After a two year hiatus, Big K.R.I.T. returns with his third studio album 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, an expansive 22 track odyssey that clocks in at just about an hour and a half of trunk-thumping southern goodness. Despite the lengthy nature of the project, it is split into a more easily digestible double disc format, with the first 11 tracks comprising the Big K.R.I.T. A-side, and the following 11 tracks making up Justin Scott‘s B- side. The first half of the album focuses on public perception and is full of braggadocio and subwoofer shaking hits like “Confetti” and the UGK-assisted “Ride With Me.” The second half of the work however, is made up of meditative songs like “Drinking Sessions” and “Bury Me in Gold,” which explore the inner workings of the man behind the public figure. Despite being a critically acclaimed producer and lyricist, and achieving a level of personal success seen by few, K.R.I.T. has for some reason remained one of the most underrated and overlooked MCs in the game. Perhaps it is because much of the South’s legacy in hip-hop gets categorized as Atlanta’s legacy, and as a result places like K.R.I.T.’s home of Meridian, Mississippi are frequently overshadowed.

Much of the album concerns itself with K.R.I.T.’s legacy as a hip-hop giant and the true trappings of success, versus the appearance of it. On the album’s opening track “Big K.R.I.T.” he says, “Look how they hate me but copy me / Possibly was the one with components and properties / To be the greatest of all time but you won the geography lottery.” Despite his overwhelming love and representation for the South, there are a few moments like this where K.R.I.T. acknowledges the types of arbitrations, like aesthetic or geographic location, that can hold an artist back despite their skill level. Records like “Confetti” address the other aspect of the problem by drawing attention to the way that miniscule achievements are celebrated as great wins. The repeated hook “Your confetti aint even heavy nigga / Got the win, I want the record, nigga / What’s a crown if you don’t protect it, nigga?/ What’s a name if they don’t respect it, nigga?/ Nah, your confetti ain’t even heavy.” K.R.I.T.’s sense of confidence, on the first side of album especially, is unwavering and through his bombast, he reveals some of the hypocrisies in the industry and “insta-fame.” Success does not manifest itself in the same way for everyone and longevity has always been the name of the game for K.R.I.T..

The Justin Scott side of the album starts with a swelling jazzy number in “Justin Scott” before transitioning into “Mixed Messages” which serves as both one of the best records on the album as well as the most overt of thesis for this body of work. K.R.I.T. spends the song bouncing back and forth between conflicting ideas and this contrast between the idea of southern machismo culture and introspective religiosity makes for a thoroughly enjoyable tension in the song (and the album as a whole). K.R.I.T. believes he deserves the wealth and success he’s attained however he simultaneously is trying not to fall into sin and hedonism. This motif is continued in “Keep The Devil Off,” which is easily one of the funkiest gospel songs ever. I’ve already sent it to my grandmother. On this self-produced track K.R.I.T. examines the distance that he’s traversed in his life and the success he’s attained despite his humble beginnings. Although he hasn’t always been able to recognize his accomplishments, he doesn’t take his good fortune for granted, and the song is about the importance of perseverance through tribulations. A choir booms the repeated chorus of “Can’t worry about no snakes.(Worry bout those snakes) / What good are those riches / If you’re six feet under? Lord be my witness / Keep the devil off.” K.R.I.T.’s spirituality on the second half of the puts him at odds with some of his more material desires, however it’s pretty clear, either way, that God comes first. Even though he asks for the listener to “Bury Him in Gold” in the album’s outro, he says he’d trade it all in an instant to get into Heaven.

Despite the album’s length, K.R.I.T.’s range and the handful of features sprinkled throughout the project prevent the work from getting redundant or stagnant. On “Big Bank,” K.R.I.T. enlists the help of T.I., another southern king who has used an album to explore the divergent nature of personality (2007’s T.I. vs Tip). He’s also joined by a diverse cast, including Sleepy Brown, Joi, Jill Scott (on the excellent “Higher Calling”), CeeLo Green, Robert Glasper, and UGK. One of the best things about this Big K.R.I.T. album is that it somehow simultaneously feels like a candy-painted nostalgia trip, as well as something from a funky future yet to come. The diversity of features helps to add to this feeling of timelessness. Similarly, the inclusion of  tongue-in-cheek skits like “Classic” harken back to Outkast, without ever feeling like K.R.I.T. is losing his individual voice in the homage.

Throughout both sides of the album K.R.I.T.’s humor and lyricism remain top tier and his production alternates between a powerful percussive accompaniment to K.R.I.T.’s frantic rhymes and a sonic security blanket for him to bleed his fears and insecurities into. K.R.I.T. handles much of the production on his own but he’s also joined behind the boards by legends such as Mannie Fresh, Bryan-Michael Cox, Organized Noize, and DJ Khalil.

Perhaps the best aspect of 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time is the awareness that K.R.I.T. possesses about the importance of timelessness. 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time feels like a very carefully structured project in which K.R.I.T./Scott explores his place not only as a black man in America or as a musician in the industry but as an entity in contrast with the entirety of existence/time. No matter how trivial the undertaking, every piece of art is a stab at immortality and longevity beyond the scope of the artist’s life. As he says on the album’s closer “Bury Me in Gold”, all of the riches in the world pale in comparison to life everlasting. Big K.R.I.T., despite his underappreciated status in the music industry, makes great music and seems to be intent on continuing to do so for a mighty long time.