Ya heard me, dirty. If Nelly was the first chapter of the St. Louis “Book of Rap,” the St. Lunatics are the required reading that follows. As they say on their hit single “Midwest Swing,” the Lou is more than the Rams and the Cardinals. It’s not really surprising that the S-T-L would have hidden depths in and outside of the rap world. The only question left would be what city of the midwest will be the NEXT to get their shine on.
Nothing has really changed about the sound that put Nelly and his fam on the map with past hits like “Country Grammar” and “E.I.” Jay E’s trademark bouncy funk beats would be a perfect match for any rappers who can swang from Eightball & MJG to Snoop Dogg. On songs like “S.T.L.” the rappers themselves create most of the speed as they double up their flow over the track itself. “King of the City” might actually be a bit quicker but the members of the Lunatics are laid back in the cut just riding it out; with Nelly’s “Ridin cause the haters face mad, team gritty/honk your horn twice if the missus lookin pretty” hook and first verse setting the perfect tone:
“You best get on your mark, get set, and go go
Like Jagged Edge I leave ya more Def-fer than So So
Type of person come to your show, sit in the front row
Get your hands out my pocket, you don’t want it, just blow blow
The only bird I get with mo’ is the doe-doe”
The irony of this album is the title itself, “Free City,” is a reference to incarcerated St. Lunatics member City Spud. You might remember his “City talk, Nelly listen; Nelly talk, city listen” verse on the song “Ride Wit Me” album, but the only place you’ll hear him on this album is the final verse of “Groovin Tonight” featuring Brian McKnight – and this is doubly ironic given that the smooth R&B groove of this track guarantees it’s eventual release as a single. There are certainly other potential hits though, such as the duet with Trina on “Jang-A-Lang” or the very speedy Nelly feature “Here We Come.”
The downside of the St. Lunatics album, if there is one, is that Nelly still remains the most visible voice and the one you wait to hear – he’s like Chali 2na on a Jurassic 5 album. This is not to insult Ali (Big Lee), Kyjuan, Murphy Lee or City Spud in any way; they are all good rappers in their own right. Murphy is probably the one in the group closest to blowing up next, with his unabashed “hell naw I ain’t curr” attitude and the distinctively pitched vocal flow which was also featured throughout the “Country Grammar” album.
The thing which works most about this album is the relaxed groove of the songs throughout; the kind of music you can “swing and dip” to. The most serious song on the whole album is “Scandalous”; and it also features a rather unenthusiastic bassline. You’ll naturally gravitate towards the dance and party type songs like “Let Me In Now” and snare-drum-kick of “Love You So.” The “Mad Baby Daddy” skits aside, there are sixteen tracks of music to keep you moving; and the St. Lunatics definitely have a place in the rap game with average to above average raps and above average to excellent music to keep your hands clappin and your fingers tappin.