Nappy Roots came into hip-hop at the perfect time. It was the late '90s and if you were in a Southern hip-hop crew, it was almost impossible to get radio play outside of the South, with mixtapes being the primary outlet most groups had to get their sound out. Then, in the early 2000s, artists like Outkast and the Goodie Mob (both out of Atlanta) exploded, with Outkast going on to be the first Southern artists to have record sales in the same ballpark as East and West Coast rappers. Then with the advent of Cash Money Records (Lil Wayne, Juvenile) and No Limit Records (Master P, Mystikal, Gambino Family), Southern Rap exploded all over MTV and the Dirty South was here to stay.
In 2002, Nappy Roots' debut album, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, unleashed one of the catchiest hip-hop tracks of the early aughts with "Awnaw." With its quick southern drops and remixed organ sound combined with an infectious sing-songy hook, "Awnaw" still stands the test of time as an all-time great track.
The following year, they released Wooden Leather, their final album with Atlantic Records. Featuring production by Kanye, David Banner, and Lil Jon, the album was critically more successful, but didn't connect with an audience as large as their major label debut did.
Since then, they have reverted back to being independent artists by starting their own label in 2008, N.R.E.G. (Nappy Roots Entertainment Group). This year, Nappy Roots released its fourth album on that label, 2015 brings the 40Akerz Project, their first full album since 2011's Nappy Dot Org, a collaborative record with Organized Noize.
The 40Akerz Project is a great album that should define a new sound for Nappy Roots. While their flows still have that strong Southern vibe, the beats by DJ 808 Blake are harder hitting and more electronic than their earlier sound. The album almost sounds like what would happen if Shabazz Palaces did beats for an Outkast album with Pretty Lights on production. Tracks like "Party for the Ages," "Melting Pot," and "Doesn't Matter" indulge in that darker and more introspective sound, while "The Ditch," "Window," and "Hazy" keep their smooth Southern flows in the forefront, reminding listeners why they liked Nappy Roots in the first place.
It is a fantastic sound that opens the group up to an underground hip-hop community that has mostly been in love with acts from the midwest (like Slug, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Eyedea & Abilities...basically anything off the Rhymesayers label) over the last 15 years. The 40Akerz Project is strong enough to bring Nappy Roots to an audience that doesn't have that history with their earlier work.
And that history has included a revolving door with their emcees.
"The current line up is myself, Skinny Deville, Buffalo Stille, Ron Clutch, and 808 Blake is our DJ," mainstay Fish Scales tells the Source. "The show will include records spanning the entire Nappy Roots adventure. We're excited to share both our classics and a lot of the 40Akerz Project."
Still not sure what to expect? Fish Scales lays it down simply.
"Really dope music and a party," he says. "We're really excited to be heading to Oregon!" .
10 pm, Friday, Oct. 9
Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave.