At some point near the end of Nappy Roots' most recent show in Lake Worth, after Fish Scales passed around his big bottle of vodka and Skinny Deville tried to light a joint on stage only to be strongly discouraged by security, I got the simply brilliant idea to interview the duo.
Serendipitously, my friend, street artist CHNK had some paper and a pen. I got him to write "Interview for New Times?" on a piece and hold it up. Through bleary eyes, Fish Scales read the page and nodded. He then, for reasons indeterminable to me and likely the rapper himself, handed my friend a ten dollar bill.
We spent the last track of the night feverishly brainstorming topics of conversation using the stage's monitor as a writing desk. When the set ended, the two of us were shuffled with the exiting crowd through the front door of Propaganda to the sidewalk. We followed the inebriated emcee up the stairs next door. There, we were offered dubious drinks, and I was profusely apologized to by a young lady who earlier pointed at me and laughed like Nelson from The Simpsons. As it turns out, sweaters depicting puppy dogs are not common amongst today's rap show attendees.
Fish Scales sat down behind a high bar littered with empties and as if by magic was holding a plastic cup of some unknown liquid. I began the proceedings by asking him about his absolutely epic drinking. "When the promoter's paying, I get Ketel One. When I'm paying, I get Amsterdam vodka." He waxed. Someone exclaimed, "You killed that bottle, man!" to which Fish Scales nonchalantly remarked, "I do that."
I can talk the sauce all day but, there were more appropriate topics to address. He told us about the 40 Akerz project and its relation to Nappy Roots. "It's me and Skinny Deville, but its under the Nappy Roots umbrella. Nothing we do is not beneficial to Nappy Roots."
For the unitiated, Nappy Roots is a rap group from Kentucky which has existed in one form or another since 1995. Its most lauded single is "Good Day," which has elements of both Southern rap and country music. As Fish Scales noted, "Nappy Roots are known for being something your grandma can listen to, and that's a blessing."
At the height of its membership, it included six members. Over time, that number has dwindled leaving only two, Fish Scales and Skinny Deville to carry on the name. As he stated, "Splitting money between six people, in this day and age, is almost impossible. But that wasn't the case with them leaving."
At some point, we took a break from any professional discussion and talked a bit about the finer things in life: namely horses and basketball. "At a fair when I was like eight years old, maybe six, I rode a pony. But I feel horses you know." We do, Mr. Scales. We do. "When the subject switched to basketball, he decided to let the world know, "I'm the most intelligent NBA fan that exists." It needed no explaining. His favorite team is the Lakers. "I'm offended that you even ask." Due to my own fandom, the subject of the Indiana Pacers came up. "Reggie Miller's one of my favorite players. Jalen Rose, Travis Best, Because I didn't like Jordan. Every year, I wanted them to be better than Jordan. Let's
be kind to the Pacers."
And back to the whole 40 Akerz thing. "With us, it's about building our company. Me and Skinny, we always liked the same beats. So we said, 'Let's do an album.'" He caused all around raucous laughter when he regaled, "We're Total opposites. So it kind of worked in a good way. He's fast. I'm slow. I'm tall. He's short. I'm intelligent..." he paused to let the laughter subside in a room collectively wondering where Deville was off to.
He was likely in the next room, finally smoking that joint he was given during the show, but that's just conjecture. "What me and Skinny do, it's more unapologetic. That's the word we use. We're saying what we feel at the moment and being sensitive at the same time. But this ain't the 'Good Day.' At the same time, we've got the elements of it."
The first single for 40 Akerz, released August of this year, is called "No Idea." It features fellow rapper Jerren Benton and certainly is less forgiving than most of Nappy Roots' oeuvre. Scales expounded on that for a moment. "Jarren Benton was on our first single, and he's dope as fuck. He actually blowed us out on our own single. Like we did two verses and said, 'Let's get Jarren on this.' and our verses are so irrelevant."
The illustrious emcee capped off the night by telling me that the Nappy Roots site is now mobile and that, "I feel like I'm behind the scenes at the Grammys. I'm being treated like that." As someone handed him another cup of a translucent beverage, we swapped contact information and went our separate ways.
While it's important to note that you can hear "No Idea" online, I think the most useful lesson to take away from this story is that being interviewed backstage at Propaganda, even in the most casual sense, is somewhat like being behind the scenes at a premier awards ceremony.
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