With the double-disc 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, Big K.R.I.T. has delivered what has been the consensus for the best album of his career, and one of the year’s top creative achievements. It didn’t come easy though: it took leaving his major label deal with Def Jam, time out of the spotlight, and surviving a bout with depression. In a conversation with REVOLT, Big K.R.I.T. talked about the sacredness of creativity, his favorite sub, and how he keeps the devil off.
A standout lyric on the album is on “Price of Fame,” where you say, “Justin Scott trapped as Big K.R.I.T. screaming, 'It's really me.'” What made you decide to make this a double album and split it into a Big K.R.I.T. side and a Justin Scott side?
I wanted to tell the duality of my life. This superhero confident lyricist musician Big K.R.I.T., and sometimes how it is when I’m at home and I deal with the insecurities, anxieties, and pressures of life. Just the overall want to be happy, the pursuit, and finding out a way to put that on my album and make it sonically sound, the contrast. You can feel the frustration and the transparency in the music.
I always wanted to do a double album. I think I’ve been hinting at it for a while. Even on 4Eva N A Day, the cover, I’m letting you know how I deal with life. I like strip clubs, I don’t want to see my sister in one. Most of the stuff that we enjoy doing isn’t good for us. Then I would have trouble sequencing my albums. I would have a really crunk song, and then a really introspective one. The flow would change, and I didn’t want that this time.
On Twitter, you wrote, “my heart and soul was put into this.” How much did your time away from the spotlight help you craft this album?
Tremendously. I spent two years of really working on it, and going from being on the radar to not being on the radar, to becoming an independent artist, to going broke because I was investing all my money into this album. Then realizing, materialistic things wasn’t making me happy. The success that I saw and I wanted had happened, and I wasn’t comfortable with it or happy with it because I was chasing accolades and what my peers had gotten. Feeling like I deserved something I had never asked for in the first place. That I never set out for in the beginning of my career. When it’s quiet, and you’re not moving, and everything seems to slow down and people aren’t paying attention to you, that’s when it seems like you get to know yourself. I had to get to the bottom of it - that I wasn’t just creating for the purpose of people hearing music anymore. I had to get back to that. I had to become confident in what I was creating. There’s nothing wrong with creative criticism, but it can affect you so personally that it destroys your process, and I couldn’t let that happen anymore. The two years I spent were really getting to know myself, burying that person that was in that darkness, then coming out of that and being able to talk in that manner now, and being happy with how things flow. If this is my last project, I’m good with this. I’m comfortable with this one.
On each of your albums, whether it’s in a skit or a song, you speak how spiritual and sacred the act of creating is. It almost sounds like a prayer. When did you begin to see it that way?
I think I could see it that way when I was making my mixtapes. I could see it that way when I was creating in my grandmother’s house, when I played records for my partners. There was the freedom of creating. Nobody was expecting the music, I could just do whatever I wanted and we just dropped it whenever we felt like it. I think I lost sight of that once the business got so attached, because then you’re playing records for people who may not understand the culture or the nature of why you create in the first place. … But I went back and I figured out how to just do me again, and be comfortable with that idea.
But I think creating is sacred, and something we all have the capacity to do in whatever manner we want. We all have a canvas we can paint on in life. It’s our art form. As long as you believe in it, that’s really all that matters at the end of the day. That’s really what I’ve been trying to tell people the entire time with the music.
I said recently, find yourself somebody who loves you the way that Big K.R.I.T. loves his sub. What’s the best sub you’ve ever had, and what do you listen to test out a sub?
Obviously two 15’s. I had some Solar Barics, which really weren’t that crazy. But for what it was, when I was playing the music - this is back in 2007, when I bought my first Monte Carlo - that was so exciting. I would say those were the best ones I had. Because this was before the deal and all that, and I’m like ‘yo, I’m riding around in a Monte Carlo with some knock.” But fast forward, I would say the songs I like to try out in the trunk is “Two 15’s,” “My Sub III.” It’s crazy because I don’t really go that hard until I have to create one. “Subenstein” went through so much to make it sound the way it sounds, because I wanted it to sound obnoxious. But the first “My Sub” is a really good gauge of what it’s hitting at. That sub, I did it wrong, but it creates this frequency to where if you have enough bass in your car, it’s got a rhythm underneath it. It’s weird. I messed it up in some kind of way, but in the club it sounds crazy. To me I’m like “aight, that’s how it’s supposed to sound in the trunk. If the trunk is shaking, we good.”
On “Price of Fame,” you speak about depression very candidly. How long would you say you’ve dealt with that? Did anything spur it, or do you think it was always around?
I think it was something that was always around. But you’re either medicating so you aren’t paying attention, or you just get up and go to work and keep it moving. The older you get the harder it is to shake it. And then one day, it all just flushes out, and you have to deal with the fact that you’re unhappy. I’m 30 when I was working on the album. I had accumulated so much stuff, but I wasn’t happy. I didn’t have kids. I wasn’t married. I was studio, tour, studio, tour, and I wasn’t living life. I woke up one morning like man, I’m not living my life, I’m not experiencing the world. That was ultimately affecting my music, too.
Once the depression hit, it was eye-opening at the same time because it’s like, ‘okay, life is real, if I want to be able to do this for the next 15 or 20 years, I gotta get myself right. I gotta slow down with medicating myself and the consumption of this alcohol. I’ve gotta stop eating whatever and really pay attention to what I’m putting in my body. I gotta tune out the negativity that I allow in so often, be it social media, be it movies or television, be in music. I gotta start being really aware of what I’m putting into myself, and it allowed me to become more free, more vocal, and more vulnerable, and talk about what I was going through at the time. It made it so much easier for me to have conversations with people.
The thing about depression, especially in the black community, is that you don’t really know what it is or how to label it.
You don’t even normally talk about it! You see your parents wake up and go to work every day and make it happen. You don’t necessarily know what they’re dealing with until they get into their later years, and you’re like ‘damn, I didn’t know you were going through all that.’ These kinds of conversations have to be talked about. Anxiety is real. Disassociation is real. That moment when you look in the mirror and don’t recognize yourself. That means it’s fight or flight. Something happens, and you’re dealing with it, but you’re not dealing with it in a natural motion. You’re trying to escape so you can go about your everyday life. That’s not the right thing to do. If something happens or you’re feeling a certain type of way, you have to acknowledge it, understand what it is, flow through it naturally, and the next time it happens it won’t bother you as much. But it’s going to happen. We all get triggered here and there, so you have to figure out a way to move through it. To dial into it so it doesn’t crush you when you’re by yourself, so you won’t lean on your vice.
It’s funny that you say that. I made an anti-depression playlist, and “Keep the devil Off” is now the intro to that playlist.
As it should be bro, thank you for that. That’s what the purpose of that song was. That’s me going back to when I’d be in church, and the choir just gets to going, and whatever I was dealing with didn’t matter anymore. Because the soul, everybody in there singing, it’s alive again in this moment and everything is going to be fine. That’s the idea of creating a song like that. It’s no curse words, there’s nothing to tear you down. Just positivity. Seek positivity, keep the devil off. Stay away from this negativity, and just enjoy these moments we create with each other. That organ, even letting it ride - being in church, the choir gets humming, and the band just goes for a little while, and then it all comes back. I’m super proud of it, it took two years to make it, so I like talking about it. That was the first one of the album, there were 11 renditions of that.
How do you keep the devil off?
Prayer. Prayer, surrounding myself with positivity, family and friends. Trying to remember a lot of the things that my grandmother told me, the morals given, and treating people the way I want to be treated at the end of the day. There’s always going to be bad stuff that happens. Soon as everything seems positive, it’s going to be something negative that comes in. But you gotta remember, that’s only because you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. As long as you stay focused, it’ll go away. Hey man, “Bury Me In Gold.” I’m trying to get to heaven, paradise, and see my Maker. I keep that in my mind when I’m creating, I’m trying to share that energy with other people that need it.
Your relationship with God seems to be really important to you. How do you maintain that as a working musician?
I’m God-fearing! [laughs] Faith. Bruh, I don’t know what’s after this. I don’t want to walk around as if it’s not, and be wrong about that. But there’s so many other signs, even me being here right now. So many other things could have happened in my life that could have totally took me out of this life I’m living. Every time I was broke, in the earlier parts of my career, and I thought about quitting and giving up, something came through. I’d ask, “God if you can just help me,” and something came through. I don’t know how else to function, than to think that there’s something, there’s a higher being that wants me to do better and be better and be alive and be healthy. That’s great. I can’t imagine walking around not feeling that.
Artists aren’t the only ones who deal with depression, but it is a theme in music. Kid Cudi, Kanye, Danny Brown, Drake. What are some things you think are specific to music, or celebrity, that can contribute to that?
I’m one of those people, there can be a thousand great comments, and I’m going to focus on the negative one, and I’m going to want to know why. Because we all want to be loved, and liked, and admired. It doesn’t matter whether you make a massive amount of money, or whether you’re barely making it by. The interactions you have with people affect you tremendously, and the amount of people you have those interactions with. It’s very easy to say, ‘I’ve got my brick wall up, I don’t care what they say, bad publicity is still good publicity.” But when you get home, and you think about what they said about you, pictures that was posted about you, how people don’t like you - bruh, that’s going to play on your psyche no matter what.
That’s why you start to hear it more (in my music), because it’s about being human. I want you to know sometimes, I don’t feel good. I’m sorry that I didn’t take that picture with you. It hurt me to leave and see you frustrated, and I hope you understand. It’s real. I talk about those things, and what fame feels like. Buying out a section just because you want to be around people, and then once they’re gone, you’re right back to that same dark place. I can’t speak for all the artists out here, but I know that personally, it is for me, and I’ve had conversations with other artists and they feel the same way. I’m still the kid too shy in the cafeteria, that’s real. I just don’t mind talking about it now.