“If you are talking ’90s hip-hop, to be a rapper you almost had to have three things: a Dickies suit, a pair of shades and a beer in your hand,” he says. “Beer was totally a part of hip-hop.”
And it wasn’t necessarily a positive thing: The suds namechecked in songs or advertisements by the biggest rappers always seemed to be for malt liquor — an oily, industrial concoction bottled in enormous containers and aggressively marketed in poor neighborhoods. The 40 ounce is closely associated with that type of beer, and for better or worse, the large bottle was memorialized in many a verse.
“You can go to YouTube and [look at] St. Ides commercials,” Scales says. “Every big artist at the time had a commercial. Now artists are selling liquor. Jay-Z has has his liquor, but St Ides had a commercial for Biggie, Nas, Wu-Tang, Cypress Hill, Snoop, you name it.”
Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox may not sling malts, but Nappy Roots is gearing up for a two-night run at the venue on Saturday, July 2, and Sunday, July 3. It’s the twentieth anniversary of the group’s debut record Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, and fans should expect to hear some extra tracks from the album, which is Nappy Roots’ most successful to date. The hip-hop group’s current members include Scales, Skinny DeVille (William Hughes), B. Stille (Brian Scott) and Ron Clutch (Ronald Wilson). It’s also working on new music and introducing new acts – Phresh Ali, Svnday and SAJÉ – via its own record label, Not Regular.
Nappy Roots is also bringing its own beer to the masses — particularly the Black community and the hip-hop world — by opening its own brewery, Atlantucky Brewery in downtown Atlanta, earlier this year. Scales posits that since the ’90s, people realized big beer companies were pushing garbage brew in their neighborhoods, as opposed to a quality craft beer that can be enjoyed for its taste — not just its psychoactive properties.
The hip-hop world fell away from beer as a result, he says. And while rappers including Run the Jewels, Outkast, Chance the Rapper and Action Bronson have their own beers, Nappy Roots is the only group with its own full-on brewery.
“We definitely wanted to reintroduce beer to the hip-hop scene,” Scales explains. “It’s a drink concert goers like to have. It’s easy to have in your hand while you watch a show, as opposed to a cocktail.”
Scales sees Atlantucky Brewery as a way to introduce good beer to a new generation. The brewery opened in February, and while it is primarily focused on making ales, it recently created its first lager, The Bluff, which Scales says is his current favorite.
Scales says Georgia only has two Black-owned brick and mortar breweries, including Atlantucky. A dearth of Black ownership in the beer world isn’t unique to Georgia. A 2020 article in 5280 Magazine says that out of 425 breweries in Colorado, only three had Black owners. They remain a rarity in the United States, but Scales finds that to be a positive for his business because it stands out in a sea of competitors.
“People want to see what a Black-owned brewery looks and tastes like,” he says. “There’s only one brick and mortar Black brewery in Georgia before us, and that was only a year before us. So there’s very little history as to what a Black brewery looks like.”
He adds that the craft brewery is a bit of a novelty in the Black community, because Black folks, in general, like to get dressed up when they go out, and maybe have a cocktail. Breweries are a different scene altogether and offer more of a casual, day time activity – parents can sip a pint while their kids play games and the dog catches a nap under the table.
“It’s not a bar,” he says of Atlantucky. “It’s definitely a chill vibe, a day time vibe. We have people here at noon with their baby in the stroller. They are here until two or three, sipping a beer.”
No one is drinking liquor, so things aren’t getting out of hand as they might at a nightclub or bar. Scales says that he prefers drinking craft beer, because trouble often starts with liquor. Beer poses less of a risk of a bad time being had. So far, he says, the response at Atlantucky has been positive, even a little surprising at times.
“I’ve seen women come who I just know wouldn’t like beer and they absolutely love it,” he says. “It’s a culture thing. Atlantucky is a place you go, hang out, have a beer, have a quick meeting and then you go out and party and have your heavier drink.”
He adds that Atlantucky, located near Atlanta Georgia Mercedes Benz Stadium is attracting a diverse crowd of people, and Scales says even white-owned breweries are angling for how to snag more Black customers as the field becomes ever more crowded.
‘There are so many breweries, especially in Atlanta,” he says. “People are running out of customers, someone they can sell beer to.”
As for whether Coloradoans will ever taste Atlantucky beer outside of Atlanta, Scales says hopefully soon. As it stands, the brewery isn’t canning its product yet, and flying with a keg poses a bit of a logistical problem.
“We are friends with Odell Brewing Company in Denver,” he says. “It would have been nice to make a beer with them for this show. Even though we weren’t able to, I’ll be drinking a lot of their beer.”
Nappy Roots, Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, 1215 20th Street, July 2-July 3, 9 p.m. Tickets are $13-32. For more music and information, visit nappyroots.com and atlantucky.com.
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