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Nappy Roots still country and proud of it

Kenyatta Storin | Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Last year, Kentucky-based Nappy Roots’ major-label debut, Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz, was a pleasant surprise to the rap world, providing a fresh, lighthearted brand of Dirty South rap. Thanks to the hit single, “Awnaw,” good, down-home production, catchy hooks, fast paced lyrics and an overall good-time country feeling, the album went platinum.

In a genre known for short-lived careers, however, there was no guarantee that the sextet could duplicate this success in their sophomore release. Despite all the positives, the album ran a little long, their lyrics were sometimes bland and tracks seemed to blur together after awhile. Thankfully, the group avoids the “sophomore slump” by improving upon their original formula in the entertaining Wooden Leather.

Although they’ve tasted success, the rap unit has not forgotten its country roots. Individually, the rappers are arguably average at best, but together the six effectively work off each other’s contrasting flows and voices. On their first single, “Roun’ the Globe,” they rap about everyone’s inner Southerner with the sing along chorus, “The whole damn world is country / Been all around the globe from Monday to Sunday / Y’all the same folk we see in Kentucky,” over a mellow, upbeat production juiced with hand claps and acoustic guitars. “Nappy Roots Day,” a reference to the group being honored by Kentucky Governor Paul E. Patton with “Nappy Roots Day” on Sept. 16, 2002, is another highlight, combining a piano melody with female vocals for a soothing sound.

Much like in the popular songs “Po’ Folks” and “Ballin’ on a Budget” from their debut, Nappy Roots also continues to stay true to the common man on serious tracks like “Sick & Tired,” in which they rap about “barely getting by” and “not living right.”

Unlike most modern rap albums, Wooden Leather is not littered with guest appearances, but the few that do appear supply quality assistance. Vocalist Anthony Hamilton contributes on “Push On,” one of the more emotional tracks, and R&B singer Raphael Saadiq provides some good production on “Leave This Morning.”

Unfortunately, Wooden Leather is not without its missteps, possessing the same problem as its predecessor by continuing for too long. Clocking in at just under 70 minutes, even with six rappers the group does not have the creativity to sufficiently maintain such a lengthy endeavor. Tracks such as “Lac Dogs & Hogs,” “Twang” and “Roll Again” sometimes have their moments but often leave the sextet appearing very ordinary and generic. The Lil’ Jon-produced “What Cha Gonna Do?” has a catchy trumpet blaring beat, but it could very well be confused with any number of Cash Money songs. The group’s attempt at rap-rock, “War/Peace,” has good production, but possesses a lackluster chorus of “War! Peace! Come on Nappy!” and probably could have been left off the album, as well.

Wooden Leather may not be deepest rap album out there, but it’s still entertaining and unique in its own right. Unlike other pop Southern rappers, like Nelly and Big Tymers, who only rap about their riches, Nappy Roots have not let success go to their heads and have managed to stay true to themselves. Their lyrics may not turn any heads, but the group mixes things up well, and every now and then they produce a gem. However, their main strength remains in the catchiness of their music, for it only takes a few listens before one finds himself humming Wooden Leather for the rest of the day. You may have missed Nappy Roots Day this year, but be sure not to forget it next year.