Nappy Roots Look Toward the Future on ‘The 40 Akerz Project’
Nappy Roots has all but disappeared since their last album Nappy Dot Org, released in 2011. In the era where if you're not poppin' you're forgotten, the once platinum-selling, two-time Grammy-nominated group is back with The 40 Akerz Project. The album shares the name of the Nappy Roots' umbrella group, 40 Akerz, comprised of remaining group members Fish Scales, Skinny Deville and producer 808 Blake of SMKA.
On The 40 Akerz Project, Fish Scales and Skinny Deville paint vivid pictures of Southern life through eloquently-delivered lyrics and well-developed skits. The album opens with the skit “40 Akerz,” in which an interviewer asks the meaning of the project, to which Scales replies, “We don’t want it to be too serious about the 40 acres and a mule, but we do want to glance at the fact, damn, that we have come a long way.” This personal and cultural mantra of acknowledging the struggle yet looking optimistically towards the future is echoed throughout the project. The chopped and screwed-inspired followup, “Party For The Ages,” further develops this balance, with Skinny Deville rapping, “And the reason that we fight/My civil rights and reparations on occasion coincide with 40 acres/Call me crazy.”
With production handled exclusively by 808 Blake and SMKA, The 40 Akerz Project picks up momentum with standout tracks like “Melting Pot” and “Doesn’t Matter" that enlist Awful Records' resident soulful crooner Micah Freeman. Freeman harmonizes the highs and lows of fame as Scales and Deville deliver a precautionary tale through verses to the young singer.
It’s evident Nappy Roots has spent time crafting this project; the 16 track LP is explicitly their own story. Nearly two years in the making, The 40 Akerz Project takes the listener on a journey through the weight of major success, losing members to solo careers, to the emergence of independent artists ready to define their own intentions for their music. On “Facts,” one of the most honest tracks on the record, Skinny Deville explains, “Damn, what happened? Ain’t been the same since Prophet/Them niggas had a ball but somebody else dropped it,” while Fish Scales echoes the realities of a working rapper: “Barely got clothes on ya back/Tryna make a living off of rap/You ain’t got stacks, you ain’t throwing money like that.”
With the far-reaching arms of the internet, Nappy Roots could cultivate a re-energized interest in their work simply because it’s good. The 40 Akerz Project is a departure from the trap classics we have become accustomed to coming out of the South lately. With records to vibe to and records to ride to, The 40 Akerz Project is refreshing and needed. —Zina Reed