True to their name, it was 15 minutes past showtime before Nappy Roots finally pulled its nondescript, white van up to Goodrich. The group’s manager and DJ, Drae Jackson, opened the passenger-side door and I could immediately see (and smell) what they had been up to. I began to question the amount of supplies I afforded them but decided that they would have gotten to this point either way. “Left-handed cigarettes, alcohol and women,” Jackson had told me earlier that day, “are the keys to a successful Nappy Roots concert.” I thought it was funny and endearing earlier, them being like big grown children and all, but this impression was now beginning to fade.
It’s 20 minutes past 11 p.m. when we finally situate the band in their dressing room. Now that they were finally staged for a proper entrance, I thought that they were going to start playing immediately. Not so much. The five members that make up Nappy Roots are Skinny, Scales, Big-V, B-Stille and Clutch, and they are notoriously never in a hurry. Of course, anyone could have told you of their reputation, but it is truly something else to see them put their philosophy into practice. As I was trying to pump them up to take the stage, Scales approached me.
“Hey bruh, I gotta pee,” he said. Jackson piped in: “Yeah man, I gotta pee too.”
“Alright, bathroom’s downstairs,” I said. “Can you please try to hustle though?”
“Man I don’t know where that is, you gotta come down with us,” they said. “Also, we gonna need some water on stage too.”
“There’s not a whole lot I can do about that right now,” I replied. Thankfully, Scales didn’t press me about the water but instead grabbed an empty Solo cup and filled it up at the water fountain.
During the group bathroom break, I remembered that I was supposed to write this article and still didn’t have a lot to say about the group, so I asked Scales the standard interview questions: “So what’s your creative process like? How did you come up with a song like ‘Po’ Folks’?”
“Ah, that was a bunch of us,” he replied. “Yeah, we were in St. Louis, man.”
“St. Louis?” I asked.
“Yeah … in a recording session in St. Louis … just came out like that,” he replied.
All artistry aside, I don’t think Scales was purposively trying to be evasive. Apart from “nappyness,” honesty was definitely the group’s next most notable characteristic and it was certainly their most redeeming. When they didn’t know the answer to something, they weren’t afraid to say so – a refreshing change for a college student. One of these moments happened when we were standing on the stairwell right before the show started and B-Stille struck up a conversation with me:
“Hey bruh, where we at?”
“Goodrich Hall,” I answered.
“Nah, I mean where we at for the crowd,” he said. “This is Williamstown?”
“Oh. Yeah, we’re in Williamstown but I think it might be better if you addressed the crowd as Williams College,” I explained. “I don’t think many students identify heavily with the town and might…”
“Nah, it’s cool man,” he replied.
“…if you really wanna get the crowd riled up you should say f*** Amherst,” I said.
“What’s Amherst?” B-Stille asked.
“It’s our rival. They stole a bunch of books from us a while back,” I explained to them.
“Ah, that’s f***ed up,” he said. “Yeah, we’ll get ’em.”
It was 11:48 p.m. when I cracked my first smile of the day. Nappy Roots is onstage and all students who were fortunate enough to get in due to limited capacity (is it a fire regulation or a power trip?) and perseverant enough to stay, looked like they were having a great time.
Once onstage, Nappy Roots lived up to expectations and made at least a few people’s sixth grade thug dreams come true. At the end of the day, Nappy Roots put on a phenomenal performance. They played all the classics (“Po’ Folks,” “AwwNaww,” “Good Day”) made a tribute to some other classics, (“Biggie,” “Tupac,” etc.), played some newer stuff (“Ride,” “Small Town”) and even mixed up their sound with a little Nirvana. At the end of the show, Nappy Roots invited everyone up to the stage and sang while students danced alongside them (and maybe even on them in a few cases). It’s safe to say that Goodrich will never be the same again – until next Friday at least.
I think the show can only be considered a success, but I have to say that I was just a little bit relieved for this nappy day to be over.