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Bonnaroo's got Nelly, but here are other ways he could celebrate 'Country Grammar' turning 20

Bonnaroo's got Nelly, but here are other ways he could celebrate 'Country Grammar' turning 20

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“I’m going down, down, baby, your street in a Range Rover. Street sweeper, baby, cocked, ready to let it go.”

That’s how it went down in the year 2000, when a young rapper from St. Louis introduced us to his “Country Grammar.”

In doing so, Nelly, also known as Cornell Haynes, took the music world by storm with his immediately infectious sing-songy hip-hop style. His album made its way up the charts, landing at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 . Hits such as “E.I.,” “Ride Wit Me,” “Batter Up” and the title track helped sell over 10 million albums as he showed the world that big hip-hop can actually come out of St. Louis. (A documentary titled “Background Check” showed there was St. Louis hip-hop long before Nelly, though he certainly took it to the next level.)

The album turns 20 on June 27, and it’s a special time to look back at the music that put St. Louis hip-hop on the map and opened doors for Chingy, J-Kwon, Huey, Nelly’s own St. Lunatics and others.

Nelly recently announced that he will recognize this milestone by performing “Country Grammar” at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, on June 13 (the prestigious music festival is June 11-14). He should keep the “Country Grammar” anniversary momentum going, and there are so many ways this could happen.


Rapper Nelly (R) performs during the 44th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, 27 February 2002. AFP PHOTO/Hector MATA

• The Grammys are coming up fast (Jan. 26), and Nelly’s a three-time Grammy winner for “Dilemma,” “Hot in Herre” and “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” as well as a past Grammy performer. He could appear on the telecast to present an award, and his co-presenter could make special mention of the album’s anniversary. The Grammys could also give the record-breaking rapper a throwback performance slot.

• After Bonnaroo, Nelly could go on a “Country Grammar 20th Anniversary” tour in which he opens the show performing the album from top to bottom during the first set followed by non-“Country Grammar” hits such as “Dilemma,” “Just a Dream,” “Over and Over,” “Grillz,” “Hot in Herre,” “Air Force Ones” and “My Place” during the second half. The tour should either start or end in St. Louis and should include another festival stop at Lollapalooza in Chicago.

• A number of big rappers including Drake, J. Cole, Jay Z, Lil Wayne, the Roots, Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott and Tyler, the Creator are among those to head up their own music festivals. Wouldn’t it be great if Nelly had his own summer outdoor music festival that took place in St. Louis, full of guest stars who’ve performed with him over time? That could include Jermaine Dupri (“Stepped on My J’s”), Kelly Rowland (“Dilemma”), Jaheim (“My Place”), Paul Wall, Ali and Gipp (“Grillz”) and Florida Georgia Line (“Cruise” remix) to name a few. Tim McGraw would be a super get. And we can also see Lil Nas X making an appearance. After all, Nelly paved the way for Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” long ago with his Tim McGraw-assisted “Over and Over,” followed by his success with Florida Georgia Line.

• Another idea for a festival might be for Nelly to highlight rising St. Louis rappers. That could incorporate rapper Smino (now living in Chicago). Nelly was a surprise guest during Smino’s sold-out show at the Pageant in December. The pool Nelly could choose from is deep.

• Drop a free “Country Grammar” concert as a Fair St. Louis headliner on the Gateway Arch grounds.

• Piggy-backing off the popularity of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Nelly could easily go back into the hip-hop country thing. He could release a hip-hop country version of “Country Grammar” songs with new production. He’d been talking about doing more in the country genre years ago. Now is the time.

• Chance the Rapper, Cardi B and T.I. were the inaugural judges of the great new Netflix music competition show “Rhythm + Flow.” For the second season, we can easily see T.I. swapped out for Nelly in that veteran judge slot. We also think he’d make for a good judge on “America’s Got Talent,” where there seem to be openings all the time.

• Don’t smirk, but “Dancing With the Stars” would be a highly visible space for Nelly during this anniversary year, giving him a huge platform. And we have no doubt Nelly’s got the moves to go far on the show.

• Release a special edition of “Country Grammar,” remastered and expanded with outtakes, remixes, etc.

• The first season of AMC’s “Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America” included “Jesus Walks,” “Alright,” “Rock Box,” “Elevators,” “The Bridge” and “Ladies First.” The song “Country Grammar” easily qualifies as a song that shook America.

• Surprise-drop a new album of new music showing what he’s up to these days.

20 big albums turning 20 in 2020

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