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POP MUSIC | POP MUSIC REVIEW

Nappy Roots can't hide hip-hop heart

November 29, 2002|Scott T. Sterling | Special to The Times

The Kentucky outfit Nappy Roots puts a black spin on rural Americana, combining drawn-out Southern slang with bouncy, laid-back beats. Its homespun tales of being "Country Boyz" have earned them fans in both the pop and hip-hop worlds. Its debut album, "Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz," has earned critical accolades and platinum sales.

The easygoing groove of the hit singles "Awnaw" and "Po' Folks" places the group somewhere between early-'90s feel-good rappers Arrested Development and current hip-hop kings of the South, OutKast, but the album reveals deeper facets, with its thoughtful lyrics and experimental production.

The six rappers and their DJ took the stage at the House of Blues on Tuesday in an aggressive flurry, charging through such anthems as "Headz Up" and "Sholiz" while exhorting the crowd to party. While the diverse audience was receptive to the more testosterone-driven side of the band, the response to a rousing rendition of "Po' Folks" suggested that it was the warmer and more melodic tones of the singles that had brought them out.

With six rappers onstage at almost all times, the energy level had no chance to flag during the taut hourlong set. By the time the group wound up the evening with an extended version of the breakout hit "Awnaw," it was clear that while Nappy Roots surely appreciate crossing over, they're still hard-core hip-hoppers at heart.

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