When it comes to hip-hop, I am definitely old school. Roxanne Shante and a then-unknown Biz Markie headlined my first rap concert. I saw the movie Krush Groove the weekend it opened. I bought Run-DMC’s Raising Hell album (on vinyl) the day it was released during my senior year in high school. I wore knock-off Cazal frames and a fake Louis Vuitton fanny pack. Okay, maybe the fanny pack was a bad example, but you get the idea.
That being said, I understand giving credit where credit is due. Old School pioneers (i.e. Afrika Bambaattaa, The Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmaster Flash, etc) definitely paved the way for all other artists in the genre from then until now. I have mad respect for hip-hop’s forefathers. And why wouldn’t I? They were responsible for some of the most important songs of my youth. Especially Boogie Down Productions. BDP received such heavy rotation from me back in the day that I should have been on the payroll (note to KRS-One: I am still looking for my checks).
Which is why, when given an opportunity to review Nellyville, the sophomore release from St. Louis native Nelly, I jumped at the chance. By the way, if you aren’t up to speed on the whole Nelly/KRS-One battle, here’s a quick overview: Nelly’s song “#1”, from the soundtrack to the motion picture Training Day, contained lyrics attacking those who complain about “what’s real hip-hop”. Around the time that track was released, KRS-One’s track “Clear ‘Em Out”, from an underground compilation album, was released. This track contained lyrics attacking those who have a problem with his definitions of what is or is not real hip-hop. The label that released the track hyped it as a Nelly “dis” track, unbeknownst to KRS. Nelly then made a cameo appearance on the remix of State Property’s “Roc The Mic”, calling KRS by name and verbally attacking him. KRS then released “Ova Here” from his upcoming LP, which verbally attacked Nelly and called for a boycott of Nellyville. Whew!
I had tons of one-liners ready to destroy Missouri’s number-one hip-hop son (“Nelly’s new disc should have been called ‘Smelly-ville’”, etc.), and I popped the disc in my car’s CD changer, disgusted even before hearing one note. However, there was one small problem - the disc is incredible.
The opening track, “Nellyville”, speaks of a fictional city where everyone is rich, weed is legal, and children receive cars and diamonds very early on. And that’s just in the projects. This leads the listener to the first chapter of a recurring skit, featuring fellow St. Louis native and Original King of Comedy, Cedric the Entertainer. The skit, which continues in two additional chapters through the disc, is a story of Cedric’s plight to win the affections of a young lady whose only desire is to have the new Nelly CD. Sure, it is slightly cheesy, but it’s funny nonetheless.
The lead single, “Hot in Herre”, follows next with it’s hypnotic bass line and Chuck Brown sample. I will admit that the southern drawl thing gets old after awhile (“hot in herr” instead of “hot in here”, “he’s the merr” instead of “he’s the mayor”, etc.), but I guess Nelly figures he should stick with what works. I mean his debut LP Country Grammar did go nine times platinum.
The disc only continues to build steam from this point. Standout tracks include “Dem Boyz”, “Splurge” and the unbelievable ode to the hip-hop sneaker of choice “Air Force Ones”. Not since Run-DMC’s “My Adidas” has a song made me want to buy a pair of shoes so badly.
There are also cameos-a-plenty featured on Nellyville. Destiny’s Child’s Kelly Rowland shows up on “Dilemma”, N’Sync’s Justin Timberlake croons on “Work It”, and, of course, members of Nelly’s crew The St. Lunatics (Ali, City Spud, Kyjuan and Murphy Lee) are sprinkled all over the album.
So all apologies to KRS-One, but this disc is banging, and well worth your hard earned loot.