Despite Big K.R.I.T.’s enormous musical talent, it has been a long road to the top for the Mississippi-born rapper. Born Justin Scott, the man has rapped, produced, mixed and mastered much of his illustrious catalog and is just now finally getting the acclaim he deserves. On Wednesday, Cervantes’ played host to him, Cyhi the Prynce and Childish Major to a sold-out crowd of true rap fanatics. Despite being dead in the center of the 29-city “Heavy Is The Crown Tour,” each performer came through with enormous energy and undeniable magnetism.

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While Cyhi’s No Dope on Sundays was one of the finer releases of 2017, much of the crowd was there for K.R.I.T., whose double-album 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time may be the southern dynamo’s standing opus. Both rappers brought their lyrical A-game, playing mostly new music to a crowd obviously well-versed in their respective catalogs. There was some dancing, but head-nodding and rapping along with each and every lyric were nearly universal.

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Childish Major held his own, despite being the tour’s clear underdog. The Atlanta native opened the evening with tracks from his well-liked EP Woo$ah, and while he was certainly not as seasoned as his peers, his time on stage was still well-regarded. Cyhi followed suit with a solid set of new material, mix-tape classics and prominent features. The fans rejoiced when he rapped his verse from Kanye’s brooding “So Appalled.” As people chanted the RZA assisted hook “fucking ridiculous,” the message seemed especially pertinent. And while the Prynce may have demanded that the audience say “go Cyhi, go Cyhi, go Cyhi go!” just a few too many times, the strength of the material overshadowed the antics. The Georgia-born artist rocked a range of beats but shone especially bright when he hit an extended a cappella. His charisma was enough to briefly silence the reasonably raucous crowd.

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K.R.I.T. hit the stage in full rockstar mode. His style has been steadily refined throughout the course of his career, and his stage-presence had grown dramatically since the last time he graced the stage of the Five Points ballroom. The guy was larger than life — so much so that his sunglasses didn’t seem out of place in the darkened room. Backed by psychedelic visuals, Scott played mostly new material. And while his new tracks are arguably some of his best, many of the old heads were disappointed when he didn’t play more songs from K.R.I.T Wuz Here and King Remembered in Time.

Scott’s lyrics have always been deep. His struggle to reconcile his desire to ball out with his devotion to the righteous path has fueled a great deal of his creative fire. His knack for articulating ethical considerations has always been his strong-suit and perhaps a reason for his slow rise to the top. In a scene largely dominated by music that encourages turning up without much reflection, K.R.I.T.’s music can be complicated, affecting and dense. However, Wednesday’s show was all celebration. While Atlanta may be the epicenter of Southern rap, Scott’s set continued to prove that Mississippi has something to say. This tour had the feel of a victory lap.

During the set, Scott took some time to give a sincere dedication to Pimp C, an artist who clearly has had a large influence on his style. Wednesday’s show proved K.R.I.T.’s blend of integrity and unrestrained hype — served in equal measure — isn’t going anywhere. In a time where extremity is the norm, Scott’s dedication to balance proved deeply inspiring.

All photography by Alden Bonecutter.