Nap Time

Straight outta Kentucky, the "Country Boyz" of Nappy Roots are on the rise

The sextet was obviously right to be themselves (once they figured out exactly who they were, of course) because that's the best thing about Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, a disc that's as comforting as the meal in the title. It's a party album for minor-league playas, often literally; on "Ballin' on a Budget," they talk about how the hustle works in KY: "No pager, no cell phone, no access at all/Just a pack of Dutch Masters and a pint of alcohol." The beats are as thick as the "Kentucky Mud" they pay tribute to, the lyrics always sticking up for the "Po' Folks" and "Country Boyz" back home. With six MCs vying for the mike, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz is as versatile as it is down-home, like the Wu-Tang Clan rolling with the Dungeon Family, with Arrested Development providing counsel, keeping everyone honest. They can drop knowledge ("Everybody love money to death/And only three percent control America's wealth," from "Dime, Quarter, Nickel, Penny"), but it never sounds like they're preaching. They'd rather be eating pork chops and turnip greens, just two dishes on the tray of soul food that gets a shout-out on the record.

Unfortunately, most of the time, all of the above get watered down to three words: "OutKast" and "Goodie Mob." Clutch isn't worried about that. He not only understands, he's proud of the fact.

"When you new and you coming out of nowhere, that's how they relate," he says. "I can't think of the word I'm looking for, but, I mean, they gotta compare you to somebody. You remind them of something or somebody. But, I mean, that's an honor, man, to be in the same sentence, the same reference as groups like OutKast and Goodie Mob. They definitely blazed the trail. Set the standard. As far as similarities, I think when people compare us to OutKast and Goodie Mob, I think it's the soulfulness of the music. We put our heart and soul into the music, as well as those groups, so I think that's the similarities. Plus, we coming out the South, too. So folks are gonna try to pigeonhole you."

It wasn't Nappy Roots' time when they signed with Atlantic Records in 1998, says Ron Clutch, left. Now it is.
Darryl Tooley
It wasn't Nappy Roots' time when they signed with Atlantic Records in 1998, says Ron Clutch, left. Now it is.

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Part of the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour, September 4, with Jay-Z, N.E.R.D., Hoobastank, 311, Talib Kweli and Nonpoint.
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And soon enough, Clutch says, there are going to be groups coming out that people will try to pigeonhole as "the new Nappy Roots." Clutch and the band have only had a record in stores for less than a year, but they've been around long enough to know how major labels operate: If something works, find something just like it and keep doing it until it doesn't work anymore. He's not worried about that either.

"Kentucky is uncharted land, or it was," he says. "And now it's Nappy time. So, I mean, record labels, they see that. So they're liable to say, 'We need to go down to Kentucky and get us a Nappy Roots.' I don't wanna say it like that, but I think that's what's gonna start happening. You gonna see a lot of groups coming out. Not to say that they copying off us, but, I mean, they out there. They just ain't really got the recognition that they deserve. We're blazing the trail, man, setting the standard. Something new in the industry."

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