Last week saw the release of two of the most anticipated rap albums to arrive this year: Southern-fried Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T’s Return of 4Eva and the perpetually stoned Pittsburgh representer Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers. Both artists got their big breaks in 2010–Krit with his excellent mixtape Krit Wuz Here and Wiz with his inescapable single “Black and Yellow.”
But make no mistake, these are two rappers following opposite trajectories, and their new releases go to show this. While Krit is emerging as one of the most promising figures in contemporary rap, Wiz Khalifa–despite being named MTV’s “Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2010”–seems destined to burn out quicker than one of his beloved doobies.
Return of 4Eva is an inspired and ambitious Sothern rap record in the tradition of acts like UGK, Scarface, and Outkast. It plays like the thesis of a well-versed Southern rap scholar from the earth-shaking trunk rattler (“My Sub”), to the nothing-to-something narrative (“Dreamin’”), the fired-up Sothern anthem (“Sookie Now”), the 808-heavy party jam (“Get Right”), and the slow-burning bedroom-ready joint (“Highs and Lows”).
But what makes this record, and Krit as an artist, so impressive is his ability to seamlessly blend these time-tested classic styles with unique and original deeper cuts: the Aquemini-esque “Lions and Lambs,” the Faustian ruminations of “Free My Soul,” and the stirring social commentary of “Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism.”
In this way, Big K.R.I.T., who not only raps but produced every track as well, taps into something that feels timeless and infinite with Return of 4Eva. It’s an exegesis on Southern rap that pays homage to its pioneers while forging new ground. Krit’s butter smooth, drawling flow and his expertly sampled beats are tailor-made for barbecues and driving with the windows rolled down, while maintaining enough depth and zest to sound great on headphones.
Rolling Papers is another story. In fact it couldn’t possibly contrast R4 more. In what was supposed to be Wiz Khalifa’s big moment, he has produced a certified dud. This is the record that Kid Cudi would make if he was lobotomized and then locked away and only permitted to smoke weed, drink alcohol, and listen to Kelly Clarkson. The beats are boring and generic, the lyrics even more so. Most rappers, even the drunk white kids freestyling at parties, have at least a couple good lines. Not this guy.
There aren’t any other “Black and Yellow” caliber smashes on this album, save for maybe “The Race,” the one song on this album that I was into until Khalifa soiled it by tacking on a boneheaded skit in which his annoying friend wakes him up for no apparent reason. Perhaps it’s a studio outtake from Wiz Khalifa falling asleep in the studio listening to his own boring, worthless music. Domo Genesis’ Rolling Papers, amateur as it is, sounds like a masterpiece compared to this crap.
So don’t be surprised if you see and hear more about Big K.R.I.T. in the near future, especially considering the dearth of big time Souther MC’s left as a result of T.I.’s imprisonment, Lil’ Wayne’s lack of output since his release, and Gucci Mane’s newfound insanity. And don’t be surprised if you don’t hear much of Wiz Khalifa until “Black and Yellow Part 2″ drops next NFL season.
In addition to being awesome, Return of 4Eva is FREE. Download it here.