By Anupa Mistry
Mississippi rapper/producer Big K.R.I.T. could be the leader of hip-hop’s new school (the acronym even stands for King Remembered In Time). But you might not know that—he’s not “trending,” or the subject of a billion think pieces by non-rap writers (shout out, Tyler, The Creator!) and his first headlining show in Toronto last night barely tipped over half full.
So it’s a testament to K.R.I.T.’s skill and personal appeal that—barring an e-cult of personality—he can land the cover of XXL’s annual Freshman Class issue or have March’s Returnof4eva mixtape be widely considered the rap album of 2011. With a refreshing sense of humility, K.R.I.T. proved why he’s your favourite rapper’s rapper, showcasing a surprisingly deep body of steamy, Southern soon-to-be classics at the Opera House.
Opener Smoke DZA, an exuberant, marijuana-themed rapper on the up-and-up himself, played a half hour set of light-it-up anthems as frustrated Opera House Enforcas descended upon culprits from the crowd and turned them out. For future reference, as DZA himself helpfully hinted: keep that shit low.
K.R.I.T. finally ran out, with a big dude serving as his relentless hype man, to a churning, upbeat “Return of 4eva” as the crowd swarmed the stage. Some girl was screaming at the top of her lungs. Two young white kids in suits were holding up their hands, like they were at church being saved. Boys were dancing! “I’m just your country cousin,” K.R.I.T. explained to cheers before mixtape favourite “Just Touched Down”—an example of how his inherent likability bolsters his next-big-thing success with everlasting promise.
Barring a few asides where his thick Southern accent literally prevented me from understanding what he was saying, K.R.I.T. was basically unstoppable, going hard on a 14-song set. “Sookie Now” and “Time Machine” (the album version features a great verse from Chamillionaire) preceded back-to-back car anthems “My Sub” and “Rotation.” The DZA-featuring “No Wheaties,” “Children of the World,” and Adele-sampling “Hometown Hero” rounded out the show before he signed off with fan-favourites “Country Shit” and “The Vent.” And just after encore-ing with “Highs & Lows,” K.R.I.T.—true to his down-to-earth nature—took the time to slap hands with as many people in the crowd as he could.