(Today's post comprises of three separate Reader Reviews frequent contributor Justa sent over to finish up the back catalog of the Nappy Roots thus far. I decided to run them all at once because, well, it's the holidays, and also this helps me clear out my queue, so yay! Leave your thoughts for Justa below, but keep in mind that it may take you a while to get to that comment section.)
Nappy Roots - The Humdinger (August 5, 2008)
Finally released from their major label contract, the Nappy Roots returned in 2008 with a new indie label (their own), sudden Internet buzz (thanks to the release of a mixtape, Innerstate Music, one year prior that helped keep their names out there), and one less member. R. Prophet decided that it was time to strike out for dolo (an ill-advised move, in my opinion: while writing this post, I went to his Twitter page to see what he has been up to since the split, and found a link to his MySpace page as his official website). This left remaining group members Skinny DeVille, B. Stille, Ron Clutch, Fish Scales, and Big V to fend for themselves.
In the ever-changing world of mainstream rap music, most heads had forgotten about “these country boyz”. At the time, the world was enamored with the T.I’s and the Shawty Lo’s of the South, trading the soulful, down-home stories of these Kentucky upstarts for gangsta sensationalism and egotistic boasts.
Back then, I saw a lot of positive reviews for their third album, The Humdinger, and decided to go out and cop it. Unfortunately, even though it wasn’t all that long ago, I had completely forgotten about this purchase. I remember liking it back then, and I have a vague recollection of trying to spread the word to a few friends, but aside from that, I couldn't tell you anything about the actual album at the moment. In looking at it again, one thing that I am pleased about is that there are only sixteen tracks on this album, and not eighteen or twenty-one like their previous efforts. Maybe Prophet was behind the overabundance of tracks that plagued the first album, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, and slightly derailed the second, Wooden Leather. My only concern comes from the production, as the contributors are mostly a bunch of unknowns and a handful of folks from their group's debut.
Let the listening commence.
A beat, and then some spoken word about what a “Humdinger” is. Then, out of the blue, the fake Sir Nose clone from Wooden Leather returns talking nonsense. Once again: why?
2. BEADS & BRAIDS
Whoa! I didn’t expect to be hit with something like this that quickly. The Sol Messiah instrumental is just drums and piano at first, and then after a few record cuts, Skinny DeVille goes right in. The hook is gorgeous. Wow, and wow again. I am beyond impressed by this first song.
3. ON MY WAY TO GA
We are treated to something a little more gospel-oriented. Only three of the five Nappy Roots trade verses on this one. Not bad, and not quite skip-worthy, but not quite repeat-worthy, either.
4. POLE POSITION (FEAT. SLICK & ROSE)
A song for the strippers. Which doesn’t appeal to me because:
(a) I am not a stripper
(b) I think strip clubs are a waste of money (why pay just to get teased?)
(c) The song isn’t very good
(d) All of the above
If you chose (a), you are correct. Skip!
Another one of those strip club/slightly-disturbing songs. I think the Nappy Roots were aiming for the David Banner “Play” and Ying Tang Twins “Wait (The Whisper Song)” crowd (which I believe only existed between March and May of 2008, coinciding with college spring break). It’s kind of awkward hearing a dude breathing hard during the chorus, too. Not worth a repeat listen.
6. SWERVE AND LEAN
A song about cars. After these last three tracks, I'm left wondering what happened to the humble down-home guys from Wooden Leather?
7. GOOD DAY (FEAT. GREGG STREET)
Right when I was getting worried, the Nappy Roots come through again. There are some children featured on the hook of this very positive, Southern-funky Big Al 360 beat. This is some good summer after-church picnic-type of music here, which sounds much more appropriate for these guys to rap over. Children singing on hooks tend to be hit-and-miss for me: this one works, though. Also, there is a (not that important) skit that plays directly after the track.
8. DOWN & OUT (FEAT. ANTHONY HAMILTON)
Is Anthony Hamilton a member of this group and I just don’t know? This guy has appeared on every Nappy Roots album thus far. Does he even count as a guest feature at this point? About the song: it’s good. Anthony Hamilton really needs to just join the group officially, as he shares some pretty good chemistry with these country boyz.
9. TINTED UP (FEAT. JAMES “GROOVE” CHAMBERS)
This one is not only produced by James “Groove” Chambers (who produced most of Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz in a hit-and-miss fashion), but features him in a guest capacity, as well. The subject matter isn’t very appealing to me, though: if you assumed “Tinted Up” is about a car with tinted windows and smoking weed behind said tinted windows, you would be correct. Nothing new here.
An attempt at a crunk track. Not a fan of this at all.
11. KALIFORNIA DREAMIN' (FEAT. SLICK & ROSE)
The hook is a interpretation of The Mamas & The Papa’s “California Dreaming” by some generic-sounding R&B singers. It's not that bad of a song, though, if you can look past the guests and their godawful bridge.
12. WHO GOT IT???
Man, I wanted to like this song, but “Who Got It???” features one of those fake Timbaland-ish beats that the Nappy Roots are enamored with for some reason. They puchase at least one for each album they put out., when these guys really need to stay away from these type of beats like I need to stay away from shellfish (which I am allergic to). No matter how good the food may look, the result of trying it will bring you that much closer to death.
13. NO STATIC (FEAT. GREG NICE)
Flips a vocal sample from one of my favorite hip hop songs, Nice and Smooth’s “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow”. A nice return to the type of music they do best, that down South introspective down-home stuff. I like this one: it sounds kind of ATLiens-ish.
14. DON'T STOP (FEAT. JAMES “GROOVE” CHAMBERS)
Again, features the producer of the track, although this time the results are markedly better. Oh wait, there's an R&B bridge for no apparent reason. I spoke to soon: the song became very average very quickly.
15. PANIC ROOM
I don’t know what inspired this one. The beat sounds very Polow Da Don-ish. A sped up voice chants “everyone to the panic room” repeatedly, and then Big V counts off “1-2, 1-2”. I am very confused by this one.
16. SMALL TOWN
Why is the fake Sir Nose on this track? It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for that annoying voice that adds nothing. The Count Justice beat isn’t the greatest, but it wasn't awful, either: the song as a whole would have been better without the inclusion of that annoying character, who speaks and even sings a bit this time around. Although, thanks to this song, I found out the voice belongs to something called Lil' Yuck. Well, at least I learned something new today.
FINAL THOUGHTS: There may be less tracks on The Humdinger than on their previous releases, but there is also a lot less quality control this time around. How did some of these tracks earn their respective spots on this album? The Nappy Roots need to reign in some of their impulses: aside from the first actual song and maybe a couple of others, nothing on The Humdinger warrants a second listen. The Nappy Roots are absolutely better than this, especially after that stellar sophomore album. Most of these tracks are paint-by-numbers: you can tell by the level of creativity in the hooks and even in some of the actual verses. They group doesn't even sound like they're actively trying in some cases, which I mean in a bad way. After six years, The Humdinger doesn't hold up. At all.
BUY OR BURN? I would suggest that you all stay away from this album. Besides the tracks listed below, which aren't even necessarily that great, I cannot with good conscious recommend a purchase for this album. If you choose to pick it up anyway, may God bless your soul.
BEST TRACKS: “Beads and Braids”; “No Static”; “Good Day”; “Down & Out”
A Reader's Gut Reaction: Nappy Roots - The Pursuit Of Nappyness (June 15, 2010)
In the summer of 2010, the Nappy Roots' fourth album, The Pursuit of Nappyness, was released to the masses (read: any fans of the group still around at this point). I missed the bus on this one initially, and now after rediscovering what many refer to as the South's answer to the Wu-Tang Clan through these posts, I am a bit skeptical of what the results might be like for this one.
I honestly can’t say I know of any of the producers for the project, but that might be a good thing, since that means none of the collaborators from the group's debut, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, are included.
The Pursuit Of Nappyness was also released on the quintet's own independent label, just as The Humdinger was, which also doesn't bode very well for me. I'm not going to put in work toward a ton of backstory on this one: instead, I'm just going to jump into the review. Just in case this is wack.
1. WELCOME TO THE SHOW
No intro! Praise sweet baby Jesus! The song is kind of a play off of Doug E Fresh’s “The Show”. The piano loop is beautiful, and I am not disappointed by the laid-back nature of the song at all. It’s actually a welcome change to hear these guys on something a little different and more boom-bap-ish. The chemistry between the Nappy Roots is perfect, and the guys sound more alive than ever on this song. A good start.
2. DO IT BIG
Looks like we traded generic Timbaland beats for generic Just Blaze beats now. The guys delivered on this one, though, which makes it listenable, at least. The horn loop does not go anywhere, sadly, which makes for a really uninteresting beat. Which would be acceptable for a up-and-coming artist, but not for an established group like the Nappy Roots. A slight misstep, but this really could have gone either way for me.
3. FISHBOWL (FEAT. ELLIE PERRY)
How did this land on here? A bland Ciara-esque beat on a Nappy Roots album? What is the connection? Why even try to do this? I can’t co-sign this at all. A singer on the hook that croons the phrase, “swimming in a fishbowl”? Yeah, exactly. Skip.
4. BE ALRIGHT (FEAT. JE'KOB WASHINGTON)
Man, what the heck is up with the synths all of a sudden? This beat sounds so generic. Somebody needs to get these guys a RZA: the Nappy Roots have now officially proven that they are incapable of making good choices when it comes to beats.
Pretty much everything I wrote about the last track can also be used here. These beats are so plain it hurts. All of this synth, all of a sudden, in their sound, just flat-out doesn’t work. Did Jazze Pha have a clearance sale on all his old beats created under different names or something?
6. HOW I DO
What is going on here? Did I pick a T.I/Ciara collaboration album by mistake? Almost everything on here so far sounds like something either one of those artists would appear on and not the Nappy Roots. Why are they trying so hard to be like others? Tracks like these should be an afterthought for a group like this. (Wikipedia claims that this beat, among a few others on The Pursuit Of Nappyness, was produced by CHOPS of the Mountain Brothers, so take that above criticism as you will.)
7. THE PEOPLE
I don’t know if I can continue listening to this album at this point. “The People” seriously sounds like something the production company behind Rebecca Black (remember her?) would turn out. I am now officially calling on the power of Greyskull to get me through this write-up. At this point I would even be open to hearing No Limit’s former in-house production team Beats By The Pound make a few contributions: they did have some nice beats on those post-No Limit/pre-sexual assault charges Mystikal albums.
I'm about to get on a bike to take a “Ride” myself and put this album to rest. Remember that time period when Fergie had that “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, Beyonce had “Irreplaceable”, and Chris Brown had “With U “? All of which had the same generic Stargate production and were all over the radio airwaves? Yeah, that’s what this sounds like, except with five guys rapping. At this point I am opening a new page on my browser to see if Amazon gives digital refunds.
9. LIVE & DIE
Luckily, this track stops the bleeding, or else that title would have lent itself to some fantastic disses. It’s back to the boom-bap this time, which of course the Nappy Roots sound good over. For some odd reason, the group doesn't seem to realize that they tend to fail when they stray from the more organic-sounding music production.
10. BACK HOME (FEAT. ELIZABETH WOODWARD)
Not great. Not bad, though. “Back Home” sounds like something that might have been cut from their debut album, although with a much more polished sound. However, I am growing less and less interested in this album.
11. KNOW BOUT ME (FEAT. ALEON CRAFT & CHOPS)
This is more in the crew's respective lane. A Southern funk beat featuring a guy on the hook who thinks his nickname is clever. Well, at least it stopped the bleeding at the moment.
12. RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME (FEAT. PENELOPE MAGNET)
Another Ciara-esque cut without Ciara, one that also reminds me of that “Cha Cha Slide” song that I always remain seated at wedding receptions during. That’s about all that’s interesting here. Next!
13. WINNER TAKE ALL (FEAT. ELIZABETH WOODWARD)
The production is ho-hum on this one. It’s just a bit too generic for my liking. At this point I am glad there are only three songs left. (I feel the need to inform you two that “Winner Take All” was apparently co-produced by blogger favorite Jay Electronica, although that doesn't necessarily negate what Justa just said about the track.)
14. PAIN A PICTURE (FEAT. CHOPS)
I'm assuming that Chops only appears on the hook because he produced the track as well. Still one of the better tracks off this album, though. Two more left.
The piano loop that kicks this one off had me thinking it could be something that I might like. Then came the rest of the music. The crew is on a positive vibe here, but I was never engaged in it enough to care about anything they were actually saying at this point.
16. ALL 4 YOU
Big V starts off the final track of the album by stating the following: “We love our fans, special feeling when you can talk to your fans. We answer our own MySpace”. Yeah, that same MySpace where Tom was your first friend. This was released only four years ago, too. This really makes The Pursuit Of Nappyness sound incredibly dated. Well, at least there wasn’t a skit at the end featuring that annoying voice.
THE LAST WORD: This is the worst album I have heard from the Nappy Roots by far. I was hoping that, by switching up the production a bit, The Pursuit Of Nappyness would be a welcome breath of fresh air for the genre and the group, but instead, it backfired massively, and the guys don't sound at their best by any means. Maybe Prophet leaving the group was more detrimental than anyone ever noticed. What is evident, more so than ever on this project, is that these guys need someone to guide them on the production end of things. Aside from “Welcome To The Show”, there is really nothing here that can stand alongside the crew's best work. If you're a Nappy Roots fan, I recommend staying as far away from this album as possible.
A Reader's Gut Reaction: Nappy Roots & Organized Noize - Nappy Dot Org (September 27, 2011)