September 13, 2011
Better than … whatever you were doing at home.
Hip-hop group the Nappy Roots have four albums, one of which is multi-platinum. Their producers include everyone from Raphael Saadiq to Kanye West to Lil Jon. And to this day, “Awnaw,” a song from their 2002 major label debut, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, still will rally city crawlers and country cousins alike to howl the chorus, “Aw naw, hell naw, man, y'all dun up-n-dun it.” Shame then, that last night at El Cid, only a few handfuls of folks turned out for their show.
Formed in the mid-'90s at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, the sextet did for Kentucky what Bone Thugs-n-Harmony did for Ohio; place a spotlight on one of hip-hop's “flyover states.” Instead of tweaking their sound to be like Miami's booty bass or Memphis' sizzurp-sipping gangsta rap, though, they reveled in their rustic background. Their accents are thick, they'll wear a cowboy hat and a pair of overalls, and they're not afraid of guitar twang.
They've had their share of bumps in the dirt road, though. After two albums with Atlantic, they became independent again, and Oakland native member R. Prophet left the group to pursue a solo career. But their new album, Nappy Dot Org, due in October, is entirely produced by Organized Noize, the Atlanta production team behind Outkast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and Goodie Mob's Soul Food. Not too shabby.
Last night, the guys joked about the small size of the crowd (“Shout out to all the sexy women in the house–all seven of y'all,” their DJ said). While they threw themselves into the show, it was obvious they were disappointed.
Maybe that mood dictated the very short set. The group was onstage for about 30 minutes, long enough to perform a couple of their biggest hits. Yes, “Awnaw” enlivened the audience, and they finished with their new single, “Hey Love.” Here's hoping they come through again after the new album drops.
Personal bias: I'm Southern.
Random notebook dump: An empty El Cid patio is the perfect spot for a secret rendezvous.