Nappy Roots: Wooden Leather Review

Nappy Roots banged out a name for themselves with their first single “Awnaw” off their debut CD “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz”, then set it to relatable heights with their second single release “Po’ Folks” single-handedly putting Kentucky on the hip hop map. Nappy is composed of six men putting it down for their state without any shame whatsoever. After a full listen to their debut CD it wouldn’t be true in any shape to deny their talent and level of excellence. So after having such a successful (and may I say ridiculous) first album, will they be jinxed by the sophomore slump?

Let’s begin with the production. There is not a bad beat on this entire album, some songs have exceptional beats however, such as “Nappy Roots Day” which sets the mood incredibly well with a lot of low noises and a voice sample that strings the beat along. The only producers you may recognize is Raphael Saadiq, (“Work In Progress”, “Leave This Morning”) who is more commonly viewed as an artist than a producer, Kanye West (“These Walls”) and Lil Jon (“What Cha Gonna Do?” (The Anthem)). That’s right, no Timbaland, no Puffy and no Neptunes, and guess what? It’s a more original album for it. Lots of guitars, hand claps and organs lace plenty of beats without the monotony ever drying it up, especially with crazy beats thrown in like “Twang”.

Raphael Saadiq is definitely not a disappointment with his production skills and is actually really nice on “Leave This Morning” creating a very neo soul environment and for a moment you forget you’re listening to some Kentucky boys kicking some flow with the hook provided by the man behind the mixing board, good stuff. His skill doesn’t quit there though, he hooks us up again on “Work In Progress” (which he does not add his vocals to), a very intellectually provoking aura to back up such lyrics as “everybody knows it costs to be the boss / yeah the price is kinda steep, but sacrifice is never cheap”. Kanye does an amazing job on “These Walls”, the beat never taking the focus off the lyricists yet not making it impossible for them to make a point, the ending of the song however may leave you speechless in empathy as you hear a public sampling of the announcement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Lil Jon’s beat could easily be identified in a police lineup, not that it’s bad in any way, it’s just very Lil Jon-ish is all I’m saying, but it’s good none the less.

The greatest compliment to the production (Executive Produced by Kevin Mitchell & Mike Caren, Caren Exec Produced their previous album) is that the music never gets stale and always supports the group, always falling into its proper position as another supporting member there to provide atmosphere for head bobbing, chin scratching, or in Lil Jon’s case, carpet cutting.

The overall style of Nappy Roots is so diverse that they won’t allow you to predict their next move, other than the obvious “it won’t be something we’ve already done”. It’s a brilliant mix of different character styles yet constantly taking a focused approach to each track to present near perfect harmony. The track ordering seems like it was planned out before the tracks were even laid down, good flow of the CD. Guest appearances were kept to a low, I guess when you have six people to draw talent from there really isn’t much need to call in a lot of outside sources. The only guests are Anthony Hamilton (from the first album’s “Po’ Folks”) on “Push On”, and the aforementioned Raphael Saadiq, both delivering admirable performances.

Lyrically it’s tough to correct them, each one delivers on-point performances always stepping up to the plate and getting the job done with no slouch. Here’s a few excerpts:

“…why my wife is curious / bout how much she could get me on for life insurance / wish there was bummin, no problems, that’s when life was purest / mo’ money mo’ problems that’s right notorious”: “Sick & Tired”.

“baby I told you how I made a dollar, outta dime and a nickel / blue collar, gotta grind on instrumentals / see my pencil and pad has been punchin the clock / I put in time and a half skip lunch I can’t stop”: “Leave This Morning”.

“slept and ate with our peeps but we let the streets raise us / kept the weed blazin and the let drink age us / used to live outrageous / now we just couch potat’es / without the wages / straight out them project cages / make do with what we got, use the logic that God gave us….” “Now we finally feelin plush / goin gotta do it keep our nails air brushed / J’s straight out the box ain’t ne’er been touched”: “Push On”.

“”I’m bout 3,000 miles from Graceland / by the county from Akin / but you would think an arm reach from satan”: “These Walls”.

Obviously, that’s only a taste and will not do justice without the style and presentation. They definitely do not bring some lyrical flow that is tough to outwrite, but they bring it with conviction and a deep sense of poetry which makes it more real for the listener and more than mere words. Choruses are sharply written with precision you could only find on an exacto-knife. “Good God Almighty”, “Nappy Roots Day”, “Push On” and “Leave This Morning” are a few of the oustanding ones (there’s many), but very few fall below quality level. The only ones that could use a new thought are “War / Peace”, “What Cha Gonna Do?”, and some were just decent like “Light & Dark” and “Twang”. Some party vibes are shot through joints like “What Cha Gonna Do?” and “Twang”, which are both sure to make DJ’s happy roun’ the globe.

Overall, a very quality album to cop (which is highly recommended) which should not disappoint many if any. If you thought their debut CD was worth while, then you’ll love the latest since it surpasses the forerunner which is not easily done when an artist debuts a hot CD, most typically crumble under the pressure to be too creative and end up with a crappy record, but clearly not here, they keep it nappy to the fullest. 4 out of 5 stars.

Track Listing:
1. Intro
2. Good God Almighty
3. Nappy Roots Day
4. Roun’ The Globe
5. Lac Dogs & Hogs
6. Sick & Tired
7. Twang
8. Leave This Morning ft. Raphael Saadiq
9. Work In Progress
10. Push On ft. Anthony Hamilton
11. No Good
12. These Walls
13. War / Peace
14. Roll Again
15. What Cha Gonna Do? (The Anthem)
16. Light & Dark
17. Outro
18. Roun’ The Globe (Collipark Remix)

4 out of 5