Last week saw the release of mixtapes from two rising rappers: Big K.R.I.T.’s Return of 4Eva and Fat Trel’s April Foolz. Both artists get to the heart of hip hop in 2011, albeit with divergent styles.
Big K.R.I.T. (an acronym for “King Remembered In Time”) is Justin Scott, a 24-year-old from down south in Meridian, Mississippi (about 100 miles from David Banner’s Jackson home).
Return of 4Eva is pure Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, very much in the Southern G-funk style mastered by Outkast, with hints of UGK and Curren$y. The beats gleam like polished chrome. Soul samples mingle with fresh keys, horns and bass in a refreshing return to a richer era of hip hop production. For his part, K.R.I.T. is crisp and clear, more Big Boi than Three Stacks.
“American Rapstar” is a head-nodder that succinctly pinpoints industry-rap issues: “And they don’t love you till you’re on the ground / Or when you’re maxing out your bank account / …And even if it means you don’t survive the night / But if even if you do you won’t survive the hype / Of an American rapstar.” “Dreamin'” is a down-tempo meditation on similar themes.
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The song that burns grooves in your hard drive is “Highs & Lows,” with it’s music-nerd-approved “life ain’t nothing but an EQ of highs and lows” chorus and “I’d Rather Be With You” outro. Any track that references arguably Bootsy Collins’ best song is a winner.
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Lyrically, K.R.I.T. plays in familiar territory, but with his own spin on things. Balancing the stripper tale “Shake It” is the Bamboozle-sampling “A Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism” (K.R.I.T. is all about acronyms, apparently), a conscious-by-way-of-Pac tune.
Return of 4Eva is all killer, no filler. Guest spots by David Banner, Chamillionaire, Raheem DeVaughn, Ludacris, and Bun B are tasteful and not distracting: K.R.I.T. more than holds his own among heavyweights. The future looks bright for this 2011 XXL Freshman.
While Return of 4Eva plays out like a fully-developed album, Fat Trel’s April Foolz is a pure mixtape, for better or for worse. Incessant DJ drops and rewinds distract from the product: Trel’s DC-based trap rap. Like his last tape, the breakout No Secrets, Trel is unapologetic about drugs (dealing and using) and women (sexing and uh, using). Beats are provided by 808 wunderkind Lex Luger and DMV heads E Major and Bassheadz, among others.
“Respect Wit the Tech,” produced by Luger, fits right in with the hitmakers’ other tracks (“Hard in the Paint,” “B.M.F.,” “H.A.M.”) with ratatat rhythms, cinematic synths and gunshot samples. Trel keeps it simple, dropping a chorus built to ride: “I got money / I got power / Got respect with this tech / Got respect with this tech / bust a move and get wet.”
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Fat Trel is basically a one-note rapper, but because he hits it so hard yet so effortlessly, he’s the most entertaining and promising rapper in the DMV. This is guilty pleasure rap suited for your next party (or award show riot). His association with Wale’s Board Administration may be over, but a partnership with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music (something he is more well-suited for than Wale) can’t be too far off.