Crit Life is a phenomenon. Technically it's a hip hop collective, but in truth it's become a motto, a way of life among Dallas' high school- and college-aged music fans. They add the word "Crit" to the names they use on social media accounts and use all sorts of Crit-related hashtags. Fans become followers, believers and leaders in spreading the word, and Crit Life shows get lines running out the door with hardly any proper promotion done in advance. So what exactly is Crit Life, and how did it get so popular?
At its base, Crit Life is spearheaded by two brothers, with the 18-year-old younger brother Crit Morris serving as its true face. He has been making music for four years and immediately shared it with his older brother, Se7en. Se7en has made his own music, but it was clear that his brother was doing something special. "Something told me it's him," says Se7en. "He's got it."
Shortly after that, Se7en moved to Bakersfield, California for college, but started to formulate an idea for what his brother was doing. "It started as parties out there," he says. "There they say functions, so we had Crit Life functions." Crit is an acronym for "create reveal inspire today." Crit Life wants to inspire people, especially kids who don't believe anything is possible.
Crit Morris' second performance was on a bill with Schoolboy Q back in 2012. Se7en was his hype man back then. "We sucked," Se7en says. "We were bad," Morris agrees. These days, Se7en is the "CEO" of Crit Life. A typical Crit Life show is Crit Morris performing with a few other members of the collective doing opening sets. The shows quickly got better, and so their following began to build.
"It's not a feel or approach," says Crit Cap. He's known Se7en since high school but joined the collective just a year ago. "It's a flow." Crit Life insists that they are just being themselves and it just happens to inspire people. One fan even has a tattoo in appreciation. "It's something you can taste in the air," Morris says of the buzz. "We're catching the attention of the youth because we are youth."
Crit Life have performed at several venues in Dallas, but never in Fort Worth where they live. "People always think we are from Dallas," says Crit Cap. "We work from the outside in," says Se7en, who admits to enjoying the air of mystery surrounding Crit Life. Indeed, with so many artists and fans making use of the acronym on social media, it can be difficult to figure out who or what Crit Life is.
Earlier this month, Crit Life had their biggest show at the We Are Dallas warehouse. The event was only announced about a week prior and the performance space is fairly new in a part of Dallas that few people visit for music. Nonetheless, the venue was full with a line of people outside waiting to get in on a cold night. Crit Life promoted the show simply with a few posts on social media websites. But after that, word quickly spread throughout their tightknit fan base, and beyond.
"We don't want to see nobody standing around," Crit Cap says, about live shows. "You come to a Crit Life event to have fun," says Morris. "At our shows the crowd is a part of the show." Crit Life attracts a very young crowd of high school and college students. It is not unusual for these crowds to jump around and create an environment that feels like a punk rock show. Se7en and Crit Morris admit to being longtime Red Hot Chili Peppers fans, particularly admiring the group's high energy. "I'm still looking to put down a guitar solo on one of my songs," says Morris. It is something he has wanted to do for a long time.
The collective has grown larger. With hip hop artists, producers and singers, Crit Life has a fairly diverse sound. "But the sound people are mostly sticking to is the more aggressive one with trap beats," says Se7en. The sound is also catchy, uptempo and melodic. "It's both aggression and harmonization," says Morris.
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Crit Life have released just singles and music videos thus far, but Crit Morris has been working on his debut album for two years and still doesn't have a release date. He admits to being somewhat of a perfectionist. "He really is one of the most lyrical artists," says Se7en. But in the meantime, building the collective's ever-growing community is effort, and reward, enough. "We are the new wave," says Morris. "People connect to our vibes."
Crit Life performs at 9 p.m. tonight, Thursday, April 2, at The Curtain Club, 2800 Main St., $10-$15.
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