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Rap Release of the Week: Big Sant’s ‘MFxOG’

Big Sant

Big Sant is like the bizarro-world version of Big K.R.I.T. He’s stocky instead of lean, gifted with a gruff guttural shout rather than a sing-song rapping voice, and more than willing to indulge himself and not feel all twisted up about it the next day. Sant can be found Incredible Hulk-ing his way through a few of K.R.I.T.’s most immediate tracks: “Return of 4Eva” from K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, “Made a Lot” from Return Of 4Eva, and “Pull Up,” off Live From The Underground. Sant also appeared on “TCB,” from Jackie Chain’s After Hours, a track that appears on MFxOG, Sant’s decidedly one-note debut mixtape, as well.

Unlike K.R.I.T.’s wide-eyed, worker-bee mixtapes, MFxOG has two settings: Backed in a corner and kicking against the pricks, or solemnly whispering “victory” over all the bullshit that’s out there testing him. The tape runs back and forth between busting-through-the-wall-like-the-Kool Aid Man intro tracks, and emotive, last-lap album-enders. There’s no middling out, which gives it an unmatched urgency that few mixtapes have right now. K.R.I.T. provides only three beats to the tape, which speaks to Sant’s confidence as a solo rapper. “2 Much” and “Holdin’ My Nuts” are obviously the result of Krizzle behind the boards. But “Say That Shit” pounds four different directions and seems tailor-made for Sant. An EDM-ish synth buzzes, 808s karate-kick your ears, horror-movie piano hammers into your skull, and then there’s Sant, shouting the song’s threat of a hook, over and over again.

But Sant counters “Say That Shit” with “Rap Nigga,” a thrilling, if unnecessarily embattled, posse cut about how the South gets no respect. It begins with some ding-dong whose voice I should probably recognize calling Atlanta “the wackest place in hip-hop.” It’s one of those minor-victory tracks, invigorated by anger about New York City condescension, but on the defensive, nevertheless. The orchestrated boom-bap track features fellow Mississippian Tito Lopez (best known for the almost-hit “Mama Proud”), North Carolinian King Mez — a sort of buzzing MC who, for the first time to my ears, actually stands out — and contrarian elder Phonte Coleman.

It’s a pissed-off posse cut that makes good on its “lyrical” promise. And unsurprisingly, much of its charm comes from the tension between often-relaxed Southern lyricists upping their energy and their never-get-old musical accents. A few songs later, there’s “Live,” which finds Sant getting introspective, doling out his thoughts about a dad he can’t talk to anymore, and a son who doesn’t see him enough. It’s backed-up by a DJ Premier-like melange of mostly East Coast rap snippets that makes it clear the regional bias is one-sided.

Ultimately, the tape makes a case for Big K.R.I.T.’s inclusive vision of conscious hip-hop. Like Kendrick Lamar’s Compton humanism on good kid m.A.A.d. city, which refuses to entirely place blame on street culture or Lamar’s fuck-up friends, but rather seems to celebrate them by giving them a voice, K.R.I.T. embraces Sant — a shouting, dick-suck pimp rapper who, when he feels like it, can be a sensitive street scholar and disarmingly regular guy. This binary-breaking collaboration is a rejection of the class biases so many “serious” MCs of the political persuasion seem to exhibit. It’s far more organic than when, say, Talib Kweli allowed Gucci Mane to rap with him on that one track that one time.

So, while K.R.I.T. remains a sort of hybrid model Pimp C — sincere but snarling, intellectual but sometimes idiotic — Big Sant is a stalwart throwback to the type of rapper that K.R.I.T. retrofits. MFxOG can stand on its own, but Sant’s sort of power contrasts this visceral tape with K.R.I.T.’s more searching releases. These guys need each other.