1. Intro (performed by Cedric the Entertainer) // 2. St. Louie // 3. Greed, Hate, Envy // 4. Country Grammar (Hot Shit) // 5. Steal the Show (performed by St. Lunatics) // 6. Interlude (performed by Cedric the Entertainer) // 7. Ride With Me (feat. City Spud) // 8. E.I. // 9. Thicky Thick Girl (feat. Murphy Lee & Ali) // 10. For My (feat. Lil Wayne) // 11. Utha Side // 12. Tho Dem Wrappas // 13. Wrap Sumden // 14. Batter Up (feat. Murphy Lee & Ali) // 15. Never Let ‘Em C U Sweat (feat. the Teamsters) // 16. Luven Me // 17. Outro (performed by Cedric the Entertainer)
Few rapper have recieved as much love from pop audiences and simultaneously as much hate from the hip-hop community as Cornell Haynes, jr. did. He’s rivaled only by a handful, including Ja Rule, P. Daddy, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer in this department. In fact he pissed off hip-hop grand elder KRS-One to such a degree with his debut album that a beef followed. But we’ll get to that when we’ll get to that.
Country Grammar was the solo debut album by the St. Louis, Missouri rapper. It should be noted that Nelly takes a lot of pride in hs hometown, namechecks it numerously and uses a lot of local slang in his rapping, creating a style that is unashamedly country as opposed to hip-hop’s urban original incarnations. In other words, not only was this hip-hop thing staying, it was spreading land inwards.
It sold over ten million copies in the U.S.A. alone, produced many hit singles instantaneously making him a household name in hip-hop and pop as well (Pop isn’t really a genre, is it?) leading to him scoring guest appearances on R&B and rap songs alike. He actually fit onto the radio-songs seamlessly due to his sing-songy flow, which sounded a bit like Ja Rule without the throat infection.
This melodious exuberant flow coupled with incessantly materialistic rhymes got him a following but it also got him unflattering critiques from peers and fans of the genre alike, who though he was more of an R&B artist than anything else. And although there’s certainly more harmony to his flow than was usual in the pre-autotune era he has a distinct hip-hop swagger and enough rhythm in his delivery to justify caling him a rapper, than you very much.
Now we’ve gotten that out of the way: Another thing people seem dislike about the man is that there’s not much substance to his lyrics. Now here the haters are on to something, Nelly songs are all about getting paid, getting laid, getting drunk, getting high, be it on life or on weed, with the occasional interlude of gloopy mawkish romanticism. So knowledge isn’t something you’ll come across on Country Grammar. It’s not that big a deal for what is ostensibly a pop artist. And he’s rather self-conscious about it too. Unlike Ja Rule, who tried and failed miserably at maintaining a level of street credibility while sing-rhyming his way through beats that were glossier than Vogue magazine paper Nelly more or less embraces that he is a pop star first and foremost, and unlike martyr-complexed Jeffrey Atkins he actually manages to have some fun with it, rendering most of his work a guilty pleasure whereas Ja oft comes across as… well, guilty as charged with several counts of horrible music making. (On an unrelated note; does anyone else find it funny that Ashanti ended up dating Nelly? No, just me then?)
Country Grammar is produced by Jason “JE” Epperson and City Spud, a member of Nelly’s St. Lunatics posse, who give Nelly a St. Louis take on New Orleans funk to rap over. The album has a smooth, throbbing, sexy feel from start to finish with Nelly maintaining enough stamina to keep it from going off prematurely and going flaccid.
This album has its share of textbook pop/rap classic singles too. Ride With Me is a breezy, acoustic guitar-driven celebration of excess unrivaled in its straightforwardness. (“Why do I live this way? Hey, it must be the money!”)The title track literally united a children’s clapping game with Mannie Fresh-like bounce-beats and it brought rural lingo to big city. E.I. is a synonym for oral sex and a freakfest of a song that has a beat that is both relaxing and tittilating. On Batter Up Nelly introduces his St. Lunatics crew to the masses over a slow-bouncing beat that facilitates their proclamation of dominance over the rap game via baseball metaphores.
Other highlights include the xylopone infused Lunatics posse-cut Wrap Sumden and the Lil Wayne feature For My, which reminds the listener Weezy was around before autotune and that his brains weren’t always too sizzurp-fried for him to make sense on the mic.
Country Grammar has its share of filler. One could easily trim away five of the non-singles randomly without the quality of the album dropping significantly. Thicky Thick Girl if not for any other reason than its godawful title, and Luven Me which sounds too much like obvious influence Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Don’t Stop which samples the same source material, are most eligible for exclusion.
Concluding: Nelly tackles this rap thing with obvious skill and zero pretence. He has a knack for catchy hooks and his raps, while not complex, rest comfortably above industy average. Country Grammar is one long smooth ride down Route 66 without any true potholes, which would nevertheless be better off shorter.
Ride With Me
If you you don’t take it too seriously you can have a lot of fun with Country Grammar on blast. If fun is what you seek, you should pick it up.