The shadow of superstardom can be a very dark place, but for T.I.’s protégé Big Kuntry King, it’s a position of power. As a member of P$C, the Grand Hustle-signed five-man group who released their debut album, 25 To Life, in 2005, Big Kuntry King has been an integral part of Atlanta’s nationally celebrated trap music scene. Thanks to his alliance with T.I., who Kuntry befriended in 1996 at the start of legendary Southern spitter’s career, Big Kuntry has managed to rap for hordes of hip-hop fans around the world. “T.I. used to say some things back then that was amazing and I was like man, I could do that,” remembers Big Kuntry. “After a while it started to become real. If it wasn’t for rapping, a lot of us would be locked up or dead right now.”
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Big Kuntry was raised in a house that held his mother, sister, and close to ten members of his extended family. When he reached the fifth grade, Kuntry moved to Atlanta with his mother, who sought a better life for her kids. While his mom worked two jobs and pursued a college degree, Kuntry gravitated to street life, where his family had a notorious history. “I was born in the game,” says Kuntry. “My Grand Momma was in it before she died. My Auntie was in it; everybody was in it.”
A couple of years after his father was released from a seven-year stint in federal prison, Kuntry started rapping as a way to earn extra money. He had recently befriended T.I., who was already known around Atlanta as a skilled lyricist, and together they sold mixtapes out the trunk of their car. “The raps, that was our dope,” Kuntry says. “We was rapping because we knew we could make us enough money to buy something and get out. And it made us look good in our neighborhood and every other neighborhood in the A.”
Big Kuntry’s first major feature spot came on T.I.’s 2001 album, I’m Serious, on the song “Heavy Chevys.” In between appearing on subsequent T.I. albums like Trap Muzik and Urban Legend, Big Kuntry recorded and released some songs on his own, including “Still Country” and the dope-fueled “Throwback.” In 2005, with the release of the P$C album, Big Kuntry was suddenly introduced to a nationwide audience but unfortunately for him, it wasn’t his star that T.I. and Grand Hustle focused on making the brightest. “They had just signed Young Dro, and Tip made this song ‘Shoulder Lean’ for him,” explains Kuntry. “He threw some verses on it and it was a smash song. We was like damn, we’ve been here since day one killing it and you’re going to come out with Young Dro? That’s when I said man, I have to step this up.”
While T.I. and the rest of the camp were overseas playing shows in Japan, Kuntry went into the studio by himself and started recording solo material. It didn’t take long for the charismatic MC to craft the catchy tracks, “Yeah I’m On It” and “That’s Right,” which both featured Kuntry’s drawn out signature adlib, “You know who this is man, Big Kuntry King!” “I took all of my money and pressed up the ‘Yeah I’m On It’ record,” he says. “And by the time they came back from Japan, I had two records on the radio and playing in the clubs.”
Unable to ignore his determination to shine, Kuntry was signed as a solo artist to Atlantic Records, where he now plans to release his first solo album, It’s My Turn To Eat. “I always thought it was my turn to eat cause I’m hungry,” he says. “All these people are eating more around me, so either I have to take some food off their plate, or they’re going to give me my plate.”
After recording for close to a year, Kuntry’s debut is a solid collection of songs produced by some of Atlanta’s trend-setting track masters, including Shawty Redd and Marvelous J. On the song “Pots and Pans,” Kuntry breaks down the difference between the music he was raised on Down South as opposed to what people up North were accustomed to hearing. On the Nard & B produced cut “Soul of a Man,” Kuntry talks about the heavy expectations that are placed on men everyday, and the common struggle to always do the right thing. Kuntry’s track “Posse” is all about repping where he’s from and the company that he keeps. “I think my music is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he says. “It’s like, he’s funny, he’s cracking jokes but he’s serious ain’t he? It’s a psychological thing; I don’t think a lot of rappers are like that.”
With close to ten years experience in the rap game, first as a supporting player and now as the featured act, Big Kuntry is finally ready to make a personal statement of his own. It’s My Turn To Eat is a testament to his hard work and creative personal vision. “If you listen to my album you’re going to be rockin’ the whole time,” he says. “I hand-picked all of my beats and I’m very picky. A lot of people tell me I got an ear and I appreciate it ’cause this ear is going to get me paid.” Cha-ching!