Wooden Leather

Artist: Nappy RootsTitle: Wooden LeatherRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Erin Jackson

Nappy Roots’ 2002 debut, Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz, earned them critical acclaim, and with their sophomore release, Wooden Leather, they seem destined to follow in its successful footsteps. In today’s hip hop game, where it’s often difficult to differentiate artists from their posses of nondescript homies, a successful multi-member group in which each emcee has his own distinct identity is quite rare. Wu Tang and ATL’s Goodie Mob managed to do it effectively, but many others have fallen by the wayside (Best of luck to Bad Boy Record’s “Da Band”). Nappy Roots, however, have seemingly found the recipe for success.

While their radio friendly first single gathers much airplay, it’s on “Nappy Roots Day” that the Grammy Award-nominated sextet lyrically explains their make up: “One of em’s fat and loud/Second one’s black and proud/Third one’s drunk and wild/Fourth one’s slim and sly/One of em’s just shy/Last one’s young and wise/Home grown, battle tested/You gon’ love these guys.”

The rock-inspired “War and Peace” and the darker, more introspective “These Walls,” produced by Kanye West, show the group’s diversity. On “These Walls” the group laments:

Gettin’ it ain’t got a damn thing to do with keepin’ shit/ Working damn hard to get it/ Plans of not parting with it/ These walls are closing in/ How long am I supposed to grin/ I’ve lost my will to win/ Forgive my sins.

The Raphael Saadiq-produced tracks “Leave This Morning” and “Work in Progress” are also solid but not so impressive are “Lac Dogs and Hogs” and “Twang”. “What Cha Gonna Do (The Anthem)”, produced by Lil Jon, shows promise at the beginning, but ultimately disappoints as it evolves into a facsimile of all of his other music. While repetitive, uncreative hooks may be the fad in popular southern hip-hop, they are beneath the Nappy Roots and out of place on this CD.

Where the self-proclaimed “Country Boys” really shine is on the album’s mellow cuts. Their Kentucky-fried lyrics over bass-heavy tracks, peppered with a few sick harmonica riffs and a mean acoustic guitar, make for some sure-fire radio hits. Sick and Tired,” “Push On” and “Light and Dark” – all featuring the rich, ol’ skool vocals of So So Def’s Anthony Hamilton (who appeared on WMG’s Grammy-nominated “Po’ Folks”) – all show promise. They should talk to JD about adding that brotha to the group.

The Nappy Roots have delivered another well-rounded album worthy of purchasing. Definitely on par, if not slightly better than its predecessor, Wooden Leather solidifies Nappy Roots’ place on the hip-hop scene.

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