Nappy Roots is back, with their first major release since 2003’s Wooden Leather. After leaving Atlantic Records in 2004, they have been recording on their own label, Nappy Roots Entertainment Group, a fact addressed in the track “Beads and Braids.” In addition, the group shrank from a sextet to a quintet when R. Prophet jumped ship to pursue a solo career. While Nappy Roots has released various smaller-scale projects in the last five years, such as Innterstate Music in 2007 and Cookout Muzik earlier in 2008, The Humdinger is their third major album and has been eagerly anticipated by their fans.
Nappy Roots, comprised of members Skinny DeVille, B. Stille, Ron Clutch, Big V, and Fish Scales, all hail from Bowling Green, Kentucky, with the exception of Fish Scales, who calls Milledgeville, Georgia, home. The tracks about their hometown and down-south experiences are among the strongest on the album. “Small Town” is a sweet, nostalgic track that will trigger homesickness for any listener who grew up in a small town and remembers that the “mechanic is the sheriff is the judge with the gavel,” while “On My Way to GA” is faster-paced and grittier, but a similar sense of nostalgia bubbles just below the surface.
The star track on the album, however, is “Pole Position” (featuring Slick and Rose). It is a light, crackling homage to strippers and ladies of the pole, complete with an infectious chorus and lightning-fast rhymes delivered by each member of the group. Funny, charming, and utterly irresistible, “Pole Position” delivers. Skip the spoken dialogue before and after the track because it detracts from the immature glee present in the song itself.
Unfortunately, the majority of The Humdinger doesn’t bring much new to the table. “Who Got It???,” “Fresh,” “Flex,” “Swerve and Lean,” and “Tinted Up” (featuring Groove Chambers) are decent tracks, but little marks them as distinctive products of Nappy Roots. “No Static” (featuring Greg Nice), with its repeated spoken riffs, scratches, electric piano backing, and undulating vocal flow, is a pastiche of an old-school chorus (“no static, no static, got an automatic, too much of anything makes you an addict”) alternated with 2008 verses (“one shot might get me crunk, not to mention Shorty rolling like fifty blunts”). The lyrical, harmonically complex chorus of “Kalifornia Dreamin'” (featuring Slick and Rose) is a refreshing reprieve from the overall lack of cohesive melodies in the rest of the album.
“Good Day” is a bizarre hybrid of a children’s chorus, upbeat piano accompaniment, and darkly optimistic lyrics (“My grill looks mean, but I swear I’m straight, and the hood showing love so I’m a-okay”). While the chorus will stick in your head all day, ultimately, the track sounds a little too much like Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” wrapped in The Black Eyed Peas’ and Justin Timberlake’s “Where is the Love?” The “Voter Remix” of “Good Day” is available on Nappy Roots’ MySpace page, and the revised lyrics, such as “Let’s bring the soldiers home to see their children play,” are much more consistent with the other aural elements of the track.
While the members of Nappy Roots acknowledge their own roots in the South and pay homage to these feelings in a number of the tracks on the album, most of the songs are disappointingly unoriginal. The Humdinger will not disappoint Nappy Roots’ devoted fans, but most of it sounds like something you’ve heard before.
Posted by Amanda Sewell
Music video of “Good Day,” courtesy of Nappy Roots Entertainment Group: