It's high tide for a Nappy Roots resurgence
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 12:09
It's been almost 10 years since Nappy Roots released its Grammy-nominated and platinum-certified Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz. They haven't released a more successful album since, but a month before the five-piece hip-hop outfit's fifth LP and third independent release since leaving Atlantic Records, B. Stille says, "I'm on a rooftop in San Francisco. Life can't get much better than this."
It's appropriate they're on a roof in the Bay Area at this time in their career, overlooking the Pacific. Nappy Dot Org drops September 27, a little over a year since The Pursuit of Nappyness, and the recording process was somewhat of a productive, yet ‘wham bam thank you ma'am' process. The guys hit the studio with Organized Noize, the production team that worked on numerous Outkast recordings and TLC's "Waterfalls." The partnership came through Nappy Roots' manager Orlando McGhee.
The sample-free album is all made from scratch.
"It's a real musical album," said lead emcee Skinny DeVille, adding later, "It's like a buffet. If you don't like meat, there's vegetables. If you don't like vegetables, then there's meat. If you don't like meat or vegetables, then there's ice cream. [...] We know who our fan base is. There are real-life experiences on this album."
Nappy Dot Org meant to highlight the organizational and organic camaraderie of the group.
"We try to do at least 200 shows a year since we've been independent, that's where our bread and butter is," DeVille said. "In this microwave age of music, everyone likes a quick turnaround, but we really like to take our time. It's five guys, so to make music is pretty easy."
But this one has been the easiest thus far, according to B. Stille. In the past, Nappy Roots would write in excess, but Nappy Dot Org is made of only 11 tracks, all with which the group came to the studio.
"Basically, when we record our albums in the past, we'd do a couple songs and pick the best few out of those chunks and keep doing it until we felt we got the album we wanted to put out," B. Stille said. "This time was different because we actually recorded 11 songs and the 11 songs we recorded are the 11 songs on the album. Catching that whole feeling of Nappy Roots and Organized Noize and recording it right there, you know, that was really fast," B. Stille said. "To me, I can't believe it's over. We did our thing and that was a wrap."
Amid the random distractions and white noise coming over the receiver as the phone gets passed back to DeVille, one can imagine him studying the peaceful ocean from a bird's eye view as he steps back to think about hip-hop's chronic identity crises.
"Everybody wants to be somebody else," DeVille said. "Every now and then, you have an identity crisis in hip-hop. Out of that you have people who push the envelope and take it to the next level. And every now and then, you have people who go right back in line to do what the next person did to get successful and it starts all over again. So, you know, it comes in waves. It's like the ocean. There's a lot of fish out there, a lot of rappers, and a lot of sharks. You got to ride the waves."
But with five current members keeping one another in check (two live in Atlanta and three live in Kentucky, from where the band hails) and the goal to do around 200 shows a year, DeVille thinks it keeps the group immune to an identity crisis.
"The music we made on Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz is how we were looking at life from a college perspective," he said. "For this new album, Nappy Dot Org, we got the opportunity to work with the best producers in the South and not just the South but in hip-hop in general. If you got the first album, the second album, the third, the fourth and now you get the fifth, you'll see how all those play into the chronicles of Nappy."