As if a new 22-track album wasn’t enough, get ready for another shot of hard-edged, reality-saturated encouragement from rapper Big K.R.I.T.
“Ready for the Next” is a pulsing original song created for the documentary 89 Blocks, will launch Fox Sports’ new film series when it debuts on Fox next Sunday, (Nov. 26). The doc, executive-produced by Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated in association with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s production shop Uninterrupted, is an immersion in the 2016 state high school championship-winning football season of the East St. Louis, Illinois Flyers.
The song drops this Friday (Nov. 17) on iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, Spotify and TIDAL. The film also includes licensed music from Saint Jhn, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Shaboozay and Lecrae.
With lyrics including, ”I hope you make it through/ I’m just trying to win when they want me to lose,” “Ready for the Next” plays almost like an addendum to K.R.I.T.’s double album 4Eva Is a Mighty Long Time, which dropped Oct. 27 to critical and popular acclaim — affirming the artist’s decision last year to break with Def Jam and go independent.
“Being from a smaller city and understanding how you’ve got to overcome negativity when people may not believe in you — the whole story speaks to me,” K.R.I.T. tells Billboard of the documentary. “And hopefully, it’ll inspire somebody else who may be in a position where they think they may not have enough to make it.”
89 Blocks is rife with drama both on and off the field. Against the dystopian backdrop of the 2016 presidential election, the team and community lifted themselves through challenges including overt racism and a Hail Mary touchdown in the playoffs only days after a car crash claimed a team member’s life.
“East St. Louis is primarily an African-American town, one of most violent cities in the nation, 15 miles from Ferguson,” says Ian Orefice, an ep on the film and head of programming for Time Inc. Studios. “In one early scene Coach [Darren] Sunkett says, ‘Everyone’s going to think you’re dumb black kids from the projects. How do you want your story to be told?’ And later there’s a scene where they walk out on Soldier Field, and coach says, ‘I asked you how you wanted your story to be told? And this is what you did.’ They had a choice. And they used football as the inspiration for the next chapter of their lives.”
To help tell the team’s story, Orefice and the SI crew turned to music agency Jingle Punks, which enlisted producer Terrace Martin to create the closing-credit song. Martin, a longtime collaborator with Kendrick Lamar among artists, was fresh off working with K.R.I.T. on his double album.
“Normally you wouldn’t get those kind looks unless you were with a major,” K.R.I.T. says of the opportunity. “This showed me all the work I put in, not only on a musical level but just being the kind of person that works real hard and by just being kind to people… people will reach out because they know I’m trying to put my best forward when it comes to subject matter and creation of song. And to be independent now and have that reputation of people knowing they can get a quick turnaround with something of quality is amazing.”
Martin tells Billboard the song came together quickly both because of the circumstance as well as the energy that surrounded the project. “This is something that we’ve all lived through, we’ve all seen it on television. For young African-American males right now, this is the world we’re living with, the odds we’re living with, set where everything in Ferguson happened,” he says. “So composing music for it… when we were vibing about it and I got a chance to see it and read up on certain things, the music part was simple because it was 100% honest and really about the moment — being able to capture that energy and emotion.”
“It’s the perfect song to elevate the message,” says Jingle Punks founder Jared Gutstadt. “And it was such a perfect assemblage of parts. Jingle Punks knows the TV and film side. Terrace — look at all the work he’s done in hip hop — and Big K.R.I.T. is having the culture moment of all culture moments. It all came together, to get the right title and feeling, and the right creators to match the vibe of what was going on.”
“It’s all about trying to make the film as powerful as we can. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a title for a song so directly speak to what really is happening for all the characters,” Orefice adds. “They’re ready for the next chapter of their lives.”
“Ready for the Next” marks the first time Time Inc. Productions has embedded a custom song in one of its projects. But it definitely won’t be the last. “This is the first time we are doing original music like this. You have this great story, and now you have the right music to elevate it to the next place,” Orefice says. “I fell in love with the music process and I want to make sure it’s just as important as the underlying story.”
Listen to a snippet of “Ready for the Next” below.