Big K.R.I.T. calls himself the King Remembered In Time, an appropriate name, because he truly is timeless. When the big king stepped on stage, all stern-faced, save for the occasional wry sideways grin, and started spitting his somehow simultaneously dirty and smooth southern slang, his aspirations were immediately clear: to bring the south and indeed the rest of the country back to the days of OutKast, 8Ball & MJG and UGK. As he proudly (and accurately) boasted opening the set, he makes it cool to be southern. For a night, at least for the lucky souls at the Bluebird last night for the Live from the Underground Tour, Denver was a part of the south.
At only 25, K.R.I.T. already sounds like a seasoned veteran. At times reminiscent of Andre 3000, at times almost indistinguishable from Bun B, K.R.I.T. is obviously entrenched in the southern tradition, but he has a pronounced confidence that distinguishes him. Ubiquitous in his lyrics are old southern tropes, candy-painted Cadillacs, candy yams and collard greens, but K.R.I.T. has an exceptional talent in elevating the ordinary. Joints like "Rotation," an account of an uneventful cruise with his girl, are made full by the effortless color with which K.R.I.T. speaks; in person, his stage presence takes him to another level.
Contrary to the flashy ambition of most rappers, K.R.I.T. seems to yearn for a return to simplicity, and this is perhaps what makes him so easily relatable. People were belting "I'm tryin' to turn this into somethin'," lyrics to "Temptation," as if it was their own personal anthem. For some, it probably was. In fact, K.R.I.T. could have declined to say the last word of virtually any given line, and there would have been at least one person yelling it loud enough for the rest of us to hear. When "Hometown Hero" came on, K.R.I.T could have just left and let the audience do the whole thing themselves.
K.R.I.T.'s performance is no gimmicks and all talent. No colored contacts, no ski mask, and little jewelry, all he does is make his own beats and sing his own hooks. The whole package was on display last night, ranging from Yelawolf spitfire to Frank Ocean babymaking music to Gil Scott spoken word poetry. K.R.I.T. has the uncommon ability to slow down his flow substantially without losing much energy. As a result, he can rap over mostly any beat. Last night, K.R.I.T. was at his best rapping over the ethereal, soulful waling that characterizes his production style, along with the popping snare, rolling hi-hat and deep, driving bass indicative of traditional southern production.
Casey Veggies, who went on just before K.R.I.T., had a surprisingly short set. There were a number of openers (five to be exact), so time for them was at a premium, but the audience was still adjusting to Veggies when he suddenly announced that the next song would be his last. It was his Birthday, though, and his dad was in the audience, which might have given him that extra jolt of energy to make it the dynamic performance it was. In his most memorable moment, Veggies hopped off the stage to mingle with the crowd during "Toe Tag." And this wasn't just some "look at me, I'm one of you" acts; he crossed the room several times, grabbing and hanging on everybody near him.
Also performing were K.R.I.T.'s fellow Mississippians, Tito Lopez and Big Sant, as well as local hip-hop staples, DJ KTone and Mr. Midas. KTone got things started, drifting through a wide range of hip-hop bangers, from Akon to E-40, scratching admirably between breaks. The 808s were booming and the heads were moving. Midas had a jam for everybody: for the locals, for the ladies, even his own rendition of Fun.'s "We Are Young" for the trendy kids.
Big Sant was an excellent way to get acclimated to that southern way of speaking; he also got pulled up by K.R.I.T. for "I Got This" and crowd favorite, "Pull Up." Tito Lopez was the only act, other than KTone, to go without a hypeman, but he was perfectly able to sell himself, having lined the edge of the stage with his new mixtape, The Hunger Game, and towels bearing his name, and he was full of energy from the beginning.
Personal Bias: I really wish I had a southern drawl. It seems to add character to everything you say. Ever since first hearing K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, I've been a huge fan of K.R.I.T. I think he and Yelawolf are the most talented cats to come out of the South since OutKast.
Random Detail: It was a diverse crowd at the Bluebird. I saw tattoos ranging from teardrops to Zelda's Triforce.
By the Way: K.R.I.T. is playing tonight at the Boulder Theater and tomorrow night at the Aggie Theatre. Doors open at 8:30 and 8:00, respectively.
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