Rex Riddem and Mustafa Akbar, better known as Nappy Riddem, have created a funky sound, drawing on everything from soul to reggae — and the duo’s debut release, One World Sovereignty, hooks the listener from the very beginning with touches of all these influences and more. The self-titled opening track proclaims the album’s mission: “It’s so profound when the beat comes round, we get down like this/ We are the funktified soul providers Nappy Riddem project.” Riddem and Akbar are going to deliver some funky tunes and “make ‘em sweat.” You will be shaking yo’ ass by the middle of the first song — they bring in a jazzy horn section and a funky guitar, and the result is incredibly danceable.
But it’s not just the funky tuneage that makes this album so memorable. By the second track, the men of Nappy Riddem are commenting on the state of things in the world: “reciprocity is a million-man dream,” but “times are so hard, the devil need a bodyguard.” The vocal harmony is fantastic and again, there is a great mix of jazzy horns and sick beats, this time with the addition of singing keys. These guys are definitely gifted composers.
“Ease Up” and “Angle It” are sexy tracks with pure reggae vibes. They do have a bit of a stereotypical rap feel in the lyrics, talking about sexy girls in short mini-skirts, but they’re still fun and funky and have just as much musicality as the more serious songs on One World Sovereignty. And the album does anything but get boring — there are elements of dub on “Soundboy Wake the Sound,” and a slowed-down soul feel on “Suspicious Love.”
“One World Sovereignty,” is simply an incredible tune. The opening guitar is beautiful and catchy, the vocal harmonies are exquisite, and the lyrics are tight and eloquent, drawing on an impressive variety of sources for inspiration: “Biological and chemical warfare/ everybody talk about Iraq, but what about the war here?” and, drawing (presumably) from Maya Angelo’s poem, “Now I know why the caged bird sings/ how can you hold me captive? I’m a natural born king.” Though lamenting the state of things in the world, the overall message is positive: “it’s time for us to be the chance we want to see.” A wonderful closer to a strong album.