“Mt. Olympus,” K.R.I.T.’s response to Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “Control” written the day after, is, in a word, unstoppable. Without being hyperbolic about it, it’s one of K.R.I.T.’s best songs, and one of the best surprises of 2014. I’ve long maintained that thought K.R.I.T.’s rapping skills were competent at best, only ahead of the competition because his lyrics were honest –why his bangers always tend to be worse than his slower, more soulful numbers – and that his true prowess was his production. But the spike in attention from “Control” really lit a fire under his ass because “Mt. Olympus” contains some of the best verses this year: “That ‘Control’ beat is like an ugly bitch that everybody done fucked raw / Maybe you hit it”; “Ask me about this Kendrick shit that he ain’t even really even diss me on / I ain’t drawn to all this prpoganda, rap shit ‘bout as real as Santa”; the last half of the first verse and the entirety of the second verse, where he fires syllables faster than a machine gun. As other people have noted, the original beat was better than the one that appears on the deluxe edition of Cadillactica (because of sample clearance issues), but “Mt. Olympus” isn’t about the beat and after a few spins with the reprised version, I’m sure you’ll have forgotten completely about the original.
Unfortunately, it turns out “Mt. Olympus” is nothing but a tease to the anticlimax of Cadillactica. For the record, I’m one of the four people who thought Live From the Underground was a good record, and I was understandably excited about his second proper album. Yet, I wasn’t even aware that it dropped at all until a month after the fact – it wasn’t reviewed by Rolling Stone (despite them giving him an interview about the album) and Pitchfork reviewed the new Wu-Tang Clan album that same day and delegated K.R.I.T. to the third page.
Much has been made about Cadillactica being the first time K.R.I.T. has rapped over outside production, with a third of these songs handled by others, including the venerable DJ Dahi and Terrace Martin (you might recognize both names for supplying Kendrick Lamar with “Money Trees” and “Ab-Soul’s Outro,” respectively, amongst others), “Soul Food” produced by Raphael Saadiq and “Pay Attention” produced by pop mainstay Jim Jonsin et al. And it makes sense that K.R.I.T. would look to others for help: he’s exhausted himself by keeping to a rigid schedule of at least one release a year since his coming out party of 2010, not to mention the fact that he thrives on samples, and that’s a no-go when it comes to proper albums. And … you wouldn’t know that these songs were produced by others unless someone told you; only the melodically-minded Dahi comes through in the choruses of “Cadillactica” (one of the few songs that continues the lyrical fire of “Mt. Olympus”). Meanwhile, Terrace Martin tries his best to elevate “Angels” with all manner of horns and synths, but there wasn’t much in the song to begin with, and if Live From the Underground‘s “Yeah Dat’s Me” was egregious, than lead single “Pay Attention” is lugubrious; decide which one’s worse.
Elsewhere, nothing happens on “Kreation (Intro)” and “Life” is more of the pandering to the mainstream audiences that Live From the Underground was often guilty of (compare this beat to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”). Neither of the posse cuts “Mind Control” and “Mo Better Cool” deliver the goods (though the former has a decent synth hook) and I don’t know why K.R.I.T. thought it was a good idea to let Lupe Fiasco close the album out years after his prime. To be honest, after “Mt. Olympus” and “Cadillactica,” I walk away here with only the heavy bass of “My Sub Pt. 3 (Bang Bang)” and “Saturdays = Celebration,” which contains the best beat, thanks to the driving military drums and resplendent piano. It’s becoming more and more clear that ReturnOf4Eva wasn’t the start of something great, it was the end.