Interview: Nappy Roots on Rural Rap vs. Rich Rap

Interview: Nappy Roots on Rural Rap vs. Rich Rap

Nappy Roots, the five-piece country-fried crew that came out Bowling Green, Ky. in the mid-'90s are poised to release their fifth studio album. Produced entirely by Organized Noize, Nappy Dot Org was originally slated to drop today, September 27, but was pushed back suddenly to October 11.

Complex sat down with all five members—Scales, Skinny DeVille, B. Stille, Ron Clutch, and Big V.—to talk about label drama, what separates Nappy Roots from the rest of the rap game, and how that's related to their rural roots in Kentucky.

On drama with Atlantic: 

Ron Clutch: When we were on Atlantic Records, they wanted us to do a couple things that we weren’t really with. We wanted our own independence. Our album [Wooden Leather] came out in ’03, and that was when Atlantic, Warner, and Electra were about to merge. So, the following year they was doing lay-offs. A lot of people were concerned mostly about their jobs and several artists on Atlantic got lost in the sauce because of that. We thought that project was our best work at the time, and they told us they were gonna go hard for us. But it didn’t happen. And then it’s the end of the year, sales are still low, we’re out on the road, touring and promoting, and they wanted us to go back into the studio for another project. We said, “Fuck no. Y’all didn’t work the last project right. Let’s keep pushing this one.” But they said, “No, we need you to do another one.”

Ron Clutch: This was also around the time that Black Eyed Peas had just added Fergie and blown the fuck up because of it, so they wanted us to do something [similar], shake it up to get a broader fanbase.  And we weren’t about no label telling us who was gonna go and who was gonna stay. After that, we were in limbo for five years, up until we worked out a deal with Fontana.

On rural rap vs. rich rap:

Big V.: Nappy Roots—we speak for the working class. That’s really been our niche. Most people that dig us are people that go to work from nine to five, or college students making it off the bare essentials. Our audience is real broad. Kids love Nappy Roots, but there’s also this auntie-age that digs Nappy Roots. Then college students. If you a thug that really don’t stand for nothing, you don’t tune into us. We peddle life.

Scales: It ain’t many rappers that cater to rural America like we do. We were marketed as country shit, which was a gift and a curse; we’re way more than that. But our fan base is still rural America. We do almost 200 shows a year and most of them are small towns.

B. Stille: Nappy Roots gives people a sense of pride without having to be from the big city of New York. We’re not talking about taking the subway, being around a bunch of models, Maybachs. It’s a very small percentage of people that live that life.

Big V.: Drinking Budweiser, Jack Daniels, shit like that. That’s us.

Scales: Most rap is rich rap. Us, we’re hard to classify as urban artists. We hit the same markets as country artists. We hear this a lot, “I don’t listen to rap. But I like y’all.”

Big V.: It’s tragic. But what they really saying is they dig good music. They’re saying, “Most rap is bullshit, but y’all actually got something to say.”

Skinny: In a sense, we’re the ambassadors of hip-hop for many people. You got Jay-Z and Kanye West, then you got Nappy Roots. We show a wholesome image, a wholesome face. It’s our job to show that rap is a positive tool.

Scales: I feel like we got kicked out of the hip-hop community. We never associated with nobody else. We got fans in Pikeville, Ky., and they not into the urban hits. And so urban people leave us out.

Skinny: We had to create our own lane. It mighta been some Daniel Boone type shit, but we had to. You know, I’ve never seen a Maybach. And I know whole states that can say the same. 

On working with Organized Noize:

B. Stille: This is a different look for us, this project, cause we hooked up with Organized Noize. And as Skinny says, ON is the Rick Rubin of the South. It’s not just a beat machine with them; these guys put on guitars, trumpets, cellos—everything. It’s organic. They own their sound.

Skinny: We’d go over to the studio, there’d already be two blunts in the air, a bowl of weed sitting out, the game would be on, and we’d tinker with the beat and the lyrics all day. And come night, we’d have a song. Over six months, we laid down 11 tracks. It was like a big Sunday dinner, and at the end of the dinner, instead of burping, we had a record. 

Tags: nappy-roots, louisville, kentucky, organized-noize
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