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Nappy Roots at the Black Sheep show preview 

click to enlarge With New Echelons, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m., 2106 E. Platte Ave., $10/adv, $15/door, all ages, 227-7625, blacksheeprocks.com
  • With New Echelons, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m., 2106 E. Platte Ave., $10/adv, $15/door, all ages, 227-7625, blacksheeprocks.com
It’s understandable that critics never took Nappy Roots as seriously as they did other Southern hip-hop acts like Arrested Development or Outkast. After all, the Louisville, Kentucky, rappers didn’t take themselves all that seriously, either. But neither were they a joke. While the video for their irrepressible country-rock-rap anthem “Awnaw” had the down-home charm you’d expect from a band who’d title its 2002 debut album Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, the follow-up single “Po’ Folks” was, as its title suggests, less flippant: “All my life been po’/ But it really don’t matter no mo’ / And they wonder why we act this way / Nappy boys gon’ be OK.”

In fact, they were more than OK. With a double-platinum debut under their belt, they were soon attracting A-list producers like Kanye West, David Banner and Organized Noize. And while they parted ways with Atlantic Records three albums into their career, the group continued to release independent albums and regularly head out on national tours.

Along the way, Nappy Roots have also grown increasingly political. Their 2017 album Another 40 Akerz makes that plain on its opening track, “Superstar,” which name-checks Philando Castile, the 32-year-old African American man who was killed during a routine traffic stop in which an officer fired seven times through the driver-side window while Castile’s girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter looked on. “I don’t have a weapon / You can see these hands / Another black man tryin’ to feed his fam,” they rap, as feature vocalist Ashley Rose comes in with the unsettling hook: “We on the front pages of your papers / I gue-, I gue-, I gue-, I guess that make us superstars.”

While the song featured prominently in the tour following its release, it’s anyone’s guess whether it will make the cut this time around. But with four of the six original members of Nappy Roots on board, it’ll be worth finding out.

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