Nelly's Debut Album "Country Grammar" Turns 23

"Country Grammar" was the ultimate debut. Today, we revisit Nelly's classic album for its 23rd anniversary.

BYWyatt Westlake
2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival - Night 1 – Show

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of Nelly’s debut album, Country Grammar. The classic album arrived on June 27, 2000 via Universal Music Group and Fo’ Reel Entertainment. Country Grammar featured the likes of Cedric the Entertainer, St. Lunatics, City Spud, Murphy Lee, Ali, Lil Wayne, and The Teamsters. It was primarily produced by Jay E and City Spud. Country Grammar introduced Nelly’s signature style of melodic rapping that would eventually become a staple for 2000s hip hop and influence future generations. The album also contained major hits, many of which are still the biggest of Nelly’s career. With its chart-topping singles and unique sound, the album proved to be influential and helped define an era of 2000s hip hop. Today, we’re looking back at Nelly’s Country Grammar for its 23rd anniversary.

Country Grammar Put St. Louis On The Map

Country Grammar was quite literally Nelly introducing St. Louis sound and lingo to the world. His music transported listeners into a world that he would dive further into on 2002’s Nellyville. Drawing from Nelly’s Texas and Missouri origins, Country Grammar blended country with hip hop but was still palatable for both hardcore hip hop heads and casual listeners. 

Nelly was an anomaly at the time as hip hop in 2000 was dominated by the East and West coasts and Southern rap. He has attributed his style as a blend of multiple regions that allowed him to create his own sound. The only other chart-topping rapper from the Midwest was Eminem, who occupied a completely different lane of music. As hip hop began to grow commercially in 2000, hip hop gained pop appeal, eventually becoming the world’s biggest genre. Country Grammar’s success took hip hop to new commercial heights.

Nelly’s sing-rap sound that he established on Country Grammar created a brand new style of hip hop. His pop/rap fusion put him at the forefront of the hip hop scene and established St. Louis as a city with talented rappers. Nelly’s signature sound and success with the album allowed future artists like Chingy and J-Kwon to represent St. Louis throughout the 2000s.

Stacked With Hits

A significant reason for Nelly’s debut album standing the test of time is that one could not escape it during its release. Country Grammar was the ultimate debut. It spawned multiple hit singles, becoming some of the biggest hip hop songs ever. The album’s title track and “E.I.” proved Nelly’s ability to create hit records with catchy hooks effortlessly. The third single from Country Grammar, “Ride Wit Me,” became the ultimate crossover hit. It was easily the biggest song of Nelly’s career at the time and remains an instantly recognizable anthem today. The overall commercial success of the album and its singles created a career-defining album for Nelly that only propelled him further with his following releases.

A Career-Defining Album

Country Grammar is undoubtedly Nelly’s classic album. With his critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut, Nelly was able to be one of the biggest rappers in the hip hop and pop spaces, dominating the 2000s. Country Grammar went platinum months after its release and now stands at diamond status, a 10x platinum achievement that very few rappers can brag about. Nelly’s debut album was influential in its sound, style, and appeal.

Twenty-three years later, the album is still being celebrated. In 2021, Nelly performed Country Grammar in its entirety for a live album accompanied by a documentary. The melodic rap sound that Nelly created on Country Grammar has stood the test of time. The album paved the way for the contemporary sound of hip hop that continues to tread the line between rapping and singing.

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