Kentucky Fried

Drinkin' Grand Marnier, smokin' pot. It's the life God chose for Nappy Roots.

And then there's those accents: The six MCs fly their slurry, 'tucky drawls like some sort of hick-pride flag, managing to rhyme "woods," "did," "barefoot," "could" and "good" in one line on their anti-bling anthem "Ballin' on a Budget" ("Comin' up in the woods all I did was run barefoot/Ne'er could comb my hair good"). Now, with 9/11 (at least temporarily) stunting the rap world's bent toward materialism -- to say nothing of the minor mudsplash made last year by über-hick Bubba Sparxxx's Dark Days, Bright Nights -- it looks like Nappy Roots' time has come.

(Side note: If you're starting to picture these guys as some kind of painfully wholesome hip-hop Opryland, well, they're not that either. Asked about his day-to-day existence, Big V quotes the hook from "Blowing Trees," off Watermelon: "Drinkin' Grand Marnier, blowin' trees [smoking weed]. It's the life that God chose for me." And if God hadn't chosen it for him, he'd have chosen it for himself anyway, right? "Uh, I don't know," he says. "But I'd see if we could compromise.")

Yeah, looks like Nappy Roots' time has come. "We could rap then just like we can today," explains Big V, "it's just that the music world wasn't ready for us. It was more into I got this, I got that.' And instead of conforming to what they was doing, we just stuck with ours and just waited our turn."

No joke: The six members of Nappy Roots didn't initially believe Atlantic Records wanted to sign them.
No joke: The six members of Nappy Roots didn't initially believe Atlantic Records wanted to sign them.

Details

Scheduled to perform as part of the Jay-Z and the Roc-A-Fella Family Tour, with 311, Hoobastank, and N*E*R*D, on Friday, September 6. Showtime is 3 p.m. Call 602-254-7200.
Cricket Pavilion, 2121 North 83rd Avenue

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"Ours," in this context, is what Big V calls "a celebration of bein' average." And what's that mean, exactly?

"Well, are you a rich guy?" V asks, by way of explanation.

No.

"Do you have tons of money?"

No, again.

"Then you wouldn't like to hear about that, would you?" he asks. The kid's got a point. "You'd like to hear about something you can relate to. And we don't know anything about money. We ride around on tour in a 15-passenger van, something like a church van, with our luggage in it. And everyone says, God, you live like that?' Well, we don't know that there's any better."

Of course, that may all change now, if sales of Watermelon come anywhere close to the widespread adulation already being heaped on the album; critics have uniformly (and rightly) praised it, and Spin named Nappy Roots a "Band to Watch" for 2002. If all's right with the rap world, these six guys in overalls and unpicked Afros could be among the genre's biggest stars by year's end. So what's up next . . . Caviar, Filet and Cristal?

"Well," says Big V, "we like to sing. And whatever's going on in our lives is what we rap about. But we're pretty much never gonna talk to you about money."

It's nice to hear, and hopefully they'll manage to stick to that ethic. After all, it's that charming levelheadedness, that admirable commitment to representing their own world, that keeps Nappy Roots so real -- and so very Kentucky.

As Big V says of his hometown, "In the end, that's where I want to live. In Bowling Green, Kentucky."

So our fears are unfounded? We shouldn't worry that one gold record will turn these self-proclaimed "country boyz" into coastal hipsters? We shouldn't expect to see Big V eating sushi on the deck of some beachside Malibu manse in the near future?

"Well, I don't know," he counters, exercising his drawl after a thoughtful pause. "Because to tell the truth, I really want to get into acting."

Yeah, well, "real" is such a subjective term anyway, ain't it?

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