NAPPY ROOTS opening for ALICIA KEYS at the Air Canada Centre (40 Bay), Monday (July 8). $49.50-$69.50. 416-870-8000.
With the Cash Money Millionaires determined to out-floss their No Limit rivals and the daringly flamboyant OutKast trying to out-freak them all, it's understandable why many people might think Southern hiphop is all about the bling.
Hog-hugging Georgia farm boy Bubba Sparxxx -- appearing at a barge party taking off from Harbourfront Centre Saturday (July 6) at 2:30 pm -- countered by playing up trailer trash stereotypes, but it took Kentucky's Nappy Roots to bring it all back down to earth. They're putting the dirt back into the Dirty South.
You won't catch the six-large Nappy rappers -- Big V, B. Stille, R. Prophet, Skinny Deville, Scales and Ron Clutch -- boasting about their expensive cars or iced-out watches and rings. Judging by their recent Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz (Atlantic) disc, whatever loot they've got after groceries is going to dog fights and bootleg whisky.
Yet group co-founder and former Eastern Kentucky University fullback Big V insists they've got nothing against their showy contemporaries who want to get their glint on.
"We ain't anti-bling," drawls Big V over the phone from Arizona. "I met some of those Cash Money boys and I love the way they shine -- they look good! If diamonds, cars and fine clothes are your thing, then go with it. But all we can do is tell our side of the story, and I ain't never had $10,000 in my hands.
"Our whole thing is about being OK with who you are, whether you're a 9-to-5er or whatever. I'm a country guy from Bowling Green, so the backwoods is in our sound. But the other guys are from Louisville, so there's a city swing there, too. Kentucky's got everything from university halls to moonshine stills, and we represent all of it."
The title of the Nappy Roots' album should be indication enough that food, specifically Southern soul food, is an essential component. Their songs aren't remixed, they're "refried," and every explanation is built on some kind of cooking or eating analogy.
"Our music had to be something fresh that everyone can relate to, and leave a lasting impression.
"Watermelon is refreshing, right? Now think about your mama's chicken -- that's real soul food -- and nothing's gonna stick to you like grits. So Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz: refreshing food for your soul that stays with you."
So what's the next course?
"Now that we've shown what the Nappy Roots are all about, it's time to focus on the talents of the individual members. Ron Clutch is the lyricist supreme, B. Stille is all about precision timing, R. Prophet is the ghost that goes through anything, Scales is probably the group's most gifted rapper, and me, I'm the sledgehammer, here to shake you up.
"But that's all I'm saying. You know how Grandma wouldn't let you in the kitchen until the food's done? Well, we got something cooking, but it's not ready to talk about yet."