Nappy Roots: Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz

Nappy Roots: Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz

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Nappy Roots

Album: Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz
Label: Atlantic

Coming from Kentucky, a state better known for hard liquor and horses than hip-hop, Nappy Roots represents a new wave of Southern rappers who grew up listening to OutKast, Goodie Mob, Geto Boys, and the No Limit stable, and came of age during Southern rap's commercial renaissance. Southern to its core, Nappy Roots wears its countrified origins and influences proudly on its enormously promising debut, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, which filters Scarface, Goodie Mob, Organized Noize, and Arrested Development into its own grubby sound and vision. Arrested Development's influence manifests most strongly on "Awnaw," a soulful, organ-drenched slice of down-home hip-hop blues that's netted the group attention from radio and MTV. At once melancholy and defiant, "Awnaw" epitomizes everything that's good about Gritz, and it's nicely complemented by "Po' Folks" and "Life's A Bitch," songs that acknowledge the bleak realities of poverty and despair but possess the gospel-tinged idealism to look to a better tomorrow. Of course, Gritz wouldn't be a proper Southern rap album without a healthy dose of hedonism, and it has its share, from "My Ride," an enthusiastic ode to Southern car culture, to "Ballin' On A Budget," a primer on low-budget pimping. While unapologetic odes to Southern comfort like "Ho Down" possess a rascally charm, Nappy Roots tends to lose its footing when it dwells on such standard-issue subject matter as scandalous freaks, selling drugs, and other assorted vices. Like a lot of debuts, Gritz could have used considerable editing; at 75 minutes, it's at least 20 too long. But past the padding and intermittently generic subject matter, there's an auspicious debut from a group that does right by its funky little corner of the Dirty South.