Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings
Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings

Big K.R.I.T.’s come a long way from his days of being a 2011 XXL Freshman or the victim of Kendrick Lamar’s notorious “Control” verse. With his sophomore release “Cadillactica,” K.R.I.T. makes up for the lost potential of “Live From the Underground” with spacey synths, soulful compositions and encapsulating concepts. Big K.R.I.T. has always been known as the underground’s rapper but “Cadillactica” reveals a Big K.R.I.T. who proves he can truly bridge the gap between the underground and mainstream. Coated in thin film of homage to Southern rap, K.R.I.T. is able to dive into modernity on his own terms, constructing a cosmic atmosphere around the audience.

The first half of the album does a thoughtful execution of the overarching concept, taking you into the subconscious of K.R.I.T., where the world of “Cadillactica” awaits. Enter “Kreation” and “Life,” where K.R.I.T. animates his world with striking imagery: “These hands of mine can hold the weight of planets / Allow me to use the hues of lunar cools to paint a canvas.” Along with his unique accent and inflection present in the flurry of his double-time technique, bounding tracks only become more triumphant. K.R.I.T. is able to inject personality and aggression while riding vibrant synthesizers across the outer limits of his mind. In “My Sub Pt. 3 (Big Bang),” he goes as far as to compare his subwoofers to the creation of life itself, and with good reason. A demand for efficient bass can either take away from or augment the experience, but either way these are the kind of sonic choices that make Cadillactica more than a mock Aquemini.

What sets this album apart from the majority of today’s rap is Big K.R.I.T.’s ability to be vulnerable and human, showing his love for fresh whips, Southern culture and his observations on life. Such is heard in “Soul Food” where he reminisces over the values of his grandparents while faced with our generation’s increasing disinterest in finding love: “Most people don’t make love no more, they just fuck and they fight / What happened to the stay-togethers? / Die with you, and that means forever / Grandparents had that kind of bond, but now we on some other shit.” This turns into “Pay Attention,” where K.R.I.T.’s attempt to compose an R&B single echoes the sonic qualities of a Drake track a little too much. Sharing his attraction to a stripper, K.R.I.T. flows about how he’s been entranced by the best of the best, searching for her presence every time he comes out for the nightlife. A little contradictory, aren’t we K.R.I.T.?

By this time, the magic of the world created in the first four tracks has dwindled and we descend to earth, entering a worldlier Cadillactica of lust, rap monarchy and hedonistic hypnotism with “Mind Control.” Backed by Wiz Khalifa, E-40 and probably the ghost of “Stankonia”-era Andre 3000, K.R.I.T. sacrifices identity for accessibility, which leads the listener to a dull and unsatisfying world.

With that said, the interlude “Standby” is probably one of the most poetic and honest minute and 40 seconds on the entire record, sharing a tale of lost love with a moody saxophone levitating in the background thanks to Kenneth Whalum III. Such is a great transition into the more laidback slice of Cadillactica, with songs “Do You Love Me” and “Third Eye” that, although satisfying in sonic fragments, don’t entirely do the job. The sentimentality is clear, especially in each hook, but something is lost in the lyricism that attempts to be too profound with too little. While aspects seem to fall short, the funk and soul is prevalent on this half of the album, making you feel like you’re in zero-gravity at times. “Angels,” “Saturday=Celebration” and “Lost Generation” masterfully blend K.R.I.T.’s introspective tendencies with ballad-like production that you can feel in your ribcage.

While enjoyable, Cadillactica has its phases of genius just as much as it has phases of commercial appeal, making it underwhelming in some areas. If they’re willing to swallow a few commercial errors and lyrical teetering between elegant prose and mediocre stabs at the philosophical, veteran K.R.I.T. fans will probably find gems worthy of their car’s sound system. Cadillactica is a little more than decent but a little far from K.R.I.T.’s magnum opus.

Rating: 3.5 stars