Skinny DeVille has a wife, three kids, and a new yard in Atlanta that he mows himself. He believes in God. He smokes a little weed. He pays his bills. He’s a rapper. It’s exciting stuff.
“I think people appreciate that side of life, the reality, just as much as they appreciate the fantasy side,” says Deville, who Rolling Stone described in 2002 as the most philosophical member of famously down-to-earth southern rap sextet Nappy Roots. “We’re all about painting you a very beautiful picture, not of this glamorous materialism, but about taking care of your family and just living life.”
For instance, you’re not likely to find DeVille sippin’ Courvoisier on a yacht, on or off camera; the video for “Ride,” the stellar debut single off the band’s new album “The Pursuit of Nappyness,” has him in the grocery store reaching for the Grapico (before giving a ride to a girl trying to meet her husband, just returned from Iraq. She keeps her clothes on the whole way).
“It’s not just about bitches and hoes and drugs and money and champagne poppin’ and pit bulls,” he says. “My kids can watch that video without me having to explain what sex is or looking at g-strings.”
Nappy Roots formed in 1995 and signed to Atlantic Records in 1998. Riding the millennial wave of mainstream interest in southern hip-hop generated by Atlanta-based acts like Outkast and Goodie Mob, their major label debut “Watermelon, Chicken, and Gritz” eventually went platinum thanks to catchy, urban-meets-country singles “Awnaw” and “Po-Folks.”
The band’s southern but relatively bourgeois background – the members first recorded together while students at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green – contrasts starkly to the bullet-riddled origin myths of many of their more urban contemporaries.
While DeVille acknowledges that going to college doesn’t typically translate into hip-hop street cred, he also acknowledges that he doesn’t really care.
“Some of our guys… almost didn’t make it to college, it could have been college or jail, but there’s nothing wrong with being educated and knowing what you’re talking about and knowing different sides of life,” DeVille says. “People are coming from a lot of different places and a lot hip-hop is about where you come from and credibility. We weren’t street, but we were reality.”
DeVille, who recently moved from Kentucky to Atlanta in order “to be closer to what was going on and have a better shot at supporting my family” says the group retains its style and values on “The Pursuit of Nappyness,” its first independent release in more than a decade.
“People were always saying, ‘you remind me of Outkast, Goodie Mob, Arrested Development.’ To me, ain’t none of those people overly street, overly materialistic, overly anything. If that’s what you’re looking for, then maybe we’re not for you. But if you like to kick it and talk about real things and stuff you can relate to, check out Nappy Roots. I’m a real guy. I just got finished cutting the grass.”
Is “cutting the grass” a euphemism for something street, something illegal?
“Ha… no, but I’ll do that, too,” he laughs. “I’ll take care of the weed a little later.”
Who: Nappy Roots.
Where: SkyBar, 136 E. Magnolia.
When: Tuesday, Oct. 12. Show starts at 8 p.m.
Info: Tickets are $10 at the door. Call 821-4001 for more information.
I saw them at Beard Eaves in 2002. It was a good show. I’ve always liked nappy roots because they talked about things from a different perspective. The things that are prevalent in hip hop were not present in the town where I grew up. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a story to tell. Nappy Roots told some of that.