The debut album is often regarded with a certain fondness, and Nelly’s Country Grammar is no exception. Originally released on June 27th, 2000, Country Grammar sent Nelly reeling into the stratosphere of stardom damn near instantaneously. You likely recall the singles, many of which still land airplay today. The title track. “Ride Wit Me.” “E.I.” “Batter Up.” All of which, with the exception of the Willis-produced “Batter,” were orchestrated masterfully by St. Louis producer Jay-E. While certainly the unsung hero of Nelly’s debut, the project would be nothing without a brilliant turn from Nelly himself, who seemed to exemplify Midwestern swagger at every turn.

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Having grown up during a time in which Country Grammar was considered new, it’s easy to remember the sheer impact of Nelly’s wave. For a moment in time, everybody was in tune to the St. Louis hip-hop scene, captivated by his innovative and effortless approach to hip-hop. Though the legacy of the album’s major singles is well-celebrated, it’s the lesser known cuts that make up the lifeblood of the album.

True fans appreciate the one-two punch of “St. Louie” and “Greed, Hate, Envy,” the latter of which makes for an arguable highlight. “For My” finds a sixteen-year-old Lil Wayne absolutely bodying a verse alongside Nelly Nell, and “Steal Da Show” helped spotlight the slept on St. Lunatics, who’d go on to drop a solid project in 2001’s Free City. And of course, there’s album closer “Luven Me,” an emotional dedication to Nelly’s mother, girlfriend, and the closest homies. From start to finish, Country Grammar is a unique experience, insanely listenable and trailblazing on a sonic front. Not only that, but it would serve to position Nelly as one of the world’s biggest superstars, off the strength of his hometown bars and powerful melodic ear. Do yourself a favor, and revisit Nelly’s classic album, the essential soundtrack for the summer months.

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