"St. Louis is like a time bomb waiting to explode," explains local rap celebrity Cornell Haynes, Jr., a.k.a. NELLY. "No one here has accomplished much musically." But that\\\\\\\'s about to change with NELLY\\\\\\\'s Universal Records debut, Country Grammar.
NELLY began his hip-hop adventure as a hobby. Growing up with his parents
surrounded by vacant lots, condemned buildings, drugs and gangs on the streets of Euclid and Labadie, it wasn\\\\\\\'t until 1993, when he moved to the suburb of University City with his mom, that he became serious about the art
of storytelling. Here NELLY met fellow rhyme-sayer Kyjuan in high school, and
the two of them hooked up with City Spud, Murphy Lee, Ali and Jason to form the St. Lunatics. In 1996, with financial backing from management, the
supergroup went into the studio and came out with the 12-inch single, "Gimme What Ya Got," which sold an impressive 7,000 units regionally and dominated airwaves, rising to the top slot on St. Louis\\\\\\\' #1 hip-hop station, 103 the Beat.
After several years of searching in vain to secure a record deal as a group, NELLY and the St. Lunatics decided NELLY would have more luck getting signed by himself. Sure enough, his rapid-fire cadence, soulful sound and energetic stage presence caught the attention of Universal Records, which immediately signed him. "I don\\\\\\\'t necessarily feel like a solo artist," he explains. "I\\\\\\\'m just the key in the door for the rest of the St. Lunatics. I\\\\\\\'m the first to release an album. But we\\\\\\\'re all family. We came up together from nothing. So it\\\\\\\'s St. Lunatics for life."
NELLY\\\\\\\'s not your average everyday MC. Born in Texas, his father, who was in
the Air Force, moved the family to Spain for three years. Eventually, they landed in the Muddy Mississippi, the city NELLY calls home, St. Louis. "St. Louis is real. It\\\\\\\'s the rawest of the raw. It\\\\\\\'s small so everybody knows each other. I\\\\\\\'ve got a love/hate relationship with it." NELLY, being the youngest kid in his neighborhood, spent most of his days getting into trouble with the older guys. As a result, he was moved around to live with different family members--not to mention attend a variety of schools--in hopes of keeping him on the right track. It wasn\\\\\\\'t until he moved to University City and became interested in organized baseball that he was distracted from the streets.
NELLY excelled at the sport and several offers were made for him to play professionally. "I really thought I\\\\\\\'d be playing ball right now," he says.
But after listening to MCs like Rakim, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Outkast, Goodie Mob and Jay-Z day after day, NELLY was seduced by the rap game. "Rappers like Biggie and Tupac brought something different to the music. They attracted
people to it." Fortunately, NELLY has chosen to pick up the mic and lead St. Louis into the hip-hop spotlight. "I don\\\\\\\'t sound like anyone," he assures. "I\\\\\\\'ve got a style that\\\\\\\'s all my own. I\\\\\\\'m rappin\\\\\\\' the blues. I like to think of my music as a jazz form of hip-hop. I don\\\\\\\'t really even know what I\\\\\\\'m going to sound like until I hear the beat."
NELLY took the melodic hook from his lead single, "Country Grammar (Hot...)"from the children’s song, \\\\\\\'Down, down baby...\\\\\\\' “That beat stuck in my head and I just put my own \\\\\\\'country grammar\\\\\\\' spin on it." “St. Louie" is an ode to his hometown; everything from waking up on a Sunday morning to being out at night. On the local club anthem "E I"NELLY explains: “E I means ‘Yes! Bring
it on!’” He enlists the mic skills of LIL WAYNE, from Cash Money Records\\\\\\\' the Hot Boys, on "For My," a song dedicated to all of their supporters, and "Never Let \\\\\\\'Em See You Sweat" features the New York-based duo The Teamsters. His fellow St. Lunatics join his musical mayhem on "Steal The Show" and "Batter Up."St. Lunatic members Jason and City Spud serve as producers on Country Grammar.
So what is country grammar? "St. Louis is a country part of the U.S. and the way we talk, dress and our actions are all country," explains NELLY. "I\\\\\\\'m trying to get St. Louis noticed. I\\\\\\\'d like to start my own record label and let other acts from here shine. I don\\\\\\\'t want this city to be overlooked anymore." So join the growing number of people who appreciate NELLY\\\\\\\'S Country Grammar--the new talk of the town.