The American rap songbook is filled with hardscrabble ascension stories, but some rappers come strolling out of the gate like they’ve only ever walked on air. You might hear Nappy Nappa, a 20-year-old from Southeast Washington, shuffling along in that rarefied group — a cool head in the clouds.
Newcomers rarely sound so comfortable in their cosmic confidence, but Nappa is simply funneling his sweat into sound itself. On his latest release, a terrific EP titled “New Balance,” he spells it out over a chiming jazz loop: “I fell out of love with making it, more in love with making music and the influence that it has on humans.” And although his most stylish rhymes posit him as an individualist, he says he still feels a profound connection to his home turf. “People can come to D.C. through music,” Nappa says. “I’m in the middle. My music is a bridge.”
In that sense, his most inviting track might be “I Met Jesus and He Was Every Rapper,” a song that name-checks his influences — Gangsta Boo, ODB, Jesus Christ — while reinforcing the wider idea that music is a vehicle for divine truth. Describing the spiritual approach he takes to his craft, Nappa compares rapping to meditation. “It’s like being a body of water,” he says. “You’re forever moving, but you’re not going nowhere.”
Then he seems to change his mind. Or maybe he’s just stretching it. “Rapping is like being butt-naked out on the street!” he says. “You’re really giving it your all. You’re giving all that a human can give when you’re rapping . . . And from there, it’s just, ‘How do I become better than I was, not just yesterday, but a couple seconds ago?’ ”
Show: Feb. 16 at Four Five Three, 453 Florida Ave. NW. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. $7.
Warning: This song contains explicit lyrics.