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This Is My Rifle: Big K.R.I.T., “4EvaNaDay” & the Inevitable Artistic Burn Out

Posted by Jason James on 03/07/12 | Filed under Features, This Is My Rifle
I'm just gonna go right ahead and say it: Def Jam doesn't know what the fuck they're doing.

A few days ago Big KRIT released his 9th mixtape and 2nd official post-"KRIT Wuz Here" project, "4eva N A Day". While the majority of fans around the world rejoiced at the fact that once again KRIT was releasing a full body of music for free, I couldn't help but wonder why he was giving away another "mixtape" for the second year in a row since signing to a major label.

For most unsigned artists free music releases are the only feasible option. With so many aspiring musicians clamoring for space on the Internet, a free album and a solid plan of action are essential in the attempt to catch the attention of the public. And more often than not, even with an effective strategy and great music to back it up, most artists disappear underneath the next wave of talent eagerly pushing their way through the digital fog with an equally great sound and similar packaging. The world of online music is literally a giant turbine pulling up the new and pushing down the old. In a matter of days your project can go from "album of the year" to an insignificant folder of mp3's linked to a long forgotten blog page left to collect dust for eternity. That album that you were sure was going to propel you to superstardom was just another link, downloaded and deleted a few days later to make room for the next batch of artists destined to travel along the same exact path.

There are a few artists, however, that manage to maintain a presence amongst the onslaught of new music hitting the Internet on a daily basis. Big KRIT is one of the few MC's that did it and he deserving landed himself a deal with the most storied label in the history of Hip Hop music; Def Jam Recordings. To say that this is an accomplishment in itself is an understatement. For an artist like KRIT, authentic and refreshingly original, to receive the approval of a label as reputable and appreciated as Def Jam is nothing short of a massive victory. When you consider that we’re in an age where 1000+ downloads of an album is considered a success, to draw in tens, possibly even hundreds of thousands of downloads and a major deal from a single mixtape is basically the modern day equivalent of going platinum.

So when I heard that “4eva N A Day” was going to be a free release my initial thought was, “Here we go again. Another great artist who will inevitably burn out before his first official album sees the light of day”.

What most people don’t seem to understand is that great music takes time to create. There are only so many words in the English language and so many patterns to weave them into. Amazing songs are few and far between and only occur when everything aligns perfectly. Building a cohesive and consistent collection of these moments is a process that cannot be rushed, and if the proper care isn’t taken to let these songs happen naturally then the magic that lives within powerful music is lost forever.

A great example of this is J.Cole’s “Sideline Story” album. While the album performed exceedingly well sales-wise and had some incredible songs on it, I couldn’t help but feel like Cole was trying to live up to the pressure of a major label debut and was searching for those “big records” rather than just instinctually making music that felt right. In terms of the sequencing, “Sideline Story” sounded like Cole was saying to the listeners, “Here’s one for me and now here’s one I did for the label”. By no means was the album a disappointment, J.Cole is by far one of the best new MC’s out right now, I just knew what he was capable of and it wasn’t what I expected. Then when I heard that he had submitted an album to Jay-Z and the brass at Roc Nation a year earlier, only to be sent back to the studio to start over, I knew immediately that “Friday Night Lights” was supposed to be his official debut.

Now just imagine if the best original songs on “Friday Night Lights” and the best songs from “Sideline Story” would’ve been brought together to make one album. J.Cole would’ve had an instant classic under his belt. But unfortunately artists today are expected to release music so fast and so often that burning out creatively isn’t just a possibility, it’s a guarantee. Eventually it happens to every artist but because of the pace today’s MC’s are expected to work at, it’ll likely take place sooner rather than later.

To put it into perspective, imagine if “The Slim Shady LP”, “The Marshall Mathers LP” and “The Eminem Show” were all free releases and “Encore” was Eminem’s first official album. Or if “Illmatic”, “It Was Written”, “I Am” were considered mixtapes and Nas debuted with “Nastradamus”. What if “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot”, “Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood” and “…And Then There Was X” were all underground classics and DMX’s entry into the mainstream began with “The Great Depression”? Would any of these artists have been iconic figures who benchmarked eras in Hip Hop culture? Definitely not. What if these artists (with the exception of DMX) only had months, rather than years, to put these albums together? Would they have been the classic albums that we all love and revere to this day? Fuck no.

I’m willing to bet anything that right now the executives at Def Jam are scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do with Big KRIT. When he turned in “Return Of 4eva” they sent him back and asked for some “bigger records”. So “Return Of 4eva” hit the Internet and made KRIT the best thing going in Hip Hop. Then KRIT presented them with “4eva N A Day” and they said, “It’s good but we need that smash hit record” so once again we have a collection of music so fuckin good it’s a crime that we all got it for free. Sure, Big KRIT is capable of making huge crossover records but his music is intelligent and he shines brightest when he’s given the space to dig deep and create according to what is moving him at the moment. He is a prime example of why the major label system is flawed and on it’s last leg. While they’re busy trying to cash in on one-trick ponies like LMFAO, artists like KRIT are stuck giving the world great music with little to no financial compensation whatsoever.

Garbage acts like LMFAO may generate millions of dollars in ad revenue on sites like YouTube and Facebook, but their relevance is limited and will only be profitable for a short period of time. Big KRIT, and artists like him, are the future of the music industry- acts that can pull in a steady stream of income from many points of access. These smash and grab schemes that the major labels have been banking on are the reason why they’re failing and eventually the over-saturation of 3rd party advertisers will deter people from even bothering to click play on that bullshit YouTube video from that rapper whose video is just a blur of stupidity and product placement. The real money exists in artists who are consistent and have longevity. The one thing that the majors seem to have forgotten is that the most important person in the music industry is the consumer. They control the money and they decide where it goes, therefore, there is nothing more integral to the business than a loyal fan base.

And let me be the one to tell you, nobody grows out of a classic album. NOBODY.

See Also: Meet the Next Mixtape of the Year (Probably), Big K.R.I.T.‘s “4eva Na Day” (Stream & Download)

(Jason James is an artist, freelance columnist and writer for RefinedHype.com. You can listen/download his most recent album, "Marvelous World Of Color", here and you can contact him here and here.)

Nathan Update
:

"Excuse my tone of voice but today was just a bad day
Label hit me up about another single and said I ain't had play since Country Shit
Hell, they thought that was a flop record anyway
But thank god for Bun B and Ludacris because they had faith
That shit would take off and it did
Guess I was too country to quit
I make albums not hits
These rich folk don't know about this

Two free albums minus label support
Damn I forgot what I was payin them for
Drinkin till I'm barely conscious tell Jonny [KRIT's manager] put them [Def Jam] on three way
Immediately, cause I'm sick of being lied to and I'm waging war." - Big K.R.I.T., "Handwriting", "4EvaNaDay"

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