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Big K.R.I.T. is in a bind. Two years ago, the 25-year-old Mississippian signed to Def Jam after his album-masked-as-a-mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here broke him out of the crowded constellation of country rap revivalists. The reasons for the deal were readily apparent: K.R.I.T. had the right management connects, co-signs and one of the best production ears this side of Kanye West. The contract news was naturally accompanied by the most trite and toothless of all promises: ALBUM COMING SOON.
"It’s a holding pattern explicitly designed for a network TV audience."
Of course, Big K.R.I.T. has plenty of admirers. Critics hailed his last two efforts, especially last year’s Return of 4eva. Roughly half a dozen of his videos have 1,000,000 YouTube plays or more, and the Vashtie-directed clip for 4evaNaDay’s lead single, “Boobie Miles,” racked up over 100,000 views in its first 72 hours online. Among his peers, his jazz-refracted fusion of East Coast crate digging and the old-school swing of vintage UGK and Organized Noize made him a highly sought after producer. But until he releases a radio-ready single, it’s unlikely that Def Jam is about to divert their promo muscle from the new The-Dream record.
K.R.I.T., who had his studio album pushed back from its scheduled September 2011 release, has to force the label to make him a priority. It's an onerous task at any major unless you’re Drawayne, the dual-headed Young Money hit-hound. To sustain momentum, K.R.I.T has to pump out a good free album each year. To make paper, he has to relentlessly tour and land outside beat placements. Yet there isn’t much spite on 4evaNaDay. Instead, it’s a loose concept record structured around an exhausting 24-hour stretch in the life of a rapper close enough to see the finish line, but unsure whether he’s in the right lane. Thus, we get the coda of album centerpiece, “4evaNaDay Theme,” where he claims that he “ain’t tripping on the mainstream/ Because love from the underground lasts forever.” And it’s true that both sides of the underground have embraced K.R.I.T. He gets love from wood-grain connoisseurs who deify the artists on blogs like Dirty Glove Bastard and BLVD St. and the post-backpack masses at Okayplayer and Hip Hop DX.
But K.R.I.T.’s concerns run deeper than blog buzz. He’s out to make anthems out of the dull angles of the everyday. That’s both his strength and weakness. When he’s on-point, K.R.I.T. can be an intensely relatable everyman with superior production firepower. When he’s not, he can lapse into trite genericisms -- a tic exacerbated by an occasionally unnerving vocal resemblance to the late Pimp C. “Me and My Old School” feels like a retread of last year’s superior “Time Machine.” “Country Rap Tunes” is too on-the-nose for its own good and isn’t about to replace 2010’s “Country Shit” on any Best of K.R.I.T. compilation. Nor does K.R.I.T. do himself any favors by forgoing a single guest, despite being owed reciprocal favors from Freddie Gibbs (“Rob Me a Nigga”), Wiz Khalifa (“Glass House”) and the J.E.T.S. crew.
Maybe “Boobie Miles’” best illustrates the paradox of K.R.I.T’s third mixtape in as many years. Riffing on the injured star of Friday Night Lights, the Meridian native employs a played-out rapper-as-athlete metaphor, complete with windy truisms about “giving your all/ When your back is against the wall.” But it also neatly fits K.R.I.T.’s current situation: A critically revered cult-favorite grappling with an albatross. That’s the thing about 4evaNaday. It’s a holding pattern explicitly designed for a network TV audience, not the edgier fare you might see on HBO’s Hard Knocks; a grind towards the remaining two yards left for a first down, not the play action bomb to score the touchdown.
Though it breaks little ground beyond his previous tapes, 4evaNaday still boasts significant merit. For one, the beats are almost unanimously gorgeous, full of weeping saxophones, blood-shot piano lines and scuffed dirty-fingernail drums. “On Package Store,” K.R.I.T. boasts Old Testament strength in his ability to chronicle the saga of a debauched sex- and money-addicted preacher. “Sky Club” finds him flexing a surprisingly sturdy singing voice. “Red Eye” unflinchingly documents the drama inherent to the itinerant lifestyle of the hustling musician. While the Beastie Boys-sampling “Temptation” is the sort of effortless country-rap banger that K.R.I.T. attempts to force on the front half of the tape.
This isn’t the type of tape built to last forever. When you’re forced to constantly tour and churn out new product, it’s almost impossible to reinvent your aesthetic each year. Plus, K.R.I.T. is almost certainly saving the “keepers” for his official debut. Instead, this is a solid but unspectacular stopgap, one intended to let K.R.I.T survive another day, or whenever his number is called.
Download 4evaNaDay at Datpiff.com.