Country Grammar

Album of the year so far.

In the States right now, Nelly is Number One. Straight there from nowhere. Well, not strictly nowhere. St Louis actually, which wasn't even on the hip-hop radar until this young thug and his St Lunatics started in with the sweet local slang on regional radio. The single 'St Louie' was the hit that set the laid-back style - lazy vocals telling stoner tales of racist hassle and sweet honey babes, a gang growing up determined to add a Southern voice to the intercoastal rap rivalry. "Some got jobs and some sell yay/Others just smoke and fuck all day". Nelly, tellin' it like it is in the sticks.

Hence 'Country Grammar', slurred and slow and damn proud of it. Nelly is legit and eased between Cedric The Entertainer's dumb-ass yokel 'Intro' and 'Outro' is the year's dreamiest new hip-hop discovery. Nelly takes Tupac's sensitive use of soulbro' history, wacks in some of that good ol' Ruff Ryders rumpus, rolls it together with a pinch of pungent Cypress Hill and exhales it cool, clear and original.

A rarity for a rap album - make that any album - there's no waste on 'Country Grammar', no fillers or bummers. The whole deal just cruises. 'Ride Wit Me' is glorious, streamlined on DeBarge and easily the most seductive rap/pop crossover since Tupac's 'California Love'. 'Luven Me' also tips respect to Shakur, a sweet virtual rewrite of the deceased's 'Dear Mama', while 'Wrap Sumden' is a riotous weed anthem, Nelly so high, he can hardly be arsed to finish his lines. 'Batter Up' is like DMX with a humour infusion, a bold, barking claim to the big league, 'Utha Side' is like feline and focused Prince before he went bonkers and traded in songs for jams, and 'EI' is just one big-up whoop of testosterone.

Little wonder, then, that the A&R machine is currently cruising the St Louis environs for more where this came from. They won't find it, of course. This one's one in a million; pure gold. Album of the year so far.
9 / 10

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