Nappy Roots

What’s the reward for partying at MTV’s Video Music Awards in New York City, then missing the next-day flight with the rest of your crew? You get to be available to the press.

“That’s my prize,” Scales told POLLSTAR from NYC, with the rest of the Nappy Roots already on a flight to Seattle. “My prize and punishment.”

He wasn’t forthcoming about his evening, though. “Man, I would tell you all about it if I could remember. It was the longest night of my life. It was fun though, man. I got to mingle with superstars. We brought the country to the city, so it was a new experience for us.”

Scales said he met a lot of fans among the stars. Brittany Murphy of the movie “Don’t Say A Word” was one; after that conversation, things went blank. “I hope I didn’t offend nobody or spill a drink on them.”

Nappy Roots seems to have found an untapped audience in smaller cities, places where people relate less to bling and more with being down on their luck. As Scales said, it’s music for the common people, with themes of being poor, hometown cooking and missing out on the big breaks.

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton declared September 16th “Nappy Roots Day” and the six members of the group were named official “Kentucky Colonels.”

Nappy recently signed exclusively with the William Morris Agency, but at the time of this interview the rapper gave credit to then-agent Bobby Bessone of Nashville’s Entertainment Artists, saying the agent helped get Nappy’s Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz close to platinum by booking the band into markets where the common people were found.

Five of the six members were college mates at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. In the mid-’90s, the future bandmates hung around parties together, trading rhymes. It was Skinny DeVille and Ron Clutch, on their way to class, who decided to put together a rap group.

Making a long story fraught with financial troubles short, an indie record was eventually cut and sold to Western Kentucky students during finals week. It was understood that selling CDs equaled being able to eat for that day.

One of those CDs reached Atlantic and Nappy Roots was signed within a week. The release of the first major label album, though, would come four years later. Supposedly, the time wasn’t right for an alternative rap band that was talking about things other than having it all.

Even this year, Nappy Roots began touring in a 15-passenger van that carried nine people and luggage. They played birthday parties, radio shows, barbecues and the Georgia Dome.


“We do, man,” Scales said. “I remember pulling up to somebody’s tent. We came to a skating rink one time where we passed around one mic between verses. Whoever wants to hear our music, we perform it for them.”

Nappy Roots

The usual show is about 30 to 45 minutes, but there are 21 songs on the new album and Scales said the group could serve Watermelon, Chicken & Grits all night.

“I wanna do more than just rap,” he said. “I want to make music that people can feel.

And I look at live bands that use instruments and there’s just a whole other element that you can grab onto. As an audience, you get to see the guitars, you get to see the hands moving. So, I definitely consider Nappy Roots a live band because … it’s more than just rapping on the mic; we really believe in the whole element of performing.”

He said manager Kevin Mitchell sort of “popped up out of the blue” in September 2001.

“One of the things that stuck with me was he wasn’t no rich man, he wasn’t a person who had his hands full. He was somebody who was humble and could tie himself down with Nappy Roots,” he said. “I can say this: He’s probably one of very few people I can trust in the industry.”

Mitchell told POLLSTAR he is in the process of moving his Kevlar Entertainment closer to Ground Zero in Manhattan to help support economic growth in the area.

“I spend probably 20 hours a day just dealing with their business,” he said. Some future prospects include a beer commercial, a clothing line and apparently one of the members is heavily into real estate. “They all have pretty good perspective in terms of investing their money because they all went to college.”

Mitchell said that was one of the key elements in his decision to help the group. At first, he was intimidated by the sheer number of members but was sold when he talked to them individually. He also credited the band’s executive producer, Terrance Camp, who handles tour management, with being instrumental in making Mitchell’s connection to the band.

“I’ve been in the business for 13 years,” he said, “and they’re probably the most hardworking band I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They’re relentless when it comes to doing promotion, being on the road, making concessions and just being in uncomfortable environments for long periods of time.”

Scales agreed that it wasn’t all about partying it up at the VMAs (where the band was nominated for the “MTV2 Video Award”). Most of the time, it was playing between one and three shows a day.

“We’re not making the biggest press, we’re not on the cover of big magazines, but Nappy Roots is still selling records, so that means we’re touching the people below the surface,” he said. “I know for a fact you can’t work harder than we have because there’s only 24 hours in a day and we’re working hard in those hours.”

He was reminded that Nappy was going on the cover of this magazine and that all six members of Nappy Roots would receive a copy.

“You’re going to lose sales on that one,” he joked. He then told POLLSTAR to “keep it nappy” and got on his plane.