Last night DC based reggae act, Nappy Riddem, performed at the highly acclaimed Brooklyn Bowl on the bill with none other than The Wailers. Just days before that lead singer Mustafa Akbar held his annual Mustock festival featuring music, art, and family activities, which also featured a Nappy Riddem set. Needless to say they’ve got some good momentum pushing into this weekend for their show at the Hamilton in DC.
They’ll be joining forces with Julian “Junior” Marvin, the original guitarist for Bob Marley & the Wailers, for his recreation of the 1978 Jamaican One Love Peace Concert. The show will take place at The Hamilton, just down the street from the White House, at the corner of 14th and F street in Washington, DC. Here is a brief Q&A with a few members of Nappy Riddem — Rex (uke/vocals), Patrick Cheng (Bass), and Gordon Sterling (Guitar). Post-show coverage coming next week. Tickets are available here.
Nappy Riddem’s sound has significantly grown since the early days of the band. With more extensive touring under your belts things sound tighter than ever. How do you feel your live performance has improved over the past few years?
Rex: These last few years have been amazing for the growth of Nappy Riddem. It is nice to have a crew that’s been dedicated to the project. It’s enabled us to develop both in the studio and on stage. Touring, in particular, has been a huge in helping to solidify each member’s role in crafting the Nappy sound. Gordon Sterling brings searing guitar solos that seem to float over the groove. Patrick Cheng is a serious pocket bass player with his roots deep in the Dub scene. Charles Flye really helps to round out the dynamics on keyboard whether it’s oubling up the skank, or taking a funky solo. Overall these guys have help Mustafa and I better realize the Dancehall Funk approach to Nappy Riddem. Ironically, some of the best brainstorming frequently travel time between cities.
You’ve toured with junior Marvin as part of the Foundation to Creation tour. Obviously this was a huge nod to Nappy Riddem as a band. Did you initially feel a pressure to really step things up that tour? How does junior contribute to inspire and push you to better yourselves as musicians?
Rex: Getting the nod from Junior has been a blessing. Nappy Riddem is pretty uncompromising when it comes to what we strive towards musically. Junior, much like Bob Marley, is a perfectionist. Working along side him is inspiring and illuminates the sacrifice it takes to become and remain one of the greats. For me personally having the opportunity to take part in Bob’s legacy is an honor and a responsibility.
You’ve been DJing for quite some time. Even occasionally touring to do Nappy Riddem DJ sets outside of the northeast/mid-atlantic region. How do you apply this sense of layering to the use of your electric ukele?
Rex: I apply it to my overall style of production and performance. When you travel state to state and country to country DJing, you can’t just drop the same old tunes and expect them to work. At least not in the underground scene. Touring as a DJ really broadens your tastes, but coming home to the D.C. music scene is what really drives me. There are so many talented artists that we’ve had the pleasure of woriking and developing friendships with. Experience Unlimited, The Fort Knox Five, Thievery Corporation, Black Alley, Congo Sanchez, and Asheru are just a few. Being from a town that has given the world prolific artists, Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Gill Scott-Heron, Chuck Brown, and Bad Brains, I’m extremely proud of the musical heritage of D.C.. Much like Marley and Junior Marvin, Nappy Riddem strives to make revolution music that moves the body, mind and spirit forward.
Are there any plans for a new album in the near future? If so, how do you envision the recording process going down?
Mustafa: Yes, we are in the process of recording a new Nappy Riddem album as we speak so stay tuned. The new album reflects more of the current vibe of NR, although we are still the same as we were in views and our one world , one people, one love stance, we’ve grown trmendously as artist and performers. This growth is reflected in the new music. There are a lot of dreams and pain to share with the masses, also a lot of love. Stay tuned and keep it Nappy as always!
You have several messages in your lyrics and have great presence in the delivery of these particular messages, moods, and emotions. Where have your recently found inspiration to write new lyrics?
Mustafa: I typically write from life experiences, it’s been said that you can’t truly be it until you’ve lived it. I put my life in my music wether it be Soul,Funk, Reggae, House whatever I am working on. Regardless of the music, it should speak to the soul of a person if you really want to touch them deep enough to make a difference.
Could you tell us about what bassists we may not except you to be influenced by outside of the reggae genre?
Patrick: My buddy Tony Moreno from Projected Man has had a huge influence on how I view and understand music. Besides the free bass lessons (thanks tony!), he showed me how to live in the pocket.
Could you tell us more about the newest addition to the band, Aaron, who you have on board to play drums?
Patrick: Aaron landed his space ship outside of Fat Tuesdays when we were having a jam session. He just walked in, got on the drums and started playing like Thomas Pridgen. Then he got up, chugged a beer and left. Next thing I know he’s on stage with me at a show playing drums. I’d tell him to leave, but the dude is a beast!
You play anything from reggae to jam to blues and everything in-between. Could you tell us about how playing with Nappy Riddem is distinctly different from other bands you’ve played in?
Gordon: Being of Jamaican descent, playing in Nappy Riddem has given me the first time in my career to play music close to my roots. What I’ve found is that all music, at its core, is connected. So, I’ve been able to take my experiences from playing other styles and put it into what I play with Nappy Riddem. I’ve always played music that is socially conscious, but in Nappy Riddem, the message is more potent. More direct. I believe that the music should match the message, so it puts more fire behind what I play.