Rams, Cardinals, Blues, Bud & Us
interview by Meshack Blaq
photos by Animal Chan
Coming from a place like St Louis must've been rough for Nelly & Tha St.
Lunatics 'til 2000 rolled around. From that first Junket his label sent
us on right after the Rams took home their first Super Bowl ring up until
now, Nelly-Nell and his Homeboys have kept shit so Dirty that even though
the home team didn't return, Nelly represented for his crew, his home team,
and most of all for the "Lou". Now he's brought Tha Lunatics forward on the
"Ride Wit' Me" Single, which crossed formats and became as big a Hit as
both "Country Grammar" and "E.I." combined.Well, Nelly, Ali, Murphy Lee,
Ky (pronounced Key)-Juan, and Slo-Down have no problem keeping the momentum
rollin' with their example of the "Midwest Swing", once again schoolin'
fools and the unassuming that aside from freeing City Spud (Nelly's Bro on
lock-down), life in the "Lou" is all about RAMS, CARDINALS, BLUES, BUD & US.
KRON: A year ago around this time
Universal was doin' the same thing right here in St Louis for y'all. What has
happened from that time to this time?
MURPHY: Six million records,
eight million planes, four million rooms, and ten million cities. We didn't
even know it was that many cities in the United States.
ALI: Just all in all a 360-degree
complete change-up from my everything like, "Damn"! But we just kept goin' and
it ain't really stopped since. I mean since Nelly's album picked up in sales,
we might've had two weeks in between at the most. And that was once after a
full-blown big Tour that they gave us 10 or 11 days off because they knew we
were gonna go back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Then somethin' in between that
shit where we stop, jump off here, and go flyin' an shit.... (All of a sudden
their 2-ways blow up simultaneously)
KRON: Is there a such thing as
free time or an off day?
MURPHY: It's crazy! Ain't no
such thing as an off day and time ain't free.
ALI: Free time is borrowed.
Ain't no such thing. Tell success to call us.
KRON: They say in the Music
Business it's 90% Business and 10% Music. Do you find that to be true now
that you're always on the go?
MURPHY: They was lyin' cause
it's 99% Business and 1% Music. It's all Business, Man! This is how we eat.
There's no play in this. Ain't no playin'! Ain't no time to be playin', Boy!
And I'm the youngest Dude. And I play all day long. But you ain't got time
to be playin'.
ALI: It's like on and on, do
this-do that. And we ain't even have a record. It was just Nelly. We just
caught the wrath of do this-do that. But we dealin' wit' it because in the
Business you've gotta keep makin' music correct for the fans. Now it's our
turn and they watchin, and they do not understand nothin' about the
Business. They just wanna be Entertained and want you to keep your mind
clear and the whole nine. But they don't understand what you go through
just to entertain them. It's all image.
KRON: Since you guys are the
biggest thing in the city; bigger than the Rams, bigger than that fuckin'
silver arch by the river, how have the local people dealt with your
success. Meaning, what's up with the Haters?
ALI: We get most people sayin'
they love us and everybody got they opinion. But we get like, 90% fans and
10% dislikes. We deal wit' it; we need the dislikes.
MURPHY: And then the dislikes
when you come around, they all of a sudden like ya! So it's still all good.
And then in St. Louis they're so happy to have somethin' of they own that
they show so much love. It's crazy!
KRON: Slo, are you responsible
for the dances in every video and why are you the silent guy?
SLO-DOWN: I'm the mascot but
I'm solid. Throw me the microphone! I let the music get me goin' and
translate the music through Ghetto Sign Language. I'm not the one showin'
them how to dance. We just freelancin' for the most part to a freaky beat.
We did make up the 10-speed though, Bia!
KRON: What do each of you bring
to the table and what specific flavor do you add to the pot?
MURPHY: I bring the Hypeness.
I try to Hype it up because I'm the lil' wild one. I just get it crazy. I
get it real Crunk up in the joint. They be havin' to slow me down. Between
me an' Slo-Down, we just go crazy! He's like my mute words so we just go
CRAZY! I'm the crazy one.
ALI: I just bring out the
oldest point of view. Maybe different angles like the big brother. My
styles is like straight forward. I'll bring you like, MC battle style a
little bit. I'll kick a little knowledge. And I'll sends out all kinda
things in the mix. Like a whole buncha shit that's geared toward the
streets. But only to get attention of the kinda kids that'll flock
towards you if you got some nice thangs and are sayin'somethin' they
can relate to. You know, somethin' they'll listen to. ŚCause they
wouldn't have heard KRS-One until his .9mm went BANG! If his .9mm had
never went BANG, then you never woulda heard him tho. Fa Sho!
KYJUAN: Some mo' flavor to
the Kool-Aid. The whole style I bring to it is a lil' mo' style. I just
do what I do when I'm doin' it because I'm doin' it for tv. So I'ma do
it. I like that. What you got to say about it, I ain't worried about it.
I'm doin' it. Y'all like it, I like it. I like everythang. There's a
time and place for everythang, and I'm there.
NELLY: Me myself Dirty, I'm
just the in your face. I'm the one everybody hate.
KRON: Is there some Thuggin'
goin' on in the "Lou"? I really wanna know!
NELLY: Thuggin? All the time,
Man! Half our Boys still is Thuggin' 'til we can make a way. 'Til we can
get these chips right to get these businesses an' stuff started to where we
can help our Fam to straight stop all the Thuggin'. It's definitely there.
We've been fortunate enough that we ain't gotta really be impartin' in all
that right now.
KRON: Nelly, after the Rams
lost you went back to the Super Bowl and brought the championship back to
the "Lou". How does it feel to be larger than fucking life in this city?
There's no one larger in the city than you guys right here, right now!
NELLY: It's crazy Man, but it
feels good. That's what you set out to do. That's what we wanted while
growin' up. We wanted to be the biggest people we could possibly be in
St. Louis. You always want your Hometown respect first; always, Always,
ALWAYS! And you always take they judgement over anybody else's Ścause you
feel they know you. So when you feel you got them behind you, it's just
like you cain't be stopped, Man! I got ain't-no-tellin' how many million
people behind me and it just feels good. It feels real good.
KRON: At last year's Source
Awards you got to present with the lovely Beyonce'. What exactly were you
two talkin' about up there and did you rescue her when all the shit went
NELLY: Nah it didn't go down
and I can't even remember the whole conversation up there like that. It
was somethin' with the cue cards; somethin' they had us present. She's a
nice looking young lady... (long pause while his crew starts laughing)
With giggles. With real giggles and a big smile.
KRON: What's "Free City" mean?
NELLY: It gives us two things.
One obviously is my lil' brother City Spud. He's not with us so we gon' keep
it Hot until they "Free City".
ALI: He's locked up.
NELLY: Another reason is just
St. Louis as a whole. Just feelin' how we tryin' to make a name for
ourselves and tryin' to gain recognition, our city is becoming a lil'
ALI: Off the chain now! We
ain't tied up no mo'! Off the chain.
NELLY: Gettin' a lil' loose
an' freein' ourselves a lil' bit.
ALI: Free ya Dome. Free Ya
Dome! See on "Midwest Swing" they think that sound you like (the cow &
chicken effects) is in our backyard. Like if we need some milk we can go
get the cow. Nah, it ain't like that! That's just perception.
KRON: Can you explain Country
Grammar right here in the heart of the Midwest?
NELLY: (They all answer in unison)
We're right in the middle! (Nelly picks up) We've got it, but
we're surrounded by all of that North, South, East, West an' coastin' it.
The East gave up hard core originality. The whole head-knock is more
hardcore and serious like that. The West is more Funk. That whole Clinton
and Bootsy Collins vibe. They brought that to the Rap Game. Then you got
the South who brought the Bounce to the Rap Game. Everybody's bringing
something to the Rap Game, so now we gon' bring the Swing to the Rap Game.
We gon' bring that whole vibe, that whole thing. (They mimic the beat in
unison) That's that Swang so act like you doin' somethin'! Fa Sho!!
KRON: What's your craziest story
from Tourin' you can safely tell since you go around this muthafucka so much
KYJUAN: Amsterdam, Damn!!
KRON: Speak on it!!!
NELLY: First time we went to the
coffee shop it was crazy!! (Catching himself) Wait a minute,
wait a minute. Is this a Teen...(out of breath he's so excited!)
...this a Teen Magazine?!?
KRON: Ah NO SIRRR!! This is
NELLY: (To the rest of his Crew)
Go ahead and tell Śem the story! (In unison) God Damn!! Just
left Amsterdam! With six, seven, eight, nine grams; off in my shoes - what
am I supposed to do? I hope I don't get caught by Customs! (We all laugh at
their impromptu performance) That was just straight. When we went to
Amsterdam, we walked in the Coffee Shop and what happened?
ALI: You get the menu brought
to your table. When you flip the menu open like Bloom-Bloom, (three ways),
there's more menu when it opened up. So you got all this kind of Weed on
one side with names listed in 18 different strains. Then you got the Hydro
on the other side...
NELLY: You got the Drowwww, you got
the Haaaaaash, you got the Skuuuuuunk!!! Just rows and rows, MAN!!!
ALI: And you just choose up what
you want. Lemme get two grams of that and two more grams of that. Just bring
two rows of different kinds!
NELLY: Let me get a row of this,
a row of that...
ALI: Roll it up, smoke it, and
get high right there in the shop.
NELLY: That's the best thing
because it's different for us. Over there they for Real. They for Real with
Smokin' out there. Ain't nobody in there coughin'. We come in there hittin'
that AK-47 and chokin' ourselves. We embarrassed ourselves! They was lookin'
at us like, "Rookies"
MURPHY: We ain't even rollin'
our joints right!
NELLY: Half of us been smokin'
for 10, 12 years; longer than that!
ALI: Damn right. And then we
realized like, "Damn, we ain't shit. They up here smokin' this good all day
MURPHY: They know how to roll
it like a cigarette exactly, with the tip. They got tips to they stuff
hand-rolled like a filter.
NELLY: They for Real about it
over there, Man. They got Museums. Just to see a Weed Museum. Hmmn, what's
that like? How many people could tell you what that's like? You can see
where they grow it and they'll give you whatever you want to grow it.
ALI: Show you how with books,
seeds, the dirt. They'll start the plant for you, then sell it in progress.
PUBLICIST: I don't see the big
deal. (She obviously a NON-SMOKER) It's just a piece of grass.
MURPHY: IT'S NOT JUST A PIECE
OF GRASS!!! What's she Madd?!?
NELLY: Don't you know we've been
KRON: (Jokingly) Y'all know
anything about the Missouri Compromise?
NELLY: I'ma just tell you like
this. We was the only States to have the Slaves in the Midwest. Then after
the Civil War was over we still had ours for a minute. We still had ours for
a minute though. That lets you know. The South even let theirs go, we still
holdin' ours for minute. Like wait a minute; we ain't care what y'all
fightin' over, we holdin' ours. So it's crazy