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June 27, 2006

Nappy Roots unite the bluegrass: New album features best of Kentucky hip-hop

“Kentucky’s on the rise like the sun is in the east, man.” —Villebillies, “I-65”    I wander through the maze-like halls of the office complex where I’d been told to go before finally stumbling across the glass door with the correct number on it. I had thought I was getting ready to enter a small office used by the Nappy Roots for interviews and such, but I was wrong. Nappy RootsAfter walking past a small office/lobby, I am directed by Nappy Roots member Ron Clutch down a tall hallway that has been painted black and adorned with posters of Tupac, Bob Marley and John Coltrane alongside Muhammad Ali and John Lennon. At the end of the hallway is a beaded curtain, then: Nappy Roots’ recording studio. Clutch prepares to play a song off the studio computer, explaining simply that the Kentucky Kolonels record is “a collaboration of all of Kentucky’s best talent, from Louisville to Lexington to Bowling Green.” He starts a song, R. Prophet’s “Rep the Ville,” and leaves me to listen while he finishes his breakfast in the other room. Moments later, Skinny Deville comes in and further elucidates what I am hearing.     “I’m excited about it. I think it’s a good look for the city and the state,” he said. “I think a lot of the artists Nappy Roots are excited to be a part of something with Nappy Roots. We hold our regular albums as sacred ground, we don’t feature other artists, just because there’s six of us already fighting for positions on the record.”    Kentucky Kolonels is not a Nappy Roots record, per se, although members of Nappy Roots appear on 14 of the record’s 19 tracks. It is, as Clutch said, a collaborative effort that features music by rappers from all over Kentucky. The hope is to create a sense of strong hip-hop scene and community.    “Louisville is too small to isolate artists because some rappers live in the West End and some rappers live in Newburg and some rappers live out there in the East End. There’s no reason why we should be isolated. We all need to come together to make this whole state just as hot as Texas is right now, just as hot as Atlanta is, just as hot as Miami and New York. To do that we’ve got to unite the people, and once you unite the people, everybody else will come together to support the unity,” Deville explained.    Nappy Roots is a group widely loved throughout Kentucky. Their national popularity has put Kentucky hip hop on the map, and their dedication to educational programs and the communities they’re from has given them a reputation as some of the nicest, most sincere guys in hip-hop.    With this new project, Nappy Roots continue to use their success to lift up those around them.“Everybody has their own fan base, but if you unite all the fan bases on one CD and get everybody to ride to something this summer, I think is a good thing that I haven’t seen done in Kentucky yet,” Deville said.    Dustin “Tuck” Tucker of the Villebillies, who offer their song “I-65” to the compilation, said the group supports the ideology behind the project: “I think it’s a great idea what they’re doing. We’re totally on board to help them any way we can ... Any time they need us, they got us. Any time we need them, we’ve got them.”    Deville was glad to see the Villebillies behind the project. Of “I-65,” Deville said, “I like it. It gets that whole, I don’t know man, it steps out of the box of traditional street hip hop in a sense. It’s a breath of fresh air. The Villebillies, I think they’re dope MCs and the band is crazy and the live performance is phenomenal, so I said, ‘They have to be on Nappy Roots.’”    There’s a Kentucky Kolonels listening party tomorrow at Saints’ Sky Bar. Then the Villebillies and Nappy Roots appear at Waterfront Park as a part of Louisville’s annual Fourth of July festivities, where they’ll open for Morris Day and the Time. This is the first area performance for both group in a while, and will also mark the official local release of Kentucky Kolonels. Immediately following the performance, there’s a release party at Villa Fontana.