The rap star tells students in Jefferson City that they'll get a treat if their grades get better...

Multi-million selling hip-hop star Nelly and his ST LUNATICS collective have pledged to play basketball with the students of a US High School if their academic record improves.

The band made the announcement yesterday (February 6) in Jefferson City, the state capital of Missouri, where they were being honoured by Governor Bob Holden for similar initiatives they had undertaken in their hometown of St Louis. Nelly and his crew said they would return to Jefferson City High School to play a charity basketball game or perform a show, if the school’s dropout rate decreased or if standardised test scores improved. He said the incentives were not publicity campaigns, but ways of encouraging to students to do the right thing.

“We [do] it because of our experiences – seeing large percentages of the classes we entered freshman year, not being there to graduate,” Nelly told the Jefferson City News Tribune. “The year I went in, there were almost 400 freshman. The year I graduated, we had 199.”

He added: “We can tell them to do as we do, and do what we have done. And what we have done is, we’ve all graduated. So, if you want to do what we’ve done, then walk the way we walk.”

The news of the political plaudits were not welcomed by everyone. Republican Charles Portwood said: “Here we are honouring a man for his contribution to the education of our kids, but if you read his lyrics he is talking about promiscuous sex, crystal meth, snorting cocaine. These are the kinds of things you want your kids to hear?” Portwood said. “If it demeans our society, it’s wrong.

“Hip-hop has run into a lot of resistance, period. We are the voice of the youth. Any time you are the voice of the youth, you run into resistance,” Nelly responded.