St. Louis had never been considered a modern mecca for hip-hop and rap, but thanks to this impressive debut by 20-year-old Nelly, the city's image may be about to change.
The shimmy-shimmy title track jumped out of the box as a huge radio hit, and there are plenty more infectious grooves and smart wordplay found on the rest of the set. What makes Nelly so different from so many East Coast and West Coast rappers is that this guy can really sing. There's a melodic sense of sweet soul spinning through cuts like "Greed, Hate, Envy," "St. Louie," and the chunky "Batter Up," which also features Murphy Lee and Ali.
Country Grammar relies a bit too heavily on keyboards and could occasionally benefit from a sturdier backbeat, but Nelly is young, tough, smart and sounds like he's here to stay.