With hip-hop's presence felt so strongly in the South right now, it is obvious that what started out as a phase is now a permanent musical stronghold. It is one so strong in fact, that it has caused label owners like P. Diddy to make semi-moves to the South in order to attain more marketable talent. Yet, some down-South hip-hop fans find there's a misconception that when it comes to hip-hop; outsiders often view its Southern version as "crunk." If they listened hard enough, they'd also look to the South for its original musical sound.
That sound is soul.
Not many hip-hop artists mix soul and rap these days, but the musicians of Nappy Roots are doing it. They put their home state Kentucky on the map with their hit single, "Awnaw" off their debut album "Watermelon, Chicken, and Grits," which was released in 2002. They followed up with "Wooden Leather" in 2003 with hit singles "Roun' the Globe" and "Sick & Tired." Their slow southern drawls emphasized their sound and let the world know that they were proud to be country, especially on collaborations with the highly soulful Anthony Hamilton.
As the "crunk phase" began to take its place on a high pedestal in commercial hip-hop, the group decided to lie low after their second album. Still, the group has continued working, and although they give much props to "crunk" and its place in hip-hop right now, they have no plans to give up their style, staying true to their fans who appreciate the opposing sound that they bring to Southern rap music.
"Big up to crunk and what crunk is doing right now, but we're grown now. Within that, we make music that's politically relevant and socially conscious, almost like Southern conscious. We always put people before materialism," Nappy Roots' Skinny Deville says. "We don't want to try and compete doing something that's not us and end up losing all our fans who originally came to us because of what we were."
Still, although the Nappy Roots have exercised much patience, flying low on hip-hop's commercial radar, the group has a new album to be released in February 2006, entitled "The Humdinger." The guys say they are in the studio more often than on the road and are working to stick to a more concentrated sound.
The group originally signed with Atlantic in 1998 while still in college, but they say that since then they've done a lot of growing and seeing the world, preferring to work with producers that have a "hunger." Sol Messia, NA and Group Chambers are just a few of the producers the Nappy Roots are working with in the studio.
"We got a couple of new producers on our team that work in our studio that we hooked up with who have quality and talent. We're looking to work with cats who are hot but aren't famous right now, and we're working with them because they're more humble and hardworking than some of the successful producers that are out there," Skinny Deville says.
They say it's a difficult job for all six members to agree on each and every track on the album, but they do since it is of great importance that they all work together. They try to find producers who respect that and are willing to work together with them as well, instead of promoting their own individual sound.
Skinny Deville, B. Stille, Ron Clutch, Big V, R. Prophet and Milledgeville will be at the Farish Street Festival Saturday.
"Basically we comin' to kick it, we comin' to perform, we got a lot of friends in Jackson like Banner and Kamikaze," Skinny Deville says.