Fans Of Nappy Roots Savor 'Gritz'

(Feature excerpted from the magazine for It's hard not to like the Nappy Roots. With their easygoing personalities and live show, the Bowling Green, Ky.-based sextet of Big V, R. Prophe

It's hard not to like the Nappy Roots. With their easygoing personalities and live show, the Bowling Green, Ky.-based sextet of Big V, R. Prophet, Skinny DeVille, Ron Clutch, Scales, and B. Stille has turned the world of hip-hop on its ear with its Atlantic debut, "Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz."

"This group was an interesting self-starter," Atlantic co-president Craig Kallman says of the group's initial signing in 1998. "They started their own music store and did their own independent record, so there was this ingredient of an ability to be self-contained."

Four years later, Nappy Roots debuted "Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz." Released Feb. 26, the set has sold 382,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "It's beautiful to see something that we've been doing for years starting to get respect," Nappy Roots' Scales says. "When we first started making music, we were confident. We felt like we had a new sound that people needed to hear."

Nappy Roots' debut single, "Awnaw," has served as a fitting introduction to the group. "The 'Awnaw' single is such a compelling, hooky record, and the collaboration with Jazze Pha created a magic song," Kallman says. "The thing the Nappy Roots most often say about themselves is that they represent their own lifestyle and don't feel a need to front with the whole violence and materialism thing. That message was so powerful, because it contrasted [with] everything else that was going on in hip-hop."

Of the success of "Awnaw" at radio, Scales says, "It was great to hear people request the song on air. The most memorable part for me was when I heard a little girl call into a radio station to request 'those country boys.' She didn't even know our names, but she liked the song."

As "Awnaw" began to catch on at radio, Nappy Roots were also receiving a lot of attention in the TV arena. In recent months, the group has appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," "Last Call With Carson Daly," and "The Late Show With David Letterman."

Helping them to further broaden their audience, the label has an "Awnaw" remix, produced by P.O.D., waiting in the wings. For Scales, the remix was a chance to work with an act he respected. "P.O.D. was one of the first rock groups I listened to back in '97, so to hear [P.O.D. guitarist] Marcos say he wants to do a remix of one of our songs is an honor."

Following the release of the "Awnaw" remix, Atlantic has chosen "Po' Folks" as the second single. This summer, Nappy Roots will join Jay-Z, 3LW, and Hoobastank on the Sprite-sponsored Liquid Mix tour.

With so many of today's hip-hop acts having been pre-established in one way or another, Nappy Roots' success has become something of a Cinderella story. "This group didn't come out of an already existing label that is completely centered on hip-hop," Kallman notes. "It's not grandfathered by a superstar act that's given its blessing. They've completely come out of nowhere."

Excerpted from the June 8, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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