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This Is My Rifle: Krispy Kreme, Jason James & Big K.R.I.T., The Common ThreadPosted by Jason James on 06/06/12 | Filed under Features, Opinion, This Is My Rifle, Krispy Kreme
"What the fuck am I doing here?".
As the thought pushed its way through my creative process I could hear the energy leaving my voice and the words sliding out of place as I frantically grasped at straws trying to bring this song to life. But the more I struggled, the deeper I sank until eventually I had to leave the studio and pull my thoughts apart in search of an answer to the question that was plaguing me at the moment.
The past few months have been tough. I've reached a pivotal point in this album where I feel like I've reached a new level artistically and created a body of music that will define me for years to come (or at least until the next one comes out). The problem with this is that I haven't found the right way to end it yet and so the last 5 songs on the album have been a revolving door of music; one day I have what I believe to be the perfect way to close another chapter in my life, and then the next day it doesn't feel right so I re-arrange and replace nearly every song in the tracklist. The amount of frustration I've endured over the course of these 8 weeks have driven me into total exhaustion; almost to the point of giving up completely.
As I left the studio that Saturday afternoon I found myself questioning my motives behind my creative drive. What exactly am I doing? Do I even want to do this anymore? If I quit will anybody care? What does Hip Hop mean to me and what does it mean to everybody else?
It's no secret that Hip Hop culture has been in a downward spiral for the better part of a decade. I know that we're all supposed to applaud the efforts of somewhat talented rappers, but let's be honest; 90% of the popular artists in Hip Hop just aren't making timeless music. Yeah, its ok for now, but how many of these supposed MC's are leaving a lasting impression on the world? Where is the passion and love for the art form that gave us icons like Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West, Eminem, Black Thought, Mos Def, Ghostface Killah and a long list of others that dominated the 90's and early-mid 2000's. Sure, Jay, Kanye and Eminem are still at the top of the totem pole but like all great artists a time will come where their status within the culture goes from "current" to "classic". And once that happens, where does that leave us?
This being my opinion, I haven't paid attention to Hip Hop for quite some time now. Of course my ears are always open to new music from J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and the other undeniably talented MC's of this generation, but more often than not I find myself turned off from new artists before the music can even get past the opening 30 seconds. No matter how hard I try, I can't understand the attraction that people have to a lot of what's being presented as the "next great thing" to come out of Hip Hop music. The content is one dimensional, the ego’s are massively over-inflated, the deliveries are lazy, flows are off beat and the music overall is just sloppy.
So once I got home that evening I sat on my balcony, cracked a beer and went on the hunt for reasons to continue on with my artistic endeavors.
The first thing I did was check out my favorite section on Refined Hype, Nathan's "Fails Of The Week"; because for all of the shit I've gone through recently, nothing makes me feel better than reading about retarded things rappers say and do. After a good laugh and a much needed pick me up, I reached the last page and clicked play on what I was sure to be a video that would wipe away the memories of my terrible recording session, and replace them with re-affirmations of my own talent as I watched some dude named Krispy Kreme stumble his way through a highly unintelligible song and hilariously amateur music video to match it.
I have to admit, much like Nathan, I was immediately enthralled by Krispy Kreme and his faithful sidekick, Money Maker Mike. Upon first glance I couldn't decipher whether this was a cleverly played joke or a couple of kids from a rural southern community who had a totally diluted perception of Hip Hop and what was currently happening in it. So I did some research and discovered that Krispy Kreme was very serious about his ambitions, so much so that he had his own YouTube channel where in addition to his music videos, he also posted video blogs and updated his fans on his musical developments.
After a half hour worth of Krispy Kreme, I received an email containing a link to Big K.R.I.T.'s debut album, "Live From The Underground". Having gotten the ball rolling with Krispy Kreme, I felt I was ready to balance things out with something guaranteed to be dope and so I clicked download, cracked another beer and loaded my iPod with one of the only Hip Hop albums I've looked forward to since I first heard "K.R.I.T. Wuz Here".
My first impression of the album was that it was good but definitely underwhelming. I wasn't disappointed, there were more than enough gems on the project to keep me satisfied, I just felt like K.R.I.T. had made the same mistake as so many newly-signed artists before him and diverted away from the path in search of commercial success. Songs like, "I Got This", "Money On The Floor", "What U Mean" and "Pull Up" were obviously out of place and almost uncomfortable to listen to, and "My Sub Pt.2", “Porchlight” and “Hydroplaning” didn’t sound like they fit the album sequencing. While the album was a solid effort on K.R.I.T.’s part and one that has some great moments (“Cool 2 Be Southern” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” for example) the problem is that “Live From The Underground” was obviously A&R’d by somebody attempting to make K.R.I.T.’s music easier to digest. Like I said before, K.R.I.T. is the type of artist that needs to be left alone to create the music that he feels is right to represent him. If you try to push him in a particular direction he’ll miss the mark. Just leave him be and songs like “Country Shit” will happen organically, force it and you’ll get “What U Mean”.
Then on Sunday afternoon I hit YouTube to watch some more Krispy Kreme and to my surprise he had uploaded a new video blog. This time he had posted a tearful plea to the world to follow their dreams and poured his heart out on the Internet for all to see.
For whatever reason this video resonated with me deeply. Here was this kid, so dedicated to his craft that he was willing to make whatever sacrifices he had to in order to find success in the music industry. While all of his friends were out partying and having fun (a big deal to a kid his age), he was at home writing songs and working on developing into an artist that maybe someday will have an impact on the world. Watching him encourage his viewers to “crawl and scrape until you achieve your goals” made me think of all of the sacrifices that I’ve made in my own life for my dreams. Missed opportunities, decisions I’ve made (like turning down a job teaching English in Brazil) and following my heart despite the harsh consequences I faced, all of these twists and turns in my life that have brought to where I am now. I had a dream and I chased it despite the reality that I might not ever get there.
When I go back now and watch Krispy Kreme’s videos I see myself as a teenager, dedicated to beating the odds and realizing my dreams. The only difference is that while artistically I grew away from the Internet and the public eye, in this era of music, Krispy Kreme is determined to do it via computer screens across the world. And now, as I listen to “Live From The Underground” again, I hear another dreamer who made the exact same sacrifices as myself and Krispy Kreme and deserves the success that he’s worked so hard to achieve. K.R.I.T.’s come a long way from being the MC we heard on “Something”, unsure of his future or if he’ll ever play a significant role in Hip Hop music, but I’m absolutely sure that the sentiment he shared on that song will always be there. It’s the same feeling I had standing in that booth on Saturday, what prompted Krispy Kreme to share his undying passion for his music with the world and, as K.R.I.T. has proven, as long as all 3 of us stay the course we’ll get to where we’ve spent our lives visualizing ourselves being. One may be closer than the other, depending on our individual definitions of success, but the fight is identical.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go and finish this album.
(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.)