Artist: Nappy Roots
Album: Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz
Rating: 7 / 10
Haven’t we heard enough about chicken wings and fish among other down home culinary dishes in the past few years with the mainstream surge of the southern music scene? Nappy Roots doesn’t seem to think so as they serve us with a heaping helpin’ (yes I typed helpin’) of “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz”; the title of this release. This plate is handed out in 21 separate courses. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the Dirty South genre that has taken Hip Hop by storm but I love me some watermelon and grits with a little cheese and some garlic… mmhm y’all don’t know what y’all missing. To make this a fair review and to not be biased by the bad taste of some other acts of this style, I figured I needed to connect a bit with Nappy Roots before proceeding so didn’t comb my hair this morning. With that and a big juicy watermelon wedge in hand I hit play.
This is not Miami papi, this is not ATL shawty, this is not the 504 woadie; this is Kentucky. These boys seem to have put together the positive points of the main southern hip hop styles; the party vibe of Miami, the anthem style of ATL, and the bounce ability of the 504. It goes a bit further though. There are some stronger moments on the album. Think Outcast and Goodie Mob on a few tracks.
After a brief intro, ‘Hustla’ starts off the album. Pretty good start; some quick lyrics ride the beat into a chorus with some backup vocals splitting the hook with one of the Nappy boys. There’s a cat on here that has an Xzibit-from-Alabama sounding voice who gives a brief speak on a Hustla then a beat change and a short verse rounds off the joint.
The next two tracks, ‘Set It Out’ and ‘Country Boyz’ are sort of “just there” tracks. Nothing particularly stands out about them. Dirty South style is very present here. Next up, ‘Ballin on a Budget’. Here the Kentucky boys step it up a bit. There is definitely an Outkast feel on this here – the beat is a nice smooth groove; not too complicated but enough. Give me a brew, a slight buzz, and this thumpin’ just to sway to. Then let it continue on into their first single ‘Awnaw’ to nod the head and get me up. An infectious chorus on this will have heads 2 inches from their boys face in the club singing it like they wrote it (people down south know what I’m talking about).
The vibe on the next few cuts show signs of varied influences, avoiding the tendency of some releases today to almost bore, by picking one particlular style and running with it throughout. It goes from Dirty South bounce (‘Headz Up’) to a nice flavored song backed by a rootsy loop (‘Slums’) to a down home soul reflective track (‘Po Folks’) to something that’s reminiscent of the Luniz but with NR’s own flavor (‘Start It Over’).
A little over half way through and ‘Sholiz’ (“Sure is” for you ignorant to southern speak) makes itself known. Its almost a “too busy” type of track – not garbage but I could take it or leave it; especially since we’ve already heard better than this. From this joint you hope that with the good start so far that this second half of the album doesn’t start to fall off here. Thankfully, the in-your-face chorus “Life’s a bitch, you take your chances, too many questions and not enough answers” coupled with some personal lyrics make ‘Life’s a Bitch’ a good way to pick things up from the previous track.
‘My Ride’and ‘One Forty’ however are a bit of a let down after the last track. I’m hearing little more than a commercial radio track on ‘My Ride’ and typical booty shake style on ‘One Forty’ although Nappy does make this a little more palatable than the norm.
On the upswing we got ‘Dime, Quarter, Nickel, Penny’. Can you say hot? One of ‘dem boys gets off a notable verse on here although a bit difficult to decipher on first listen due to a nasal like sound but delivery is on point and he sounds good doing it,
“It’s kinda funny everybody loves money to death
And only 3 percent control America’s wealth
Need some help? Look at your self, sure you do
F eeling like fuck the world? Me too.”
There’s a lot more to R. Prophet’s verse, nice lyrics and gymnastics, one of the best on the album for certain. Watch this cat.
It just keeps coming with ‘Kentucky Mud’. After the last track and now this, we are officially back on track. And after a short interlude we stay on track. From the title ‘Ho Down’ you’d think some real country -barn-ol’-opry type joint but that’s not the case. Some up-tempo funk/blues style here. Get this – in contrast to the other joints on the album you can’t really classify this as Dirty South; it’s a nice showing of versatility.
The last two tracks are remixed versions of two earlier tracks (‘Headz Up’ and the single ‘Awnaw’) or in the case of the wording on the listing for ‘Heads Up’ – refried. Marco Curiel’s Rock Remix of ‘Awnaw’ is nice, although the vocals could have been turned up a bit to compete with the thrashing guitars. Better yet, instead of using the accapella track from the original, the Nappy boys could have recorded their vocals again so that the energy of the delivery would fit with the energy of the track better. Still a good listen though.
“Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz” is definitely a feast of various foods. Nothing in this buffet to absolutely avoid at all costs but there are a few things that could be passed on. These boys are going to be all right. I’d like to hear a bit more of some styles over others from them but the diversity is nice. Let’s hope they keep doing their thing and don’t let the ‘hairstylist’ get to their ‘Nappy Roots’. As for me, forget my pick for awhile… I kinda like it Nappy.