Big K.R.I.T. Fitzgerald's February 22, 2012
Big K.R.I.T. ended his set at Fitzgerald's on Wednesday, hand on chest, with a debut performance of his new single, "I Got This," his gift to Houston for supporting his brand of Southern-fried rap. The crowd had cheered him like royalty through the evening, intently keyed into his pulverizing volley of mixtape hits.
Once was a time when this degree of admiration was reserved for street bruisers and trap rappers. But rap has moved on to better things. At this point, Mississippi's K.R.I.T. is the sort of voice hip-hoppers -- the ones who brandish their "real heads" insignia at late-night club debates find endearing.
To his credit, he's a more flexible, more accessible rapper than his peers -- one bred on UGK's verbal dexterity, T.I.'s warm drawl and Organized Noise's thudding production.
K.R.I.T. is a likable guy, too. His physical rendering -- affable, confident, chin dipped in a square goatie -- evokes a charismatic underground-rap savior. That's a tall order for anyone, but K.R.I.T. hasn't necessarily shied away from the tag. He's done his share of brand building largely by staying on message and delivering the goods.
His set Wednesday offered a glimpse into how one of country-rap's brightest fixtures rose from a DIY mixtape artist to a Def Jam recording artist. To fully connect with his audience, K.R.I.T. often relies less on undeserved self exultations and more on feel-good anthems you can bang in your Chevy with your girlfriend riding shotgun.
While he's a deftly skilled emcee, his voice isn't combustible enough to muscle down a track. He ain't animated like, say, a Busta Rhymes. What he will do, at his sharpest, is vent sprawlingly about societal ailments or decry the state of rap without coming off as preachy.
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The impression Wednesday night was of an emcee tasked with underground rap revival. It's a task K.R.I.T. has willingly embraced, as underlined by "The Vent" which transformed Fitz to church and had everyone in the room rhyming along word for word and soul clapping (or in one fan's case, lighting a spliff, gripping the spliff with his lips and soul-clapping simultaneously).
"I got this here, nigga, I got this here," K.R.I.T. rhymed endlessly during the coda. As he pounded his chest and pranced around, his chain dangling in front of his black "Pocket Full of Stones" t-shirt, an ode to UGK, there was no question K.R.I.T.'s got now.