Whoever said "Hip Hop is Dead" obliviously hasn't heard the spoken words of the 22 year old fresh out of Mississippi's womb, a constant movement of innovative beats and hypnotizing lyrics that keeps your ears fiendin' for the next track. Meridian, MS native Big K.R.I.T. has done more than established his place in the game, he's letting all MCs "overstand" that fact that he's not going anywhere anytime soon. K.R.I.T. is young enough to be ahead of his time and old enough to be just in time to resuscitate the corpse of hip hop. Quoting the young talent "you like me shawty, I like me too" gives the young Krizzle the confidence to place hip hop on his back and demand the attention of his predecessors. See Me on Top III has hit the streets and A&Rs are listening…underground artists are trying to step up…
He is ahead of the movement. Early in age, K.R.I.T. discovered his musical inclination. At the ripe age of twelve, Young Krizzle followed in the steps of the late Tupac Shakur writing poems and turning them into raps. He then began free-styling in the hallways of Kate Griffin Jr. High School perfecting his craft. At the tender age of fourteen, he began producing and arranging music for local artists. Soon after he began producing and writing his own music, with the finesse of a veteran. Immersing himself in the talents of the late greats: Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur and the southern influences of Andre 3000 and Cee-lo Goodie; Big K.R.I.T. has developed himself into a living legend that's unknown to the popular circuit but adorned by the true underground hip hop heads. His soul is young but his roots are deeply planted in southern soil growing up to the sounds of Willie Hutch, Bobby Womack and the Manhattans, whose music has sincerely influenced his works.
Since 2005, he has dropped four mix tapes: See Me on Top I, II featuring DJ Folk, III featuring DJ Infamous and Hood Fame with DJ Wally Sparks: King of the Queen. He signed himself to his label Multi Records, manages his own production, creates and sells his own beats. He's worked with established DJs in the industry without dropping a cent, such as DJ Folk, DJ O.K. out of Oklahoma, Black Bill Gates, Big Mike out of NYC, DJ Chuck T, Chief Rocka, DJ Papa Smirf, DJ Certified Kingpin, Governor Kush: Live From MLK, DJ Break 'Em Off, DJ Sweat, DJ MLK, Bigga Rankins…and the list goes on. He's been featured on tracks with Donnie Cross, Collective Efforts and Mike Hartnett. He's produced tracks for many established artists such as Max Minelli, Ya Boy, Cheeto Gamine, Alfa Mega from Grand Hustle and Big Floaty.
The young talent also has accumulated/developed a catalog of unsurpassed sounds and lyrics calmly waiting to take the rap game by storm. Big K.R.I.T. has consistently presented his scope and depth as he eagerly waits at mainstream's door…knocking…no, banging to be let in. Who's going to open the door?
Slim Thug is the voice of Houston rap, a 6'6" tall colossus who dominated the early-'00s underground scene on Michael "5000" Watts' Swishahouse imprint. In 2005 he released his Neptunes'-produced major label debut, Already Platinum, and followed it with his tremendously-popular eOne Music follow-up Boss of All Bosses four years later. He returns on eOne1/Boss Hogg Outlawz with his latest album, Th...a Thug Show, due out November 30. The work shows him in top form and features single, "So High," with chart-topping Atlanta emcee B.o.B. "What I'm trying to do is give fans the best of Boss of All Bosses and of Already
Platinum," Slim says.
Born Stayve Thomas, Slim was already running things as a high school student. He drove around in a drop-top Cadillac, inspiring some of his older classmates to call him Boss Hogg -- after The Dukes of Hazard character -- which inspired the name of his record label. Many folks just called him Slim, however, and since he was doing thuggish things and looked and acted like a thug, he extended it to Slim Thug. "I was grilled-out since I was, like, 15 years old," he explains. "I was walking around with braids, Dickies, white t-shirts, and Chucks all the time, so I looked like a thug."
An aspiring rapper, his fate forever changed one night in high school when he performed a freestyle at a northside Houston teen club in front of Michael Watts, the influential local DJ and mixtape guru. Impressed by Slim's verse, Watts invited him to his studio to lay down a track for a mixtape album. "I went over, did the shit, and it's been poppin' ever since," Slim says. With Swishahouse and Boss Hogg Outlawz he moved thousands and thousands of CDs, and began drawing major label attention. But, considering he was already the making big money playing shows around Texas, he had no need for their puny offers. "Every label tried to sign me-- Universal, Atlantic, Warner Bros, everyone. But the money they was offering, I wasn't with it, 'cause we were getting that out in the streets."
Eventually however, one of the independent distribution networks trafficking his CDs went under. And so, when Interscope finally called with a good offer he signed on, and was eventually placed on The Neptunes' Star Trak label. Pharrell Williams and his crew were the hottest thing working, and though their spaced-out, pop-friendly style strayed from the gritty, slowed, Houston sound Slim built his name on, Already Platinum debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, and spawned hits including "Like A Boss." (That song inspired a wildly-popular
Saturday Night Live parody of the same name last year, featuring Andy Samberg as a not-so-bosslike boss.)
Meanwhile, also in 2005, Watts used a line from a Slim freestyle -- "still tippin' on fo-fo's, wrapped in fo'-vogues" – as the hook for the breakout song from Swishahouse artist Mike Jones, called "Still Tippin'." The track, which also featured Paul Wall, was a massive hit, bringing Houston's emerging hip hop sound (and its references to lean, candy paint, grills and swangers) to the mainstream. Slim's star was launched and he appeared on hits like Gwen Stefan's 2005 song "Luxurious" and Beyonce's 2006 number one, "Check On It."
Despite his national success, the major label scene wasn't for Slim, and a few years later he signed with eOne. "A lot of people thought I was stupid for walking away from Interscope, but I wasn't going to be on the sidelines, while they pushed back records," he says. "At the end of the day, I'd rather go with a smaller company and keep the money coming." His critically-admired 2009 follow-up Boss of All Bosses may not have had a big budget or production from The Neptunes, but it returned to his original sound and was beloved by his core fans, selling some 150,000 units. Last year he also had another great look through a collaboration with Jon Stewart's The Daily Show called, "Still A Boss," a parody video about the way the economy is affecting the rap industry. ("I don't pop bottles in the club/ It costs too much…'Cause up at Costco it's half the cash/ I buy a bottle, for what you're spending on one glass.")
Tha Thug Show aims to split the difference between the mainstream-accessible sound of Already Platinum and the Texas flavor of Boss of All Bosses. Much of the production comes courtesy of his collaborator Mr. Lee, and the album features Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, Nipsey Hussle and Big Krit. Single "So High," with B.o.B., comes after the pair nearly worked together on Slim's 2008 single "I Run," which, in the end, instead featured Yelawolf. "After Yelawolf did it, it just sounded so right, I didn't want to change it," Slim says. "But I've definitely been knowing
B.o.B. since before he took off."
It's clear that Slim has settled into his role as a young Houston legend, and that returning to his independent roots has been good for him. "I might be local again, but I'm still getting money, so I'm cool on it," he says with a laugh. "I've got better focus, and more power." Even in these recessionary times, it's clear, the Slim Thug brand goes a long way.
Tito Lopez's first words tell the story. When he was less than a year old, the Gulfport, Mississippi native was sitting in his high chair and said, "Wild, wild, west," the chorus of a popular Kool Moe Dee song at the time. Flabbergasted, his mother declared that one day her son would be a rapper.
Fast forward to 2012 and Lopez's mother's words have proven prophetic. The Capitol Records signee is in the midst of recording his debut studio album and has already gotten the endorsement of Dr. Dre, Sha Money XL and the Dungeon Family, and has worked with such platinum producers as Organized Noize (OutKast, TLC), Mr. DJ (OutKast, Common) and DJ Toomp (T.I., Ludacris).
Building off the momentum of a string of acclaimed mixtapes, including 2010's King With No Crown, Lopez rips through his new material with the precision of a lyrical sniper, deftly balancing top-tier wordplay and punchlines with food for thought. The raw "Conversation With Tito," for instance, is a grimy cut where Lopez acts as though he's talking to the listener, while the Mr. DJ-produced "Got That Shit" features Lopez at his most optimistic.
"That's the most carefree record I've got," he says. "It's really just supposed to be something fun. It really was a joke. It's the total opposite of how I was growing up. It's like a day in your life when everything is going right for you."
One thing that's always been right in Lopez's life is his relationship with his mother. On "Mama Proud," he doesn't overtly rap about her, but the chorus features a simple, heartfelt refrain: "I just want my mama to be proud of me."
"Whatever you're doing in life, your basic goal is to make your mama proud," Lopez says. "I said a few times in the song and when we were listening to it, it's jamming enough to go on the radio and it's hip-hop enough to where it's something to build on. It's going to flip the world on its ear."
Before Lopez was on his way to stardom, he had to flip his own world first. Born to a 17-year-old mother and 20-year-old father, Lopez was a standout student. But with high grades came considerable ridicule from his peers. In elementary school, Lopez found himself isolated, typically finding solace in his parents' extensive rap collection or by watching movies.
Inspired by pre-teen rappers Kris Kross, Lopez started writing his own raps when he was five. By the time he got to junior high, he had built a small circle of friends. But he was still an outcast in many ways and had developed a Napoleon complex, which led to a string of fights and getting kicked out of school.
Yes, he was able to watch BET's "Rap City" while at home during school hours, but his father put a damper on his rap dreams by telling him that he would not be able to succeed as an artist.
At school, though, Lopez was becoming a celebrity of sorts because of his advanced lyrics and potent flow. Getting a positive reaction from his classmates became an addiction that Lopez chased by making and performing his raps.
Soon thereafter, Lopez turned a laser-sharp focus to his music. He graduated and started recording material in his house. He also visited Miami and Detroit in order to soak up music industry knowledge from some of his contacts.
By the mid-2000s, Lopez was churning out high-quality material and began presenting and posting it to websites. In 2009, his music ended up in the hands of music industry veteran Keith "WOK" Watts, a seasoned executive and manager.
Blown away by Lopez's skill, fire, attitude and microphone presence, Wok traveled to Mississippi to meet Lopez. Sold instantly on Lopez's potential, Wok soon coordinated an appearance for Lopez on the coveted Def Jam Cypher.
Hosted by Sha Money XL, Lopez understood the impact his performance could have on his burgeoning rap career. "When we got there, I remember thinking, 'This is my time to show that this is what I do,'" he says. "'I rap.'"
Lopez's masterful verse and commanding performance earned him a standing ovation from the tough-to-impress New York crowd and gave Wok even more confidence in his rising artist.
After drawing interest from Def Jam and other labels, Lopez signed to Capitol Records (via Steve Prudholme) in June 2011. One selling point was that he was going to be a top priority at the label. He started work on his album in September 2011, hitting the studio in Los Angeles in September before traveling to Atlanta in October, where he worked with Dungeon Family, DJ Toomp and Drumma Boy. He then went with Wok to New York to record there.
"Tito Lopez represents people being true to who they are," says Wok, who has billed Lopez as the Voice of the Underdogs. "Everything you want will come to you if you stay true to who you are."
Lopez agrees wholeheartedly. And he doesn't just want to make an impact on music. He wants to leave a legacy.
"I've got to be legendary," Lopez says. "I can't be here and gone in six months like some of these dudes. I've got to be where Em is at, Jay is at. I want to be one of these dudes that makes it for 10-plus years. There's only a handful of them, so I've got to be legendary."
And he's well on his way.