removed in the first half of the main groove or replaced with ghost notes instead of an accented note and then in the second half of the main groove it’s on the and of one but also right on 2 and 4 as well. And the point is moot anyways since John Legend isn’t rapping but singing.

I’m not a huge fan. I’m not gonna look to deep into it like dbcooper (not having a dig at you, that was one very eloquent criticism) but I’m just not keen on his lyrics, his rapping or the beat.

That being said, you’ll never please 100% of the audience. I can see why others would like his music

A random hip hop video to enjoy

Hey DB, Nas did a song in 3/3 on one of his newer albums. Also, there was some tv show (probably on BET) that I watched where Method Man made some random beat for Ludicrus that was off-beat and ended up being like 5/4 or something if you actually counted it out and Luda wrote a verse to it and performed it before Method Man told him it was a joke. I’m sure you could appreciate those. Also, every now and then, I hear a rap song where the down beat/snare is not on 2 and 4 (actually in rap, they make it more simple and only count it in 1s and 2s, so it’s really more 2/2 than 4/4). It’s never a radio single where they do this stuff, but if you listen to whole albums instead of just radio rap, you’ll hear a lot more variation.

The problem is that rap, moreso than pretty much any other music is predicated on popularity, to the point where if an album does not have plenty of music that is something that can be danced to in a club and be completely radio sounding, record companies won’t sign or promote them. They play it safe just like the movie industry and keep rehashing things over and over.

In rap it’s really more about the image of the rapper and catchiness of the song than actually being a musician (assuming you include rap and related topics in your definition of music, which I do). Also, even if you want to get more into the artistry about it, rap is really more about the lyrics and delivery of them (and subject matter of the song) than the musicality. The majority of the musical part is done by the producer who makes the beat, which is normally not the actual rapper (but special credit should be given to those few rappers who DO produce their own music).

But the other issue is that pretty much every rap song is just a simple loop of the same 4 to 8 bars (measures) played over and over until they’ve fit in 2 long verses or 3 standard length verses and 2 to 4 choruses with maybe a bridge or 2 in the middle. So if they want to get very musical, they’re really limiting themselves.

However, if you think about it, most music of every kind is really just a continuous loop. Most rock and country music is like that. Almost all techno, house, reggae (especially reggaeton) is all just continuous loops of varying lengths. Yes, it’s more common for other genres to have slightly more variation than rap, in that regard. But at the same time, every genre has its own way of sounding repetitive. House and techno all has that same beat to it, as does reggae and reggaeton, so in that regard it’s really MORE repetitive. 99% of rock limits itself to various kinds of guitars, so you have the same instruments in every song. That doesn’t sound like variation to me. Rap usually uses the same down beat and rythms, but the producers do get quite creative in how they make their beats in regards to specific melodies/harmonies. They use different instruments and riffs and convey different emotions in those endless loop beats that they make (yes, while still keeping it mostly 4/4, like you said).

The only genre that is truly not repetitive and limiting itself is classical. Every other genre has unwritten rules and tendencies that keep all the music within the genre and thus limit it to at least a certain level of reptitiveness.

@ Tdub:

Thanks for the post. I did a little research and found a couple songs that were in odd time signatures (Underground by Eminem in 5/8 and some song by a dude known as Melanin in 3/4, although I think whether it’s 3/4 or alternating between 4/4 and 2/4 is debatable. There’s a song called 5/4 by The Gorillaz that’s in 5/4 but only the guitar part is; the beat is still in 4/4).

I also agree that virtually all music is pretty repetitive, but hip-hop is more guilty of this than any other genre I can think of. It’s become extremely stagnant. Rock has sort of become the same way, but the musicianship in rock is INFINITELY higher than it is in hip-hop. It’s one thing to be able to create a hip-hop song with cool samples and all that shit (which is definitely a talent). But it’s another thing entirely to come up with the melody/riff/beat/whatever on your own.

That’s another problem that I have with hip-hop. I know a lot of it isn’t sample-driven anymore, but most hip-hop is still sample-driven and I find that to be pretty fucking lame at this point. It’s time for producers to stop taking the music of others and reworking it into their own shit and start making their own shit entirely on their own. And not as the occasional departure from sampling but as the new norm in producing.

Anyways, with rock, as repetitive as it can be at times, there is still MUCH more variation in song structure than there is in hip-hop, due in large part to the much heavier emphasis on the instrumentation, whereas in hip-hop, like you said, the focus is mostly on the lyrical delivery. What’s really sad to see is that hip-hop for all intents and purposes is black music, and yet, virtually all of the nuances in song structure in popular music today comes from black music influences or a melding of African music with Western music. The blackest form of popular music today is actually the one that has abandoned literally all but just a couple of aspects of black music.

And if you want to hear some very non-repetitive rock that is atypical in structure, features a lot of odd time signatures or syncopated beats that may be in 4/4 but don’t sound anything like a typical 4/4 rhythm, I recommend NIN.

I usually am loathe to attach the word “genius” to a musician, especially contemporary ones, but Trent Reznor is probably the most deserving of that label in popular music today. A few songs that I would HIGHLY recommend checking out if you aren’t familiar with his work that illustrate my points about rhythm thus far:

The Collector (alternates between 3/4 and 4/4 or some shit like that. Dave Grohl plays the drums on that song.)
March of the Pigs (29/8 technically, but basically 7/8 three times and then 8/8 once)
Big Man With a Gun (4/4, but off-beat)
Burn (4/4 but with the accented snare note on two and then everything on the ANDs of three and four or something like that)
Even Deeper (4/4 but not your typical-sounding 4/4 beat)
La Mer (pretty straightforward beat, but with implied swing that sounds really nice, and while the drums are in 4/4, the piano is in 3/4, which I believe is also the case on Into the Void)
Please (another weird 4/4 beat)
The Big Come Down (another weird 4/4 beat)
Somewhat Damaged (9/8)
The Becoming (13/8, I think)
1,000,000 (similar to The Collector, but all in 4/4. Another thing I like about rock that hip-hop doesn’t do much of at all is simply put the snare on 1 and 3 instead of 2 and 4. Simple but effective change)
Letting You (2/4? Not really sure, but it sounds fucking awesome)
Head Down (not really sure about this one
Demon Seed (6/4)
Fur Lined (by How To Destroy Angels, Reznor’s new band with his wife)

Check these songs out on YouTube if you aren’t familiar with them. They’re all unusual beats that fucking deliver the goods big-time. Reznor does almost all of this shit himself with a drum machine (other than The Collector) so there’s no reason why any other hip-hop producer with some fucking talent can’t come up with some similar shit that a rapper with talent can flow over. And when you get right down to it, THAT is my gripe with hip-hop these days. There just isn’t the TALENT in it that there is in most other musical genres. I know it’s tough to hold someone to a standard as high as what Trent Reznor has set, but it’s high time for hip-hop to raise the bar a little higher than it is right now.

Otherwise, if it’s just a form of music structured purely around being popular and having mass appeal, then it is completely dead as an art form and as a serious form of music. If where hip-hop is destined to head is strictly based on popularity, even the underground shit which is really not much of a departure from the popular shit, structure-wise and from a musicianship perspective, then we may as well lump hip-hop into the same category as all the other bullshit pop music around today, like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers. That’s all it really is now: a more vulgar, misogynistic version of those artists.