Mainstream superstardom often begins with a spark, rather than an explosion. It's hard to say whether Lady Gaga would have been more than a behind-the-scenes cog in Akon's machine without "Just Dance." And if 50 Cent had not delivered "In Da Club," it's possible that the world may never have tasted succulent Vitamin Water.
Nelly's twisty-turny career covers a lot of ground, including blockbuster albums, Adam Sandler movies, questionable credit card transactions and endorsements galore. And it's worth wondering whether any of those things would have occurred without "Country Grammar."
The sing-songy jam foreshadowed Nelly's dominance throughout the first part of the 2000s, showcasing a fusion of melody and rap that was a legitimate revelation in a genre filled with commonalities. The song, amazingly, was released as a single on this day in 2000.
As the title track of Nelly's debut album, "Country Grammar" helped propel the University City MC into the stratosphere. And while there are other songs on that disc that explicitly celebrate St. Louis, "Country Grammar" could be the preeminent celebration of the Gateway City. For goodness sake, the first few seconds of the video features Nelly standing in front of the Gateway Arch in a Cardinals hat!
"Country Grammar" was not Nelly's biggest hit or his most commercially-friendly offering. But it's one of those rare pop songs that managed to remain appealing even after being played a zillion times on the radio or butchered terribly at karaoke bars. Perhaps that's because it has repetitively memorable lyrics ("Let me in now! Let me in now! Bill Gates, Donald Trump let me in now!"). Or maybe it was, more importantly, Nelly's choice to attach a distinct melody to his wordplay.
Video after the break. Allmusic's Jason Birchmeier noted, for instance, that Nelly "never shied away from a pop-rap approach, embracing a singalong vocal style that made his hooks catchier than most, thanks also in part to his standby producer, Jason "Jay E" Epperson."
"As a result, Nelly became a rapper capable of crossing practically all boundaries, from the Dirty South to MTV's Total Request Live and everything in between," Birchmeier wrote.
Of course, not only did "Country Grammar" spawn a slew of hits, it also paved the way for other St. Louis rappers to soak up mainstream success. Could Chingy, J-Kwon, Huey or Jibbs have become successful without the success of "Country Grammar?" Hard to say. But "Country Grammar" certainly helped their cause.
Psychoanalysis aside, here's "Country Grammar" in honor of its anniversary. Shimmy shimmy cocoa what? Listen to it pound: