Artist: Nappy RootsTitle: Wooden LeatherRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Erin Jackson
Nappy Roots 2002 debut, Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz, earned them critical acclaim, and with their sophomore release, Wooden Leather, they seem destined to follow in its successful footsteps. In todays hip hop game, where its often difficult to differentiate artists from their posses of nondescript homies, a successful multi-member group in which each emcee has his own distinct identity is quite rare. Wu Tang and ATLs Goodie Mob managed to do it effectively, but many others have fallen by the wayside (Best of luck to Bad Boy Records Da Band). Nappy Roots, however, have seemingly found the recipe for success.
While their radio friendly first single gathers much airplay, its on Nappy Roots Day that the Grammy Award-nominated sextet lyrically explains their make up: One of ems fat and loud/Second ones black and proud/Third ones drunk and wild/Fourth ones slim and sly/One of ems just shy/Last ones young and wise/Home grown, battle tested/You gon love these guys.
The rock-inspired War and Peace and the darker, more introspective These Walls, produced by Kanye West, show the groups diversity. On These Walls the group laments:
Gettin it aint got a damn thing to do with keepin s###/ Working damn hard to get it/ Plans of not parting with it/ These walls are closing in/ How long am I supposed to grin/ Ive lost my will to win/ Forgive my sins.
The Raphael Saadiq-produced tracks Leave This Morning and Work in Progress are also solid but not so impressive are Lac Dogs and Hogs and Twang. What Cha Gonna Do (The Anthem), produced by Lil Jon, shows promise at the beginning, but ultimately disappoints as it evolves into a facsimile of all of his other music. While repetitive, uncreative hooks may be the fad in popular southern hip-hop, they are beneath the Nappy Roots and out of place on this CD.
Where the self-proclaimed Country Boys really shine is on the albums mellow cuts. Their Kentucky-fried lyrics over bass-heavy tracks, peppered with a few sick harmonica riffs and a mean acoustic guitar, make for some sure-fire radio hits. Sick and Tired, Push On and Light and Dark all featuring the rich, ol skool vocals of So So Defs Anthony Hamilton (who appeared on WMGs Grammy-nominated Po Folks) all show promise. They should talk to JD about adding that brotha to the group.
The Nappy Roots have delivered another well-rounded album worthy of purchasing. Definitely on par, if not slightly better than its predecessor, Wooden Leather solidifies Nappy Roots place on the hip-hop scene.