Twenty years ago, a record release on June 27 changed the course of St. Louis’ presence in the hip-hop world and overall cultural identity. Cornell Haynes Jr., a.k.a. Nelly, debuted his first solo album, “Country Grammar,” bringing national attention to St. Louis’ distinct accent and steez.
Nelly introduced the streets of north St. Louis to the world with the music video to the album’s title track. St. Louisans recall the local places where the video was filmed, as well as seeing friends and family members in the video dancing and proclaiming, “I’m from the Lou, and I’m proud.”
The album rose to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and is in a rare class of hip-hop albums to be awarded a diamond certification, having sold more than 10 million copies.
On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske spoke with filmmaker and art director Vango Jones about Nelly’s impact on St. Louisans’ identities and impact in the hip-hop world. Jones is a St. Louis native, and he recently wrote an in-depth piece for the St. Louis American about how “Country Grammar” helped shape St. Louis pride in many aspects, from sports to fashion.
In the article, Jones notes that there was a “before Nelly” and “after Nelly” era.
“There wasn’t much stock in the hip-hop scene for St. Louis talent [before]. Everyone primarily had their favorite artist from another city; we didn’t really have anyone to be fond of from our own city,” Jones recalled.
“So once Nelly came, it really broke a barrier where other people in the city who were interested in rap, they felt there was actually a possibility of them making it on a national level or just achieving success than just the local scene … it just opened the floodgates for not only us to be seen on a national level — but for other talent to also come and achieve success.”
Listen to the full discussion:
St. Louis on the Air also heard from residents sharing their fondest memories of "Country Grammar" and what they admire most about Nelly’s success and representation of the region.
Take a listen:
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.
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