Live From the Underground (Big K.R.I.T., 2012) -- B+
It may initially seem a stretch to compare Big K.R.I.T.'s debut studio album to Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - but in many ways, Live From the Underground is more of a straight rap/funk/electro hybrid of West's eclectic masterpiece, only with far less naval-gazing. More Wu-Tang or Too Short (especially on hard-hitting rap tracks like "What U Mean" or "Yeah Dats Me") than Lil Wayne, K.R.I.T. clearly has an interest in past and present, his electro-cool beats on "LFU300" or the sci-fi coda on "Yeah Dats Me," emblematic of the latter, a wise choice combining lyricism with a diverse range of sounds. "Don't Let Me Down" is K.R.I.T.'s slow-jam anthem ("It's hard to celebrate for others when you're dying poor"), yet it isn't chained by such a label, since the sound and the lyrics often don't easily align - in that way, K.R.I.T. isn't an immediately accessible rapper, nor is Live From the Underground definable as any one specific thing, with one mission in mind. Listen to "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," a staggeringly thoughtful track about lost adolescence, offering the warning: "Be a better man in the world of negligence/Pedophilic malvolence, don't trust your reverend." Poignant without pandering, K.R.I.T. clearly knows his stuff and can fairly easily maneuver between sounds and genres. Holding the album back slightly are early tracks like "Cool 2 Be Southern" and "I Got This," neither of which is very convincing (especially the former, as K.R.I.T. never explains exactly why the track's title is the case) and, with the latter, is far too generic for a talent as varied and tangible as K.R.I.T.'s ultimately thoroughly impressive debut indicates.