Nelly Tells The Story of Making His Career-Launching Hit, “Country Grammar” (Video)
Nelly’s “Country Grammar” was a game changer. As the lead single from his 2000 debut album of the same name, the song was everywhere that summer. Produced by Jason “Jay E” Epperson, the track was built atop drums inspired by David Bowie mixed with the familiar refrain from a popular children’s game (“Down Down Baby”) and drenched in all the St. Louis flavor that mainstream radio had been missing. Its full title is “Country Grammar (Hot Shit),” and hot it was, hitting the tops of international charts everywhere from Austria to Australia. At home, it peaked at number one on the Hot Rap Songs chart and seven on the Hot 100 mark, introducing the then unknown MC a mainstream superstar. In the 15 years since, he’s maintained that level of fame, appearing in the hugely successful Kevin Hart-created television show “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” but he has never lost his country-boy swagger. His contributions to Rap’s megawatt dominance of American pop culture in the early aughts are myriad, but it all began with “Country Grammar,” the latest to be honored by Complex’s “Magnum Opus” series.
In the mini-documentary, “Country Grammar”‘s history is retold by members of Nelly’s St. Lunatics crew, Cedric the Entertainer, producers, members of the media, and of course the man himself whose commentary begins with an anecdote about the moment when he realized the song was more than just a hot Rap record. “I got a call from Michael Jackson singing ‘Country Grammar,'” Nelly shares. Also shared is a story about legendary singer Tom Jones, who was apparently a huge admirer of Nelly’s at the time. While certainly a micro-approach to the song’s life cycles, the episode is also a love letter to St. Louis and the artists who arose out of such an integral city in the formulation of American music. It’s also an examination of label politics (as Nelly says “Universal wasn’t feeling ‘Country Grammar’ like that….I had to kick and scream”), and much, much more. Check it out below.