Even now, after 20 years, the four members of Nappy Roots check each other. If, say, Fish Scales wrote a song about driving a Porsche, shooting some rival gangsta and snorting a mountain of coke, well, it’s probable Skinny DeVille would call him out on it. ‘Um, where exactly is that mountain of coke?’ Skinny would probably ask.
Yes, many other hip-hop groups rapped about that stuff back in the early 2000s (and they still do), but Nappy Roots rapped about home.
Home, at least to Scales, was Georgia, and when the boys formed in 1995, they were college kids at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. That meant they wrote songs such as “Po’ Folks” on their first Atlantic Records album “Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz,” a huge hit record that helped bring the so-called southern rap to the forefront along with artists such as Bubba Sparxxx.
All my life been po’ – But it really don’t matter no mo’ – And they wonder why we act this way – Nappy Boys gon’ be okay.
“It wasn’t about being gangsta,” Scales said in an interview. “We aren’t killas. We’re not career drug dealers. We come from good homes with normal, Southern American problems. We were conscious of the world. We had good parents and family.”
Their take on that world came from Outkast, both their sound and the way the duo rapped about the real world in songs like “Miss Jackson.” Nappy’s sound is essentially hip-hop with a slight twang, which comes from their country accents as much as anything, Scales said with a laugh. Yes, there’s a bit more country in some of those songs, especially the big ones, Scales said, but Nappy is still a hip-hop band. The “Southern rap” label came more from their place of origin than what style they played.
“In the early 2000s, you had the East Coast and the West Coast, and the South just emerged, so you had to be one of those three,” Scales said. “If you dig deep into the music it’s really not country, but some of the bigger songs had some in there, so the record label decided to market us that way because it was different.
“I have no complaints about that. It worked. Some of our group were like, ‘Hold up, I’m not country.’ But I definitely am country.”
In fact, some people from the urban areas of Louisville, Kentucky, where the band’s career really took off, didn’t like to be portrayed as eaters of fried chicken and grits, but the guys from Nappy Roots weren’t writing for them. They were writing for themselves.
Nappy Roots plays the free Extraction Stage at the Greeley Stampede on Friday night, July 5 – normally not as comfortable a place for a hip-hop group, but Scales isn’t worried.
“You can drop us anywhere in Colorado,” he said. “We take pride in being the group that you call for these types of situations. That’s us. We bring entertaining hip-hop to people who otherwise wouldn’t see a hip-hop show. I think our brand has proven to be safe and fun, and we approach it humbly.”
Scales said there probably are songs floating around on the band’s hard drives that could be played by some of the more hardcore groups on the West or East coasts. But those songs will stay on the computers.
“We were broke college students,” Scales said about when those gangsta tracks were made. “You don’t want to get caught in that lie.” Ergo, years after college, the band continued, writing songs like their hit “Good Day.”
“Know today, I woke up this morning, and I said – You know, instead of waitin’ on a good day … Waitin’ around, through ups and downs, waitin’ on somethin’ to happen, I just said… We’re gonna have a good day, and all my homies gonna ride today, and all these mommies look fly today, and all we wanna do is get by today.”
“We just want to have a good time,” Scales said. “Have a good time and enjoy life.”
Nappy Roots perform at 7:30pm on Friday, July 5 at the Greeley Stampede’s Extraction Stage at Island Grove Regional Park, with local hip hop support from Soul Brothers and Anville 501 N 14th Avenue in Greeley. Visit greeleystampede.org for more.