Nappy Roots Interview
|Label:||Nappy Roots Ent Group|
|Next Project:||The Humdinger|
|Twitter:||Nappy Roots on Twitter|
|Website:||Nappy Roots's Website|
Take a look in a dictionary and you’ll find that the definition of “humdinger” is a striking or extraordinary person or thing. So, what does it mean when a group chooses “The Humdinger” as the title of their new album? Clearly, in the case of Kentucky’s own Nappy Roots, it means that the quintet feels they have one helluva project on their hands.
After a five years hiatus from mainstream music, Skinny DeVille, B. Stille, Big V, Fish Scales and Ron Clutch are back in action with the release of their third studio album. Released via their label imprint, Nappy Roots Entertainment Group, with distribution through Fontana/Universal, the five-man emcee army is riding high off the buzz of their two current singles, “Good Day,” and “No Static.”
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Nappy’s Ron Clutch steps inside the booth to talk about what the heck the fellas have been up to since 2003, how they will be apart of Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign, and where “The Humdinger” stacks up amongst the group’s three releases.
Listen to the Interview
Nappy Roots Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is one fifth of a Kentucky-bred group who have sold more than two million albums worldwide. This past Tuesday, they dropped their brand new album, The Humdinger, their first release since 2003’s Wooden Leather. Awnaw, hell naw, please welcome Ron Clutch of the Nappy Roots. How are you?
Ron Clutch: Doin’ good, man. Havin’ a good day, havin’ a great day.
DJ Booth: I bet. Album is out in stores, you’ve got to be feelin’ good. Before we kick off this interview and talk about The Humdinger, I’ve gotta let you know, one of my first ever interviews was with you and the rest of the fellas. It was back in 2004. You guys had performed Troubles of this World off of the Ladykillers soundtrack, on the Jay Leno Show, and I got a call in to you guys before you did your sound check. I was never so nervous in my life – it was my first ever interview, my deodorant failed me. It was a miserable experience, but it was great.
Ron Clutch: It’s all good, man. Everything’s comin’ full circle. This album, it’s been like three years in the making. We know everybody’s anxious, as well as we are, for what it is right now, The Humdinger. If you loved Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, if you loved Wooden Leather, you’re definitely gonna love The Humdinger.
DJ Booth: You mentioned your debut, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz. That came out six years ago. Does it seem like just yesterday, Ron, or a long time ago?
Ron Clutch: Man, really it’s a feeling of both. It seems like just yesterday, but, the more we think about it, it’s like, man, we’ve been through a lot. Since leavin’ Atlantic, we ventured out and we’re doin’ our own thing right now. We got out own label, Nappy Roots Entertainment Group, we got a nice deal with Fontana/Universal. Between leavin’ Atlantic and now, we’re full-time businessmen, full-time CEOs. Our family’s been growin’ – we’ve had to take some time off to take care of our family, venture off into other business opportunities, real estate. Anything you can think of, we wanna have our hand in [it]. You gotta wear different hats, and that’s definitely what we’re doin’ right now.
DJ Booth: Well, it definitely sounds like it. Success is the name of the game, of course, and you guys saw a lot of it while you were with Atlantic. So let’s go back for a second – what happened that caused the relationship with the label to sour?
Ron Clutch: Man, I would say it’s natural for things to change, it’s natural for things to grow. When we first came out in 2002, we was just comin’ out of college, so we was just havin’ fun, makin’ music, travelin’ all over the world. We went to Iraq, London, Germany, all the different spots. With all that success, it was like… honestly, I feel is we might’ve released Wooden Leather, [too soon]. And on top of that, with the marketing on Atlantic‘s behalf, and just the whole affair – hip hop, at that time, was changing, folks were losin’ money, and we started seein’ things in a different light. We started making relationships with radio DJs and journalists, and just understandin’ the game. And naturally, you’re gonna want to start your own thing, you’re gonna want to start your own business, so we don’t have any regrets.
DJ Booth: Obviously label politics led to you leaving the label, but let’s play, “What if…” for a second. Had you stayed, where do you think Nappy Roots would be as a group right now? In the same place that they’re at, having released a new album, or somewhere else?
Ron Clutch: Knowin’ what we know now, if we had stayed, it’s kinda hard to say. Like I said, the state of hip hop was changing right then and there, at that point in time, so things could’ve been just what they are now. We could’ve ended up in the same position, but we just took a different road. We was destined to start our own entertainment group, our own record label. Because you see how the major labels are doing, and you look at the independents, and they’re gettin’ a piece of that pie. So, really, it’s just the natural course of things. Whether we stayed or not, I feel like this would’ve been, pretty much, give or take a few months, our position right now.
DJ Booth: Okay, that’s fair. Your label situation has changed for the better, but what has also changed is the dynamic of the group. When you first came into the game, you guys were a sextet, now you’re a quintet, R. Prophet has left the group – how has the dynamic between the five remaining members changed?
Ron Clutch: Honestly, the dynamic hasn’t really changed. The energy’s still the same, we’ve all still got a loved for music. I mean, we [saw] Prophet not too long ago, and it’s still love. He chose to go in a different direction creatively, but you gotta respect that, as a man. If that’s what you wanna do, then more power to you.
DJ Booth: If at any point he came back to you guys and said, “I made a mistake, I don’t wanna do the solo thing anymore and I want to [go back to being] a part of Nappy Roots,” would you welcome him with open arms?
Ron Clutch: This is Ron Clutch, so, I mean, we all got different views on it. But me, I got a big heart, and I’m a Christian, and I’m taught to forgive – you don’t ever forget, but you forgive. I mean, I can’t say – only God could answer that.
DJ Booth: So, if he personally called you up, you wouldn’t know what to tell him, it would just be too hard?
Ron Clutch: Man, we’d have to really sit down and vibe, know what I’m sayin’? But it wouldn’t be like before, because we’re in a situation now [where] Prophet’s been gone from the group, he hasn’t recorded with [us] for over a year and a half, so it’s been a lot of growth on Nappy. I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to say. You have to put it in God’s hands, honestly. How I feel now might be different than how I feel once this album does what we hope and pray that it do.
DJ Booth: Sure. Well, you said a second ago, if that time had come or will come, you’d have to sit down and vibe. And, speaking of vibing, that’s what I know you and I both hope everyone does when they pick up a copy of The humdinger, just sit down and vibe. So, Ron, what is a humdinger, and how much will people be vibing to this brand new album?
Ron Clutch: Well, Z, if you look at the title of it, The Humdinger, it’s in the dictionary, and it’s any person, place, thing, or event that’s extraordinary. And that’s what we feel like this album is. We had to fine-tune the recipe till it was one hundred percent.
DJ Booth: Definitely. Ron, you said the album process took approximately three years from start to finish. What would you say is the reason why it took three years? New music? Creative differences?
Ron Clutch: A little bit of everything. We wasn’t the same young college students that we was when Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz came out. And when Wooden Leather came out, it was definitely a mature album. So, [parting ways] with Atlantic, we wanted a great situation. We couldn’t just settle for any situation. We had done the big label thing, so we was lookin’ to be innovative and creative. And with the independent route, it’s more risk, but it’s definitely more reward. It’s more hands-on.
DJ Booth: The new album’s gonna be released independently by your label with distribution through Fontana/Universal. Would you say this is the best move for the time being, or where you think the group might stay for the remainder of your collective career?
Ron Clutch: Well, the sky’s the limit. You definitely wanna be self-employed, you wanna be your own businessman. This right here is just a platform for something bigger. We don’t know what the future holds. We got solos due to come out in the next year or two, probably me in 2009 or 10. We’ve been out for three or four years, so, it’s like, okay, we’ve been on the underground for this amount of time, now it’s time to flood the market.
DJ Booth: Switching gears from music over to politics, I read that the group is currently planning a tour of opening performances at the Black Americans’ Committee seminars, with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. So, Ron, what would it mean for you guys to be a part of his campaign for presidency? That’s huge.
Ron Clutch: Man, that’s big. Like you said, huge, just bein’ part of history. Obama could potentially be the United States’ first black President, and for us to be on that same platform, like I said, it’s history. We’re scheduled to do a handful of dates in various cities [across] the US – man, it’s going to be a ride. Like Obama says, it’s change, and that’s what we come to do. We got that music that we feel like [people are] longin’ for, what I’ve been longin’ for when I listen to the radio. I’m an artist, but I’m a fan at the same time, know what I’m sayin’? I like to hear what other artists got to say. We just feel like it’s Nappy’s turn.
DJ Booth: You parlayed the question perfectly for me. His slogan, of course, is “Change in America,” so, two-part question. One, what needs to be changed the most in our country – which is the most important – and two, what needs to be changed in the music industry?
Ron Clutch: Okay, as far as what needs to be changed in the United States, I would say it’s gotta be a re-focus of attention on where the money goes. We need to invest more money in our children. There shouldn’t be no schools in the US that’s run-down, or ain’t got books, or the teachers are underpaid – that don’t make sense. And then, with our elderly folks, and with the soldiers, God bless when they come home. They say you judge a nation by how you treat the youth, and the elder generation, and I feel like if we look at ourselves and look at our government and be like, “Man, we gotta be serious, we gotta be fair.” With the price of gas goin’ on, that’s ridiculous almost.
DJ Booth: It is – beyond ridiculous.
Ron Clutch: And then with the hip hop industry, I would say it needs to be more controlled. The artists needs to have more control. [There] needs to be a balance of what you see on television that represents hip hop. Now, I love all type of hip hop, but we wonder why hip hop is getting quote unquote a “bad rap,” and it’s only a certain type of music that you hear and see. And I ain’t sayin’ that’s bad, or that’s wrong, but [there’s also another side to it.]
DJ Booth: You didn’t want to use the word “bad.” I’ll use the word “bad,” though – it’s bad, it’s real bad. Something needs to change, you’re absolutely right. Hypothetical for you here: next year, at this time, if elected, Barack Obama will be our President, so what do you think is more likely to happen – what you said that you’d like to see changed here in America – more money in schools, more money for the elderly, our soldiers coming home – or a better balance in the hip hop industry?
Ron Clutch: Well, they’re definitely tied together. With our first single off The Humdinger, Good Day, that is a breath of fresh air, from the song to the video, which was produced by my man Lenny Bass. It’s what’s needed.
DJ Booth: If gas prices were to get slashed in half, how would you change your spending habits? Because obviously a lot more money would avail itself. What would you go out and purchase with all that extra dough?
Ron Clutch: Man, I’d pay some of my bills off, first and foremost, and invest my money. That’s definitely what I would do with some extra money, is invest, invest, invest. You gotta make your money work for you.
DJ Booth: Well, hopefully all of your long-time fans and brand new listeners have invested some of their money, so they can use it to go out and pick up a copy of the new album, The Humdinger, it’s out in stores right now. Ron, give everybody a website or a MySpace page so they can find out more, of course, about the album, and what’s going on with the Nappy Roots.
DJ Booth: Ron, I thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me here inside the DJ Booth, and on behalf of everybody we wish you guys nothing but the best of luck. We’re so happy to hear some brand new Nappy music back on the stereo.
Ron Clutch: That’s what’s up. We appreciate it.