Vito Tisdale, also known as “Big V” or “Vito Banga," was once the sixth member of multi-platinum hip-hop group Nappy Roots, known largely for their 2002 album “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz,” which earned two Grammy nominations.
Tisdale, born February 14, 1976, grew up in the Shake Rag neighborhood of Bowling Green, which ran along the north end of State Street. He grew up poor, living in government housing with his mom, Uretha, two older twin sisters and younger brother.
“You could see your breath in me and my little brother’s room in the winter,” Tisdale says. “I thought every kid had it like that. I didn’t know it was good or bad; I just know it was cold in there in the winter.”
The environment of his childhood neighborhood would have lasting effects. Tisdale says he recalls the first murder he witnessed, which happened roughly around age five.
Tisdale found solace in music as a child, listening to music more heavily and dabbling in writing lyrics. He also found solace in football. He began playing in elementary school after being signed up for a local peewee league. He continued to play throughout the years of his schooling in Bowling Green, up through high school. His skills with the pigskin would earn him a position on Eastern Kentucky University’s team.
After accepting, Tisdale realized his passion for the game was declining. He left EKU after his first semester and returned to Bowling Green. With his football dreams behind him, he turned to music.
Tisdale was recruited into Nappy Roots in the mid 1990s after rapping for a group at a Western Kentucky University college party. The group originally consisted of Skinny DeVille, B. Stille, Ron Clutch, Fish Scales, R. Prophit and Tisdale, who went by Big V. Nappy Roots launched their careers with small performances in the local bar scene.
The group signed with Atlantic Records in 1998 after the release of their first album “Country Fried Cess” that same year. Their first album with Atlantic Records, “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz,” would be released in 2002.
“Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz” went multi-platinum. The album also earned the group two Grammy nominations: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Po' Folks" and Best Long Form Music Video for "The World According to Nappy.” The group was also nominated for American Music Awards, Soul Train Awards and an MTV VMA after the release of this album.
The group would release one more album with Atlantic Records, 2003’s “Wooden Leather,” before leaving the label to release music independently, touring with their new work 10 months out of the year. “Wooden Leather” featured top names on the production track, including Kanye West and Lil Jon.
Tisdale decided to leave the group in 2012 with goals to focus on a solo career. He returned to his hometown of Bowling Green in 2013 after 15 years of touring with Nappy Roots.
Tisdale has seen his life go from projects to platinum and to projects again. He’s played sold out shows, with crowds screaming his name and has now returned to the life he knew before his fame: raising his youngest two children and still trying to reach his goals for music, which involves writing music with elementary aged children.