What does it say about an industry when fans will literally tell an artist they will pay for his free material? In the day where things for the ridiculously cheap go farther than most items stocked on store shelves, few can look at the meteoric rise of Meridian Mississippi’s own Justin Scott and scoff.

When Scott under his King Remembered In Time moniker released K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, it contained few big name features and didn’t even portray the protagonist on the album cover. From true Dirty South music fans, K.R.I.T.’s breakthrough album was enriched with the same soil that made Tony Draper, Suave House & Rap A Lot such lauded figures in the South. Country rap had effectively created a lane and thanks to digital release, wasn’t trapped to being a regional phenomena.

The Great American Rap album of 2010 came from the South. And it was completely free.

The journey of K.R.I.T. has been well documented and won’t have an official bookend until K.R.I.T. either parlays his work into being strictly behind the boards or putting on for the rest of Mississippi. K.R.I.T. Wuz Here prides itself on the causes of the everyman: love from a woman who according to K.R.I.T., “isn’t scared of lions, tigers or bears but she’s afraid to fall in love with me”, family (his grandmother plays a prominent role in the majority of his work) & being overlooked for so long only to come out clean in the end.

Grassroots may not exactly be the word to describe K.R.I.T. who opens his first major headlining tour this week with stops in New Orleans, Houston and Dallas. His first trek to Houston in October 2010 for example tore the house down, winning over a crowd that may have not been all that familiar with this work but the diehards who had the original copy of KWH before it was remastered cheered and recited verse after verse.

K.R.I.T.’s progression was noted even in Austin for this year’s South by Southwest music conference. Last year, he only performed on a singular showcase. This year, try nine times that, all of which filled with the same emotion you would see a gospel choir have knocking out a power ballad. When fans asked about his latest release, Return of 4eva, he kept telling them be paitent and when it finally was released a week after its original date – fans were welcome to see a PayPal logo attached to his website.

Did fans moan about a free release? No, they openly told friends and others on Twitter to actually pay for it. It didn’t feel weird but more of a parting gift for someone who puts his entire life into projects, openly giving motivational moments on wax. Unlike a Wiz Khalifa or another rapper of said ilk who sticks to a certain formula, K.R.I.T. applies himself to the same situations another man may feel. Life isn’t all fun and games, it also comes with consequences and according to K.R.I.T., the lone fantasy of making it only sets up another barrier to cross.

Does the example K.R.I.T. set of releasing great music and letting fans make their own decision on whether or not they want to purchase it carry weight in hip-hop, the lone form of music where fans expect free material? Not exactly. Radiohead’s been using the same technique for a few years now to relative success. It feels more organic, more natural when an artist releases material, fans listen, spread the word and the buzz grows from there. There’s nothing fabricated about the King of Spizikes, not in a marketing scheme anyway. His deal with Def Jam may lead to a bigger budget but at the moment, there is no purer rap album available, whether it’s retail or free than Return of 4eva. It has a common thread, a singular purpose to tell the story of a man who reached a certain level, a level many who may never pick up a microphone can understand and can impact others.

Fans wanting to pay due to being appreciative of the music an artist releases? What a novel concept.

Big K.R.I.T. w/ Freddie Gibbs, Mookie Jones & L.E.$. at Warehouse Live. Friday April 1st. For tickets contact Scoremore at www.scoremore.com