Nelly (Fo’ Reel/Universal)
Though hip-hop nation’s twin capitals have long been L.A. and New York City, there’s plenty of strong regional competition. Witness the recent success of groups like New Orleans’s Cash Money Millionaires and Miami’s Trick Daddy. And with his first solo album, Country Grammar, which has soared to the top of Billboard’s charts, Nelly has now marked his hometown of St. Louis as a major contender.
Powered by the bass-heavy, syncopated give-and-take that is the hallmark of much Southern hip-hop, Nelly adds a certain laid-back charm that is all his own, especially on the title track (which has the same hook as Little Anthony and the Imperials’ “Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop” from 1959). Also catchy is “Ride Wit Me,” which bounces along with attitude aplenty. Nelly has a limited thematic vocabulary, but if escapism is on the agenda, this St. Louis slugger may be just the ticket.
Bottom Line: Primo party music