Interviews


MTV Radio: Tell us what "Country Grammar" is all about.

Nelly: I'm basically representing for everybody [in the] Midwest, South... everybody with that slur on their English, or everybody with that pronunciation that sounds a little off. Right now, I'm just representing for everybody to know that that's cool right now. Let everybody jump on that bandwagon, for sure.

MTV: Your album's been in the Top 5 ever since its release. What're your thoughts on that, man?

Nelly: Oh, man, we've just been thankful for it. Just trying to take everything in stride, and everything's happening so fast right now that I ain't even had time to reflect on that. I know it's there, so it's all good.

MTV: When was "Country Grammar" actually first released?

Nelly: We made "Country Grammar" about a year ago. Underground St. Louis. It be bangin' down there for a minute in the clubs and just getting a few spins every now and then on the radio when I could talk to some of the DJs to help me get it going. But just in the clubs, like a year and a half ago, it's been bangin'. It's kind of old to us, but it's kind of new again, because [of] the video and all the good notoriety we been getting and the good publicity. We kind of, like, recycled the song down, so it's all gravy. It's just been love from East to West, everywhere we go.

MTV: Let's talk about the video. There's, like, a million people in the video.

Nelly: Right. We shot the video on the block. On my block, basically. We had a lot of people come out... the whole block came out. It was all love. We had the whole neighborhood. People just were excited, 'cause we never had, like, a video or anything they shot in St. Louis, period, before -- not on a national level. Everybody came out, and there was nothing but love.

MTV: I've heard that you consider your style to be kind of like a jazz form of hip-hop.

Nelly: It's like St. Louis blues, for sure. We definitely had that influence down there, 'cause it's definitely a soulful place. If you go down there, we've got soul food restaurants, and you can just feel that when you get there. You can just feel the people, 'cause everybody knows everybody. It's a big city, a little bit, but it's a small city in that everybody knows you. If you're doing something, they know what you're doing. If you're big, they know what you're doing. If you're big and you fell off, they know you. We just kind of incorporated that, 'cause it's just our home and it's just the way we feel.

MTV: Now the whole country's taken notice of you, but you're not a debut artist -- you've had other releases before.

Nelly: Yeah. For sure. I'm in The St. Lunatics, and we started underground back there in St. Louis in '94, and we managed to get something on the radio in '96, which did pretty well for us. It got us to number one, as far as the local station. Sold almost 10,000 [copies] out our truck, and then local record stores and stuff like that. It helped us get that foundation -- like St. Louis, the hometown -- and then get them behind us, like, "OK, they makin' some cool jams. They hot. All right. We gonna stay on this bandwagon," 'cause St. Louis is kind of funny like that. You're gonna have one hit locally, and then everything else, they're like, "Ah well, OK," and they're off your wagon. But they seem to be on the wagon and pushing it and pulling it and driving it, so it's all good for us.

MTV: Talk a little bit about that particular song, "Gimme What Ya Got."

Nelly: "Gimme What Ya Got" is a song by The St. Lunatics: me, my man Big Lee, Kyjuan, Murphy Lee, City Spud, my little brother -- he ain't with us right now, but we're gonna hold it down 'til he get out. Me and Big Lee [are] actually the two that rapped on the track. There was a whole Lunatics vibe, though, when we were in the studio making it, and it was just like a party jam. I came in the studio and Big Lee had already dropped two verses of the jam, and I came in and put the last verse on it, put a little twang to it, country grammar style, so to speak. Blew up the spot for us, locally. We did a little EP with that too.

MTV: How did The St. Lunatics get started?

Nelly: Well my man Big Lee's the oldest. He went away to college. And me, Kyjuan, and City Spud, my little brother, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan's little brother, we were back at home and, so to speak, rapping for the 'hood. My man Big Lee came home with a new outlook. He helped motivate us a little bit, like, "Yo, we should try to do it this way. We should try to listen to what St. Louis is doing. Just listen to the other groups and just differentiate ourselves from all that." That's what we did. We just took time and kept planting it, kept planting it, kept working in the studio for years in a row. I'm talking 'bout every day was a studio day. Even if we was just dropping by, grabbing a beat, or whatever, I [was in] the studio every day for three years. We just really pressed hard, man. It took hard work to get here.

MTV: And today you have a deal with Universal Records. How did you come to decide on a solo deal as opposed to getting the group signed?

Nelly: Well, it wasn't my idea, it was a group idea. We sat down, and I want to tell everybody it's not Nelly and The St. Lunatics, its Nelly from The St. Lunatics, 'cause I'm still in the group, always will be in the group, started in the group, and I ain't never leaving the group. But it was something that we all decided on, as far as timing, I guess my sound, just the way I like to do things... 'cause everybody's different in the group. You'll see that when the group album comes out, and when other guys, other members of the group, get a chance to do their solo projects. You'll definitely feel the difference and you'll be able to be like, "Oh, OK, Murphy Lee is different from Nelly. Big Lee is different from Murphy. Kyjuan is definitely off the rack." Everybody's different in that aspect, so I think it was just more or less the timing for me. Everybody decided, "OK, Nelly, we just gonna give you everybody's support, we just gonna get behind you, we just gonna push you through the door." Flat out. And here I am. It's definitely love, and it's the Lunatics for life.

MTV: And two guys from The St. Lunatics do production on your album.

Nelly: My man Jay E [Jason Epperson], he's been with us since '96 when we did the "Gimme What Ya Got" track that was big in St. Louis. He did that track. My little brother, City Spud, he did four tracks on that album, and Jay E did the rest of them. Except for one. My man Stevie Blast [Steve "Blast" Wills] did the "Batter Up" track. But other than that we kept everything in house, 'cause we work well together. If I feel something should be in a beat or something, if I'm feeling it -- maybe anything from a clang to a high hat, I doesn't make a difference -- they feed off of that. There are some producers that are gonna be like, "Look, look, let me do the beat. You stick to rapping." But they take well off, and they take our comments and our suggestions and they coincide with what we trying to do to, as far as hoppin' on it lyrically.

MTV: You haven't always lived in St. Louis. Tell us about your background.

Nelly: I was born in Texas. I was always moving around. It wasn't like I stayed in one spot for too long. I've been to, like, eight different schools. Four of them, I kind of got booted out a little bit. Another four came from just moving around, switching different families. [I've] always been kind of on my own, but not on my own. It helped me to rely on myself a lot. I talked to myself a lot -- you know, I ain't crazy or nothing -- but kind of like, "All right, Nelly, what was really going on?" I gotta sit back and talk to myself and reflect, 'cause I kind of feel like that's all I got. But I love my mom, my father. I got family behind me. Support, no doubt. But it's just some things you like to talk to yourself about, that you just can't [tell] other people. That's what I do.

When I moved around a lot, moving from Texas to Spain... I don't really remember too much about Spain. I probably remember one thing. Like "uno, dos," that's probably about it. But I was real young. Then we moved to St. Louis, and then my parents got divorced. I was kind of split between them families like that, and then moving around amongst friends and family, and I was just always on the go. It reflects in my music too, [in] the way I like to do different styles and come off on different songs. It's like the different moods I was in. It's like life, you know? It's the way I was feeling at a young age.

MTV: Who are some of your influences?

Nelly: We get what's hot on the East, we get what's hot on the West, we definitely get what's hot on the South and Midwest, for sure. We try to combine that, 'cause we've got a lot of rap acts in St. Louis. A lot of people take more or less to the West Coast side of things; we got some people who take to the Southern side of things, some people take to the East Coast side of things. 'Cause that's like when a group comes out in St. Louis, you don't really know what it's gonna sound like, for real, until you hear them, 'cause people take from all different sides. I listen to everybody from 2Pac, Biggie... when you say L.L., man, you know that's a big influence right there. Snoop, Goodie M.O.B., Outkast. We just pump it all right there. If it's hot, it's definitely in St. Louis. You don't know what's hot, you come to St. Louis, 'cause it's like in the middle, so you gonna hear it all. Our radio stations play it all, 'cause we don't have a lot of independent music that we're playing on our radio. Now I've got a couple of songs. We've got a couple of independent labels that's getting a few more spins now because of the success that we're having, so to speak. It's opening up our radio stations to be like, "OK, well, let's play more of our own music a little more." But we still bump a lot of stuff from other regions and other areas.

MTV: You're on a mission to put St. Louis on the map, as far as music is concerned.

Nelly: That is a mission in itself. Just bringing St. Louis to the [forefront], 'cause there's a lot of people who don't even know where St. Louis is. I'm looking on [the MTV studio] wall now, and I'm seeing a lot of [license] plates, but I don't see any Missouri plates, so it's all gravy. I'm hoping we can get the notoriety for now, but St. Louis is our foundation. No matter what we do right now, we always can fall back on the Lou', 'cause they've been loving us. They've been holding us up for so long. Any time we go down, they can give us that boost to come back up, and I think everybody needs that. Lock down home first, 'cause that's very important, we think.

It's like we're crying out for our time to shine right now. We've been doing it for a while. It ain't that, "Well, they finally got something hot." It's always been hot acts in St. Louis. It's just that people [are] going down there, taking the time to recognize and take a look and see what's really going on. We've just been building up and building up to this point to where now we're screaming with our heads cut off. We're really feeling ourselves down there in St. Louis, and I ain't talking about me. I'm talking about the whole St. Lou' right now. It's all love down there. It's "Country Grammar"-ed out down there, and I love 'em, man. I love 'em. For sure.

 

Nelly: St. Louis Superstar

What makes Nelly tick and where did the whole country grammar slanging style came about? Let rap superstar Nelly share that with you and so much more in this exclusive interview!


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How is it like growing up in the Midwest and St. Louis?

Being from the Midwest, y'know, it kinda influences me by just being more laid back, just more chilled, more at ease. Because we are also, I would say, part of the country, it's just more... We take our time with everything, we're not so rushed like say, the East, the East Coast, or as flashy as the West. Y'know what I'm sayin'? But still more laid-back, calmer. We just try to show a lot of respect a lot of times, y'know? We say "Yes sir", "No sir", "Yes ma'am", "no ma'am", so, it's different.

Growing up in St. Louis was very tough. It was hard, especially for me, I think, because I moved around a lot. I went to like eight different schools, I got kicked out of like four different schools. I did a lot of fighting, and I was a class disruption.

The main lesson I learned just growing up was making the best thing out of a bad situation. Because I was always in a certain situation that I felt that I didn't really have to be in because it wasn't really my fault, as a child, y'know?

As a child you don't really ask to put yourself in certain situations, and it's kind of up to your parents on how your growing up is gonna be, and... y'know, my parents had a lot of troubles when I was young and stuff like that, but just being able to make a good situation out of a bad one, that's kind of like the best lesson I've learnt.

How did the whole "country grammar" slang came about?

Some people say our English is kinda broken and stuff like that, and it kinda runs on the whole "country grammar" slang, or "phenomenon," if that's what you want to call it. But that's where it kinda derived from, as far as like, us just going about... It's just a slang. Man, we just brought it up from generation to generation, when we say, instead of "here" we say "herre", instead of "there" we say "thurr", "over herre", and stuff like that.

What's your favorite sport?

For a long time growing up baseball was definitely my love. It still is. Well, all sports definitely. Baseball, football and basketball for some reason I played baseball a little better. That's like where I met Kyjuan. Kyjuan good at baseball too, and I always thought he was second base. We'd make up raps about how we was going to beat the next team man.

How did you came up with the name St. Lunatics?

We really hadn't had a name yet. It was like "St. Lunatics... St Lou-, St Lunatics..." Y'know, we had to incorporate St. Louis in there somewhere. We knew that St. Lunatics was kinda hot, y'know what I'm saying? So everybody agreed upon it, and we put it together. Everybody went and got tattooed up. It was just like, "Yo, we're running with it, dude."

[And] I want to tell everybody that it's not Nelly and the St. Lunatics. It's Nelly from the St. Lunatics. 'Coz I'm still in a group, always will be in a group, started in a group, and I ain't never leaving the group.

What is pimp juice exactly?

Pimp juice is whatever. Pimp juice is whatever you're using to get by in life. Some people use brains and smarts, that's intellect. Some people use money, some people use material things, some people use manipulation, y'know? That's just it. Right now, it's just been my music.

Are flashy cars and house a must for hip-hop?

I don't think that having a flashy car and a flashy house is a must for hip-hop. I just think it's, you get a lot of people who come from nothing in hip-hop. And they've never had nothing their whole life. And then it comes to a time where they have dreams also, y'know? The only problem that you have when you're poor is money. Because you have family, you have unity, your only problem is basically trying to pay the rent, trying to pay off the car, trying to put food in the house, trying to put clothes on their back, and all that derives from money, y'know? So when you finally get a chance to where you make it, it's a refreshing thing to you, and you just rejoice. I spent majority of my life not having anything, so now when I get something, and maybe I've had something for 2 to 3 years, now they say this is the only thing that matters to me. Y'know what I'm saying?

What makes a good song?

The essential parts of making a good song, I would say, a hot beat. Definitely. 'Coz you can't do anything without a hot beat. And I think a hot concept. And also a hot chorus.

Why did you decide to release two albums at the same time?

Why drop two albums at the same time? I would say, again, me trying to be different, me trying to do something that's never really been done before. Well, not in hip-hop obviously. And I've had so many people appreciate what I do, I've had people supporting me on the "Hot in Herre"'s, the No. 1's, the "Country Grammar"'s, the "Air Force One"'s, but I've also had people support the "Dilemma"'s and the "Pimp Juice"'s and the "Ride Wit Me"'s. I used to get fans all the time, like, "You should do more of this" or "You should do more of this." And now I just decided well, why don't I just give them a double album, y'know? And I started thinking about that, and I talked to the label to see if it was feasible, see if I could do it, see what the highs and lows was, on doing it and they thought it would be cool to do as well, and I was like, "Well, let's shoot for it."

As far as both albums... the whole project is called Sweatsuit. One album is called Sweat, the other album is called Suit. Sweat is more up tempo, more party atmosphere, I would say a little more street, I guess. If that's what you want to call it. And then the Suit side is a little more laid back, more melodic, and a little more grown and sexy.

What's your motto?

My motto is.. my motto is just "Treat others how you want to be treated", y'know? I think that's just the only way I've been able to have success, is just, treat people the way I want to be treated because for a long time I was doubted. I was not really given a chance to display my music, or to do things I thought I could really have an effect on people. Now, being able to get that chance and just appreciating it because nobody really wanted to give me that chance, so I always show a lot of people respect because I don't know if that person, the next person could be me, y'know what I'm saying? The next person I meet could actually be me.


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