On the Radio (New Music for me): Big K.R.I.T.

It has been raining a bit of late in my adopted home state. This is eventful because we often go 60 days or more

Please....

Please….

without rain. So infrequent is the rainfall that my two children are shocked and frightened by the sight, driven to chanting that childhood apotropaic chant: “rain, rain, go away…”.

Rain in states where rain rarely falls also means worse traffic. In even normal traffic situations, I am not a patient or un-profane man. I don’t like when people take forever to make right-hand turns or decide to take a few breaths, a sip of coffee and say a little prayer before heeding a green traffic signal. When it rains, everything slows down.

My serenity, thus already disrupted by the weather and traffic was dealt another mighty blow by the fact that because I have slain yet another iPod, I was cursed to listen to the radio. The stations were all on commercial, it seemed, and NPR was torturing me with another report of looming government shutdowns. I couldn’t take it. I pressed scan on the radio band.

And then I was taken back to a local college station I had forgotten about. A station whose existence had so slipped my mind that I actually googled it to make sure it really existed in my general area and wasn’t just some accident of weather induced serendipity. It wasn’t. It was real. And it was playing Big K.R.I.T.

“Dreamin'” is a masterful track that features the rapper’s drawled style and clever autobiographical rhymes.

Big K.R.I.T. hasn’t released many albums and is currently working on his second major solo work, but he has released a bunch of tracks, has collaborated with a bunch of well-known people, and is touring with Macklemore. (If you want to know more, read his damned wikipedia page for yourself). His song, wedged in between alt-rock tracks by bands named Still Life Still and No Age, made me happy about the length of time the drive was taking. I forgot about the traffic. I regained my serenity.

Of course, as soon as I got to my office I downloaded some more Big K.R.I.T. and I was not disappointed. (Yes, you can imagine 30-something white professor of humanities sitting in a University office bobbing his head to hip-hop. I don’t know what this means.) His production has a spare style that eschews much of the decadence and bloat of mainstream hip-hop. This track is mellow and reflective.

But what makes KRIT different is his ability to write rhymes that flow well with his southern drawl (in a way that builds upon and betters Nelly). Check out this verse:

I told them call me KRIT, they told me change my name
Don’t be alarmed if you don’t make it, that’s just part of the game
Besides I ain’t rapping about dope nor did I sell it
I guess the story of a country boy just ain’t compelling
A&R’s searching for a hit, I just need a meal
Couldn’t afford to pay the rent, but passed up on the deal
Cause, it wasn’t right sometimes you gotta wade the storm
In a class of my own, but I was scared to raise my arm

I realize that what attracts me to this artist is, in part, his reflective approach to hip-hop, his honesty, and his sparer treatment. In his rejection of the drug-dealer narrative and his putative refusal of money, he lays some claim to the starving artist position. And, yet, he prevaricates about his own integrity, implying in the final line that it is as much fear as artistic conviction that has limited him.

But, as you can tell from listening, he also has a fine sense of what makes music effective and what he has inherited from the artists before him. It will be interesting to see how he continues to navigate these influences in his next release.

What do you think, my brother?

College Radio: The Dying Art of Quality Musical Programming

I heard this song on the college station at my alma mater, The University of Vermont. I heard it twice in one semester as I made the long trek from Burlington to Bristol where I did my teaching internship. The first time is etched in my brain because it was a very snowy morning and the wind was causing drifts of the white stuff to float across the road. I skidded a little at one point and as I slowed to nearly a stop, the music kicked into high gear towards the end of the song and my love affair with progressive rock began in earnest.

My brother’s post about college radio struck a chord with me and I had to write something further on the subject. Just last night, while coming home from dinner with an old friend from high school, I spent most of the car ride telling her why I listen to the college station from the University of Maine or the NPR rather than any of the major radio stations. First and foremost, after years of listening to the radio while landscaping, I feel as if I’ve heard all of the popular songs. If I  hear “Don’t Stop Believing” one more time, I’ll probably lose my mind.

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Celebrate College Radio Day, October 1st

In the 1990 Christian Slater vehicle, Pump Up the Volume, a wise urban kid moves to a podunk town and sets up his own pirate radio with which he educates and terrorizes the town about music from the Beastie Boys and the Pixies to Leonard Cohen and Ice-T.  IN this suburban Phoenix no-town, no threat has been greater since Kevin Bacon stopped dancing than this: the youth’s access to the edgy, alt-music scene that has been eating away at the edifice of corporate cock-rock for several years.

Today is College Radio Day, a day to celebrate and recognize the achievements and contributions of College Radio. While the threat posed by Christian Slater doesn’t really mean that much any more (who’s going to worry about FM Radio when the internet can bring you child-porn and bomb-making instructions?), College Radio is still providing essential and rare service in an increasingly homogeneous and confused radio world. (If not for Public Radio and College Radio, Clear Channel might have ruined everything already).

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