Last week, Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. released a surprise mixtape, “It’s Better This Way.” With a cover depicting the road less traveled, the title is a declaration from an emcee whose focus is on creativity and longevity.
“It’s Better This Way” follows 2014’s “Cadillactica,” a concept album that mixed sci-fi and realism with commentary on K.R.I.T.’s life and career sonically comparable to Outkast for its infusion of old-school funk and soul. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s hip-hop chart.
“You can’t never beat that,” says K.R.I.T. (real name Justin Scott), calling during rehearsals in Atlanta. “To not have a record on radio and to make the music I want to make and work with the artists I want to work with, just being country and proud of it and still being able to get to No. 1. To be able to go to Australia and people know the music. I’m from Meridian, Miss. Everything is an amazing experience.”
K.R.I.T. headlines the Fillmore Friday on the second night of his Kritically Acclaimed Tour. Although he’s played Charlotte several times, this is his first tour with a live band backing him up, which is also indicative of the direction he’s been heading creatively. Charlotte rapper Deniro Farrar and Smoke DZA open.
“Doing the music that made me happy, that I grew up listening to and talking about my real life, it’s the road less traveled and it’s taken me longer, but it’s kind of worth it because I have a catalog of music and I can be on stage for an hour and a half with songs (dating back to) 2009,” he continues.
Although he’s focusing on albums in a singles market and skirting trends, K.R.I.T. may actually be carving out a career that lasts.
“There’s the pressure you get when you’re trying to make music that serves you as a person. You run into a different kind of pressure, I would say even creative confusion,” he says of focusing on radio and the next hot track. “If you do it your way and find your sound, it’s normally better. There’s not pressure when you’re being yourself.”
It’s a fair argument, considering how much he’s in demand.
A few days after he dropped “It’s Better This Way,” news of a new album hit – but K.R.I.T. dismisses the release. That album, “All My Life,” is a collection of older material the RBC label purchased and will release in late November. K.R.I.T.’s next new album for Def Jam is promised for next year.
“The other album doesn’t have anything to do with me,” he says. “Where I’m at now is what I’m more excited for people to hear.”
When: 9 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.
Details: 704-916-8970; www.livenation.com.