July 16, 2001 12:00 PM

St. Lunatics (Universal)

“I’ve never seen girls run so fast in high heels,” one observer noted of the squealing mob that greeted this rakish hip-hop act at a recent appearance in St. Louis, their hometown. Front man Nelly (né Cornell Haynes Jr.) is hotter than July with the current single “Ride Wit Me” and his 6 million-selling debut solo album, Country Grammar, but he hasn’t forgotten his brothers (literally in one case: The disc is named for younger half sibling and Lunatic-on-leave City Spud, born Lavell Webb, who is in prison in St. Louis).

Like Country Grammar, Free City brims with a bass-driven, syncopated shake that celebrates girls, cars, getting paid and living la vida Midwest—as in the single “Midwest Swing,” in which Nelly declares, “What you think we live on a farm N——r be for real/We got Benz, Rovers and Jags, Hummers and Devilles.” And the disc has so many references to the Gateway City that the band is a virtual hip-hop chamber of commerce. Deep thinkers these guys ain’t, but could Einstein party like this? Like Mark McGwire, St. Lunatics get people out of their chairs.

Bottom Line: Mo hits from Missouri

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