Nappy Roots: Rooted In A Return
Having their disagreements with Atlantic for many reasons the group eventually parted ways with the label. The leave was punctuated with a five-year music hiatus. During that whole time, the group decided to take a step back and oversee where they stood in the industry. The grind has been turned around in reverse as the hustle for them now from major to indie instead of the usual indie to major. Skinny Deville catches up with HipHopDX to get in-depth and break all down to pieces. The new album The Humdinger is coming August 5th and Skinny explains the quick 360 turn around Nappy Roots made to adjust to todays game.
HipHopDX: Skinny its been five years since y'all released an album which was Wooden Leather. Fans would like to know what happened with Nappy Roots during the five year span?
Skinny DeVille: Basically a lot of things transpired between Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz and Wooden Leather, a lot of things definitely changed. We signed our deal with Atlantic Records in 1998 and our first album Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz didnt come out until 2002. It was a lot of growth and development over the years before the first album was introduced to the world.
On the second album Wooden Leather, we got to work with you we wanted to, but we didnt see coming was a change in the industry. A lot of labels were losing money, because albums werent selling so labels ended up merging. By 2004, labels was trying to get everything together and the infrastructure was still suffering with the Internet downloads and whatnot. Nappy Roots, we got caught up in that mix, in our situation we put a lot of effort and energy into that Wooden Leather album. We thought it kind of fell, because the label wasnt as organized as we would liked them to be. In 2004, we kind of ran around with the label and we still didnt see eye to eye. From 2003 to 2005, two years have transpired for us to get off of Atlantic Records and so now what? We talked to a couple labels, a couple were interested, a couple didnt call us back. We decided to pursue our own situation and become independent. In 2006-2007, all that time [we] was raising kids, going fishing, touring, and still was making that great music. We just got a situation with Fontana/Universal at the top of 2008 and the new album coming called The Humdinger coming August 5th.
DX: The reason we're speaking today...
SD: Absolutely, we taking a different approach to making music. We're not gonna let major labels control us, tell us what to do. Its our job and responsibility as artist to call the promoters, the radio stations, the local deejays. Atlantic Records did everything for us, we aint do nothing. When we got off we had to grind on our own. Its like if no one is teaching you how to ride a bike, you gotta learn how to ride it yourself so you dont fall off that bike again. For us, we had to learn how to become independent and be independent minded. We started off independent, but Atlantic Records showed us so much how the business goes as a major. Thats all we ever knew was how the majors did it. Now we trained to learn how to not sell a million and couple hundred thousand, and how to not do a $200,000 video, but a $3,000 video. You gotta really re-train your brain to rethink on a smaller scale.
DX: With all the years on the shelf, were you thinking that Atlantic was a bad home from the start?
SD: At the time yeah, we was in Kentucky going to college. When we got our deal we was in college going to school everyday, getting high, smoking, and drinking. A major label coming to Kentucky at that time it was unheard of. Nobody came to Kentucky for anything, except for the [Kentucky] Derby. At the time we had an A&R from Atlantic by the name of Mike Caren, and he said he wanted to sign us. After about three or four months with our lawyer negotiating contracts we signed the deal. Opportunity only knocks once man and thats with anybodys career. You either open the door and ask who it is or look through the people hole and see who is it.
DX: So basically you saying coming from the hood in the south, in the country, and everything y'all just took the opportunity and ran with it?
SD: Took the shit and ran with it, you gotta take a leap of faith sometimes in life to really get what you really want. If you want something bad enough man you gotta play on it, and as long as you got God in your corner you will never go wrong. When you start taking sex, money, and drugs before him he will take you through a nasty field. We always had the fact that we made good music keep us making music. Thats always been the main focal point of Nappy Roots is putting out good music.
DX: Are you saying its basically not worth it to sign to a major labels these days?
SD: Im not saying that at all, Im saying you got to do whats right for yourself and your business. As an artist, you've got to think like a business, because you are a brand. Most labels will take that brand and run with it as thats how they make money, the major record labels. As an indie, you can maneuver, but you gotta put in more groundwork. If you want to be famous, go ahead and pursue that dream of signing to a major record label to be famous. If you want to be successful and grind knowing that you're busted your ass to get your music out to the masses, then you gotta make that decision and cross that bridge. A lot of people are famous and not making any money, a lot of people are not famous and making a shitload of money. You gotta decide what your target market is and go for it.
DX: Do you think labels came with those 360 deals, because they were desperate?
SD: They came with that, because they wasnt making no money. I wouldnt call it desperate. What kid you know gives all his money back? The 360 is set up to take advantage again as they was taking advantage of artists back in the day. What happened was the digital [era] came in, and they wasnt able to handle that. Artists that were shopping independent digital deals for themselves were making money and the record labels werent making any money. These 360s mean its all way around the board at all ends as they take a little bit of everything you make and give you a little bit of what you really are worth. Dont listen to me, check for yourself, if thats what you want to do to get you famous, go for it. The Nappy Roots, we know [that] a 360 deal at this point and time is not in our best interest, but all deals are negotiable.
DX: From all that you're telling me, it seems like your independent and loving it...
SD: Im independent and loving it, but I have ties to a major because Im smart. Im not gonna sit here and say that major labels dont take care of you. Indies wont get you the exposure that exposure that a major label would, because they dont have the budget. Indies have a much smaller budget, they cant shoot that big video, or get your song placed with the power like a major.
DX: A lot of the music that Nappy Roots made a lot of people would put it into the category of Good soulful southern Hip Hop." Would you say one of the problems with Atlantic was they tried to force yall out yall lane and say your sound wasnt universal enough?
SD: No man, I think the image that was portrayed Atlantic was able to run with was because were we were from. We put out a sound that was original and that nobody else was doing at the time. We got compared to OutKast, Goodie Mob, Arrested Development, and that was great. Within that, we put out music that was fun, but at the same time, people that wasnt where we were from really couldnt relate to all what we saying. Those years we took off, we stepped back to see what was going on. We didnt want to paint ourselves and be categorized as these Country Boys down from college. You knew were we from on the first album, on the second album we blessed y'all with some knowledge and some jewels. This album, The Humdinger, it will be all that and a whole lot more. Same beats, dope lyrics, dope concepts, and we gonna come back with a vision.
DX: That was evident in "Fast Cars" [click to listen]
SD: Yeah and you know what man to tell you the truth we was just having fun in the studio that day. We was working on our DJ Smallz mixtape [Cookout Music] [click to listen], we heard the beat that was dope and we just took it and ran with it. We know that if its dope for us, hopefully the fans will like it and appreciate it. We had no idea that song was going to catch on at all man. It was one of the highest rated songs on HipHopDX and that record had many positive comments about it. I thank everybody that listened and supported it, because without the fans, we wouldnt be here today.
DX: Would you say that the Nappy Roots broke the stereotype that the south is not all about those dance epidemic songs?
SD: I wouldnt say we broke the stereotype, I think we showed it wasnt always about this, that, and the other. I think we always been a group that showed to do you, be true to who you are, and you dont have to be someone else to fit in. If you dont have a $100,000 chain, its okay; I dont either. You dont have to have a big mansion, because a lot of these things when its all said and done is not worth it.