A year after the release of his critically-acclaimed Cadillactica
, Big K.R.I.T. returned this month with a surprise mixtape called It’s Better This Way
. The cover, drawn by Eric Bailey, shows a cartoon K.R.I.T. standing at a crossroads. It’s classic fork-in-the-road stuff; Mordor vs the Shire, the road on the left gloomy and desolate, the other sunny, blue-skied and cartoonishly green (it is
a cartoon). Signs pointing to the left say Regular, Follower, Ordinary, Pressure. Pointing to the right, a sign reads: It’s Better This Way
. Seems like a no-brainer.
Ambitious people don’t usually tout the “easy road”, nor do they celebrate it with cover art, but as Big K.R.I.T. explained to CP
, the sunshine here isn’t about process, it’s about results. With this mixtape, the 29-year-old is shrugging off expectations and arguing that he’s better off, and we as his audience are too, when he does things his own way. Okay, granted, that’s pretty vanilla as far as revelations go, but it’s an internal one for K.R.I.T., and the external results sell the point. It’s a solid mixtape, far better than it needs to be, and a good indication of what to expect from him down the road.
With another release scheduled for next month (more about that later) and a 39 – city tour hitting Mr. Smalls tomorrow, City Paper caught up with Big K.R.I.T. in Atlanta via phone while he prepped for the road.
How do you spend the days leading up to a big tour?
Normally just try to relax, enjoy my house. You know trying to mentally prepare myself to really just put on the best show I possibly can, every day. And then rehearsals every day up until that point too because I’m definitely gonna be performing a lot of new content, so just wanna make sure everything’s perfectly tight and put together as far as creating a experience for the people. That’s really what’s going on. The last two days I try to make sure I got my wardrobe right and everything’s cleaned up with the house. Laundry, that’s what’s going on.
What’s the idea behind the title and cover art for It’s Better This Way?
For me, it’s just about always wanting to go with my good instinct musically. And when it comes to my projects, the music I create, normally not doing what everybody else is doing.
It was always better for me to go the way that I felt internally, that fit my personality, talking about my journey and where I would like to go musically. So It’s Better This Way
is just me kinda relating to the people that the way I do music, the way I put out music, how I am creatively, is just better for me as a person and a musician. And once you sit down and listen to it, you’ll really understand “oh okay, it’s better to get this kind of music from K.R.I.T., you’re not gonna get it from anybody else, not this kinda music.”
Who drew the cover?
Eric Bailey did the cover art for It’s Better This Way
, he also did the cover art for Return of 4eva
, cover art for 4eva And A Day
, Live At The Underground
cover art, King Remembered For A Time
cover art, too. It’s just amazing to be around the kind of artist that I can give him an idea and he can just collaborate on it so much, turn it into a body of work on its own.
So you tell him about the vibe of the record and he takes a stab at it?
Yeah definitely. And he always brings it more to life man, but for me it starts off with me scribbling something on a piece of paper and then I’ll send it to him and he turns it into what he turns it into.
You’ve been releasing a lot of music over the past year, with Cadillactica in October 2014, handful of collaborations over the year, then a mixtape last week, and it was recently announced that All My Life will be released in November-
Nah that’s not my Def Jam major label album. That’s something ... somebody bought masters of my music. That’s not something directly from Motown Def Jam.
Okay, either way, your output is pretty non-stop. Do you write a lot of music when you’re on tour?
Normally I don’t rap that much because after every performance every night, my voice isn’t in the kind of shape that where you could cut a record and sound 100 percent. So I try to focus on the production aspect.
Do you have a good setup in your bus, or you just need a laptop for that?
Just a laptop, man. Normally just a laptop, and a good mic. I’m actually more familiar with a very small compact idea as far as that setup is concerned, versus the huge boards you see in the studio.
Which part of the process do you enjoy more: performing or writing?
I would always prefer to be able to sit down, at the crib, or go to the studio, and work. Normally on a bus there’s a lot of things that you have to take into consideration. Gotta deal with the bus humming, the engine is always on so you gotta deal with that. Me, I’m the kinda person, I’m so focused on the show depending on where we’re going and if we adding new content, then it’s kinda hard to just sit down and focus on a track and write and try to remember certain things ...
Got anything new for this tour?
Oh yeah, man. I don’t know if you’ve been seeing on my Instagram, but I got a band, so that’s gonna complete the dynamic, of what people are seeing with me and my shows. Dibia$e, the main DJ, now he has the opportunity to turn the turntable in an instrument all his own. I’m excited ... but I really don’t wanna go too hard into telling people what’s going on, but it’s definitely going to be a shift in how certain songs and the way I perform them, and which songs I perform.
What else do you have on tap for this year?
Yeah man, as for me and my next album-album, it's gonna probably be next year. It’s Better This Way
for me is probably the last project of this year that I put out, that I actually creatively, you know I had something to do with ...
And I just wanna let people know that certain amount of confusion thinking that [All My Life
] is my next major label album, it’s not. It ain’t no beef or nothing like that, nothing at all, it’s just different, it’s work I did years ago that somebody owns, versus what I’m doing now.
Big K.R.I.T. 8 p.m. Thu., Oct. 29. Mr. Small’s Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $18-20. All ages. 412-821-4447 or mrsmalls.com