Nelly’s Country Grammar Is The 9th Rap Album To Be Certified Diamond
Sixteen years and one month ago, St. Louis, Missouri MC Nelly released his debut album, Country Grammar. Backed by a string of hits beginning with a title single, the melodic Fo’ Reel Records flagship artist (and St. Lunatics founder) created a style that arguably paved the way for Kanye West, Future, and Drake. Moreover, in the era of co-signs, the former minor league baseball player named Cornell Haynes, Jr. launched himself into the mainstream with few to thank besides a forward-thinking team around him.
Country Grammar now has a distinction that only seven other Rap albums can claim—it is certified diamond with 10 million units scanned. The LP whose lone star guest was fellow Universal Records-backed sensation Lil Wayne hit a mark, placing Nelly alongside Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Outkast, Beastie Boys, Eminem, and M.C. Hammer.
From that distinguished list, only Em’—a mainstream contemporary of Nelly’s joins the rapper as being a product of the Midwest.
— RIAA (@RIAA) July 26, 2016
Nelly was presented with an award last night (July 25) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by the RIAA—the association responsible for plaques and certifications.
Early this year, during Ambrosia For Heads’ “Finding The GOAT Album” user-decided contest, this is what we had to say about the LP largely produced by fellow Lou’ newcomer Jay E.: “In Y2K, Hip-Hop’s global expansion was powered by the regional flare and sub-cultures across not only the United States, but the world. For St. Louis, Missouri, a former minor league baseball star named Nelly would be the juggernaut. Cornell Haynes, Jr. used trunk-rattling, homegrown beats, and a booming melodic delivery to not only become one of Hip-Hop’s most successful and enduring 2000s upstarts, but to forecast trends of the next 15 years. In the Gangsta Rap hangover, Nelly opened his doors to a strip club party, and fun-loving songs about relishing youth—and still finding some mischief. 2000’s Country Grammar helped identify “St. Louie'” as more than just a Hip-Hop tour-stop. With the St. Lunatics behind him (a group in motion since the late ’90s), Nelly brilliantly set up plans not for a flash-in-the-pan, but a highly sustainable career. In blasting his own sound and message, the Fo’ Reel flagship artist would give hope to cities across the globe, and all sorts of artists paying dues and making ends beyond the industry’s radar.
Country Grammar’s charms and explosiveness began through its single of the same name. Nelly and producer Jay E created the perfect harmony of music that worked in cars, clubs, sporting events, and headphones. The MC’s multi-tracked vocals and melodic delivery made his music accessible to R&B/Pop playlists, while his rhymes were drenched in crossover catchiness. For his part, Nelly was a master charmer. Save for a Band-Aid under the eye, the Missouri MC was void of gimmicks. The album is confident, but not braggadocious. The Universal-backed act made the Gateway to the West the priority. “Ride With Me” put away the low-end bass for an acoustic guitar. Nelly profiled his city’s offerings with longtime St. Lunatics partner/producer City Spud. As the record defiantly chronicled the world beyond the arch, Nelly cleverly made an anthem that interchangeably applied to Anywhere, USA. As Jay Z, Nas, and Eminem were taking themselves and their songs so seriously, Nelly cast a net of carefree. These records would carve the way for Akon, Pitbull, and Taylor Swift, all at once. “E.I.” was a bit more Rap-specific. Again with Jay E’s speaker-breaking bass, Nelly made a song about feeling himself with multiple unforgettable movements. With his voice, his easy-to-follow flow, and penchant for homegrown background vocals, Nelly showed the future of Rap—with nine-times-platinum results. Like a Midwest 2000s answer to LL Cool J‘s Radio, Country Grammar effectively introduced a way of life that women and men could both support. Save for Lil Wayne, no veteran Rap stars would appear on this debut. In the era of the feature, and the notion that every artist must first be cosigned by another, Nelly’s Country Grammar was a strong reminder that those were not requirements. This album and artist challenged the expectations for a rapper’s demeanor and sound, and won. Nelly and his nearly diamond-certified debut can claim to have dominated early 2000s pop culture, and redirected the next 10 years of major label Rap trends, and cities that produced them.”
Upon its June, 2000 release, Country Grammar debuted at #3, selling approximately 235,000 units. More than one month after its chart debut, the Fo’ Reel/Universal LP would take the #1 spot. By October of ’00, it was certified triple platinum.
Nelly has released six solo albums since his debut—as well as material with the St. Lunatics. Two of those works reached #1, and three are platinum. 2002’s sophomore, Nellyville, has already been certified six-times platinum.
Only Tupac and Eminem have two diamond-certified albums.