Nelly Explains Why He’ll Always Rep St. Louis in Budweiser Made in America Doc [VIDEO]
In this episode of the Budweiser Made in America documentary series, St. Louis, Mo., is the destination as we take a look at the vibrant, yet rarely-explored, music scene that gave us artists like Nelly and his St. Lunatics crew.
Back in 2000, Nelly put St. Louis on the map with his debut album 'Country Grammar.' Until then, no one had a clue that hip-hop was bubbling in the Gateway City. Fourteen years later, the rapper, real name Cornell Haynes, Jr., still lives and reps "the Lou" to the fullest.
"I felt like as long as I stay in St. Louis the light will stay in St. Louis," he says. "I felt like if I left St. Louis then the light would possibly leave."
Nelly's 'Country Grammar' album generated four top 10 singles, including the title track. At the time, the rhymer's distinctive southern drawl and pop-rap melodies made him a unique voice in the rap game.
"Reppin’ from where we from was a no-brainer for us," recalls Nelly. "Because everybody else was putting on their cities, their areas and their regions. So that’s what we wanted to do because we felt like the music we had was just as good or better."
The video for 'Country Grammar' was shot in St. Louis and featured hundreds of people from the local neighborhood. The hometown clip inspired local rappers like Tef Poe and Nick Menn to pursue a rap career. Even Nelly’s nephews, rap group JGE Retro, were amazed by what their uncle had accomplished at the time.
"When I [saw the video], I was like, 'Damn, look at all them people in the video with you,'" JGE's Tab remembers. "He had the whole St. Louis support [and] that made me know that he’s somebody now."
So what makes hip-hop so special coming out of St. Louis?
"It's the mind state," says Tef Poe. "It's what you see when you look the mirror" he continues. "You have to know that above everything else -- against all odds -- I am a special and unique person. I do have what it takes to prove myself."