In 2016, the hip-hop universe was blessed with at least two agenda setting rappers. When Kanye announced the title for the album formerly known as Waves, he assured fans it would be “a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing in it,” according to an interview with Big Boy. Later that year, Kanye crony Chance the Rapper made his own wave, enlisting choral arrangements and Christian-tinged theatrics for his third mixtape Coloring Book.
Regardless of their intentions, neither album did much in the way of embodying the Gospel. Chance had his share of big choir vocals and sanctified appearances by his cousin Nicole and Kanye did whatever Kanye does best, but neither project made more than a cursory attempt at creating the spiritual connections without blatant pandering. Chance most proudly wore that Christian label on the unreleased track “Grown Ass Kid” reciting, “Everybody can say it out loud ‘My favorite rapper a Christian rapper.’”
Where Chance and Kanye can take notes is from the latest track from Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. Ahead of his newly announced double album, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, K.R.I.T. dropped the single “Keep The devil Off” on October 5, 2017. Featuring vocals with a subtle reverb that project with the same intensity as the preacher at the pulpit, soulful crooning backing vocals, electric guitar, an organ and a host of percussion and hand claps, K.R.I.T. delivers a sermon looking back at his rise to prominence against the odds of the devil.
Without overtly shoehorning in entire choirs of singers or solitary performances by a mononymous relative, K.R.I.T. crafts an up-tempo and jovial cut that could fittingly serve as the hymnal for a Baptist gathering south of the Mason-Dixon line. K.R.I.T. plays up the relentless passion that writhes throughout black gospel music, incorporating imagery of good and evil and avoiding the modern trappings of heavy 808s and pattering snare drums. Big K.R.I.T. is certainly an underplayed act in southern hip-hop, but riding his country roots has and will continue to set him apart from the mainstream rap landscape.
Check the visuals for K.R.I.T.’s latest single, or pre-order the album, dropping Oct. 27.